by Julian Keys
My romance with holiday tales began, appropriately enough, with a Valentine’s Day story contest. I decided to enter, and at first, all I focused on was making sure there were plenty of references to poetry and paper hearts. I soon realized, however, that the paraphernalia of the holiday wasn’t going to make this a Valentine’s Day story. If I wanted to achieve that, I had to make sure that this romance could not have happened on any other day.
I changed the story around, giving the holiday the respect it deserved. The results were a prize for the story, and an addiction to holiday romances, particularly widely celebrated holidays where cities and towns put up special decorations, stores sell special items, and neighborhoods plan special events. Holidays, as it turns out, are incredibly romantic and that’s not just the romance writer in me talking. In the United States more marriage proposals happen during the winter holidays of Christmas, New Year’s and Valentine’s.
Why? Because lovers want to declare their devotion at a singular, memorable moment and holidays are exactly that. Coming but once a year, each holiday is dressed up in a unequaled way and offers a lover not only an extraordinary setting for a proposal, but rare treats and traditions. The magic of a holiday, in short, mirrors the magic of love.
This is certainly why I love holidays and have written upwards of five romances celebrating them—four of them in this anthology. But wait, there’s more! In the days before and during a big holiday, it’s that much easier for complete strangers to meet, connect, and engage. Normally, a woman would never invite a man she’d just met to join her for dinner at her parent’s house, but, as in The Many-Colored Lantern, she’ll feel it safe to do just that during the Yuletide holidays. It being the season of welcome and gift-giving, she might even think it right. Similarly, in By Traveler’s Moon, Halloween events allow strangers to meet and flirt in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if not for the costumed carnival atmosphere.
And if the lovers are not strangers? Holidays, with their heightened feelings often reveal the truth about relationships. In An Act of Charity a woman’s romance with Christmastime has her questioning her romantic feelings for the men in her life. In Valentine Prayers, that first holiday story I wrote, the cautious hero is wooed into re-examining Valentine’s Day and his conflicted feelings about love. In both of these stories, finding the true meaning of the holiday helps the characters to discover true love. Which, I suppose, is the heart and soul of such stories. Our feelings about a holiday are often as complicated and powerful as our feelings for someone we love, or have loved, or want to love.
In the day-to-day of the year, it’s hard to believe in love. During those brief, magical times of the year, however, it’s easy. That’s what makes the holidays so very special, and so very romantic, and why I’m certain that you’ll find renewed “love” for the holidays in these romances.