One thing only - Christmas Kittens!
Several of my fellow romance writers - including members of this blog - have claimed to be unfamiliar with one of my absolute all-time favorite romance sub-genres. What? Truly you do not know of Christmas Kitten books?
I pulled four Christmas anthologies from the scary-basement book bins. To my shock, only one cover prominently featured felines, Winter Kittens (1999). From the back blurbs: "Having lost his wager, his intended bride, and his favorite horse, Lord Carrington is in no mood to be enchanted by the sweet kitten that tumbles down his chimney." Or "Every afternoon, the cat that belongs to Lord Stonehill's sister disappears, only to return with a new toy or a bright ribbon." I could rhapsodize about the rest, but doesn't the cover tell you everything you need to know?
Despite having feline-free titles, kittens lurk in my other Christmas anthologies ready to pounce. From Boxing Day (1997, Jill Barnett) in A Stockingful of Joy: "She sat in the middle of her convenient bed, surrounded by mangy cats with the bright Christmas bows." From Christmas Wish List (1999, Barbara Metzger) in A Regency Christmas Present: "They went up to the nursery together, the kitten complaining at being in the basket so long. Gerry spoke softly: 'Hush, Mistletoe. It's not every cat that gets to be a Christmas wish come true.' "
For a dash of happiness with fur, search Amazon for "romance kittens". My 581 results began with Mistletoe Kittens, and proceeded through Bewitching Kittens, Christmas Eve Kittens, Valentine Kittens, Wedding Day Kittens, and Snowflake Kittens before stumbling over Stocking Stuffers.
Before you begin a quest to read hundreds of holiday kitten anthologies, let me alert you to the dark side of the genre. Yes. A dirty secret about kitten anthologies. Many books are reprints with new cover art. For instance A Stockingful of Joy from 1997 was reissued in 2005. Other anthologies will mix a popular old kitten story with a couple new ones as a "new" book. I'm sure the publisher does not intend to trick a reader into buying something she's read before, and it's wonderful that the authors continue to receive royalties, but savvy kitten-readers check copyright dates inside the front cover.
The genre did not end with the '90s. It transcends treacle. It is not limited to Regencies. Nalini Singh (of the Psy/Changeling series) and Lora Leigh wrote novellas Stroke of Enticement and Christmas Heat, respectively, in The Magical Christmas Cat (2008). I have a very hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that the author of the Breed series and the Nauti Boys books has a Christmas kitten story.
Why? Why do some people, like me, love kitten romance anthologies? How have others never noticed them? Are we romance readers blind to sub-genres we don't read? Do we not see cars when we cross the street? At this time of year Christmas kittens are everywhere, like lit-up plastic candy canes, like icicle lights, like red-kettles and bell-ringers. Enjoy one with cookies and good cheer.
Me-owy Christmas to all our readers.