Monday 12 February 2024

Celebrating Love Around The World

 Celebrating Love Around The World

by Sharon Bryant

It's almost Valentine's Day. Have you planned to do something special? There are so many ways to celebrate. You might be celebrating the love you and your partner share, or the love you feel for someone you care about. 

Love Around The World

Love is celebrated in different ways around the world. I thought it might be fun to explore this a little.

Japanese women traditionally give men chocolates on Valentine's Day. They used to give inexpensive chocolates, giri choco, to co-workers though this is less common these days. Honmei choco (special chocolate which is often homemade) is reserved for romantic partners. Japanese men generally don't give women Valentine's Day gifts. They reciprocate one month later on White Day by giving gifts that are two to three times the value of what they have received.

In Germany, it's traditional to give Valentines gifts of chocolates, flowers, or cartoons or keepsakes of pigs. Pigs symbolise good luck in Germany and are just as much a part of Valentine's Day as cupids in some other parts of the world.

Saint Valentine is a patron saint of spring in Slovenia. Valentine's Day is celebrated as the time when life begins to stir again. One traditional Slovenia idea is that birds "propose" on Valentine's Day. Traditionally people walk barefoot through the icy fields to see and appreciate the changes that springtime brings.

There are so many other beautiful loving traditions: Welsh love spoons, mountainous wedding ceremonies in Thailand, a four day festival in Verona with a letter writing contest to Juliet, and mass wedding ceremonies in public spaces in Manila.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy February 14 either thinking of or being with someone you love.

How do you plan to spend Valentine's Day?

I love to love spending time with my husband, family and friends.

I love to laugh with friends and family.

I love to learn more about love around the world.

Monday 4 December 2023

CHRISTMAS BOOKS! A wonderful time of year!

Hello, my darlings! It's been too too long! Lovely to be back here on Breathless to bring you my bumper Christmas reading suggestions - and we're spoilt for choice.  

Let's dive into what I've already enjoyed.

I know I'm super-duper predictable, but Debbie Macomber always makes my Top Ten (Top Eleven this year). Her novella Jack Frost was a gorgeous start to Christmas reading with a grumpy/sunshine pairing. When Jack and Lindsay get accidentally locked into their work Christmas party when everyone leaves, Jack is totally a super grump. But only at first... Enjoy!

Picture credit:

I'm sure you read The Christmas Bookshop by the Scottish author Jenny Colgan last year. Did you worry that Carmen's relationship needed a bit more resolution at the end? Fear not, here is the sequel, Midnight at the Christmas Bookshop. It's worth reading both books because they're all about saving Mr McCredie's old bookshop, and that booky story thread is utterly fab and quite funny in parts. Set in snowy Edinburgh, it makes me want to go back there. 

Picture credit:

I was thrilled when I found The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Susan Wiggs in my library! Who could resist those furry little faces? Christmas-hating Brenda gets roped into driving twelve rescue dogs across the US to their new owners for Christmas. What could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately something does...and hot single dad paramedic Adam comes to the rescue. Can he change Brenda's mind about Christmas? And wow, all those dogs involve some lovely mini stories too. A must for dog lovers and actually, everyone.

Picture credit:

Do you know, so many many lists of favourite Christmas romances include Rosamunde Pilcher's Winter Solstice. It's also continually listed as a comfort read, 'one I reread every Christmas', 'on my keeper shelf' and so on. I decided to read it myself this year, and now I totally get what everyone is talking about. It is gorgeous, my friends, about a group of people who've made some right and wrong choices in their lives, even had tragedy occur, but they bravely struggle on and eventually all end up together one snowy Christmas. Oh my dears, there's so much love in this book it will fill your heart. 

Picture credit:

Back to Sydney, Australia, and beautiful Manly Beach, which features highly in Belinda Williams' new novella The Christmas Escape. It might be a shorter book but it is mighty, tackling the problems of long distance relationships. Do they really work or is it all too hard? Well, cough, if you came all the way from England and met Jaz, professional surfer, single father and cafe owner, you might be inclined to change your mind. 

Picture credit:

We all know and love Mary Jo Putney, and she's given us a kitten for Christmas, in her new novella The Christmas Tart. We so need kittens at Christmas, and also need the very nice new baronet Sir Philip Selbourne. Yes, please (gets stocking ready...). This one's quick enough to read in a sitting, the perfect length in this busy time. 

Picture credit:

Hang in there, five final Christmas books. I haven't read these, but December's looking excellent to do so.

I've just started Kandy Shepherd's Mistletoe Magic in Tahiti, so by the time this post goes live I'll be sitting in a HEA cloud at the end; Kandy is always swoon-worthily romantic. This is part 1 of The Christmas Pact Trilogy featuring three sisters, so go right ahead and indulge in them all: Cinderella's Costa Rican Adventure, and Snowbound Reunion in Japan. Tahiti! Costa Rica! Japan! They all sound fabulous, don't they? Love Christmas 'done' in a different country... 

Picture credit:

We'll Never Have Paris by Adriana Anders. This is described as another grumpy/sunshine book (I cannot get enough of these) when the grump (a Welshman) and the sunshine (an American) get stuck in an elevator on Christmas Eve. But seriously: Paris! On Christmas Eve! Say no more! 

Picture credit:

For those who love a hot Christmas, and vets, this is high on my TBR: A Country Vet Christmas by five - count 'em, five beloved Aussie authors: Lily MaloneAlissa CallenPenelope JanuPamela Cook and Stella Quinn. What a fabulous anthology for a very modest price. 667 pages of great reading ahead, I can't wait. Fellow Breathless blogger Enisa Haines mentioned this in her column last month, but it's such great value I'm going to recommend it again. 

Picture credit:

This definitely has to go on my Christmas list: The Book Club Hotel by Sarah Morgan, which also goes by the title The Christmas Book Club in the UK. I listened to her audiobook Snowed In For Christmas last year, and absolutely loved it, so I'm downloading this one too. I really enjoy a good audiobook, they bring the stories alive.

Picture credit:

Last but definitely not least - and probably not the last (cough) on account of all I can see in my Kindle are more and more and more Christmas books - I found this charming inspirational romance, The Doctor's Christmas Dilemma by a new-to-me author, Danielle Thorne. I'm really looking forward to it: a second chance of love with a bit of faith thrown in. Sounds perfect.

Picture credit:

So that's me, folks. Be kind to each other, be generous, be loving, be safe. And of course read as much as you can. May your Christmas be full of booky goodness and lazy days to enjoy it all. See you in 2024!

With love for a happy Christmas and a wonderful new year,

Miranda xx

Love to Love:
I guess we all know I'm going to say, Christmas romance!

Love to Laugh:
...and cry, through all the delightful Christmas movies now screening. So much Christmas festiveness and hot chocolate and wow, emotion.

Love to Learn:
What is special to you at Christmas. To me it's family, faith, friends, fun, and love. Always love. And food! You?

Monday 6 November 2023

Romance and the Magic of Christmas

by Enisa Haines

It's a season many days away yet but everywhere I turn it's looking a lot like Christmas. Streaming services such as Netflix and Hallmark bring an enticing array of Christmas romance movies while publishers spoil us with a plentiful choice of Christmas romance novels. 

What to choose? Our voracious romance reader Miranda will be talking about that in her next post, just in time for a Christmas book binge. What I'm wondering about is this abundance of Christmas romances. 

These stories have lured readers since the time of Victorian England (yes, Christmas romances were popular even then). What is it about them that calls to readers and movie-goers alike? 

Christmas is a time where happiness abounds. Families get together, as do friends and even strangers. Gifts are exchanged, delicious meals served, reminiscences shared. Moments to celebrate, where joy, generosity, a sense of belonging, and love - of family, of friends, neighbours, workmates - is all around.

And it's love that is the highlight of these beloved romances. Though many stories may not focus on the true spiritual meaning of the season, always these romances are set in the days or weeks leading up to Christmas or through the three days of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. 

Magic exists at that time. Wishes are made and there's the promise that if you believe what you wish for it will come true. And what are romance novels but stories where readers get the happy-ever-after they crave in fiction. The heroine wishes the life she's experiencing at the beginning of her story will change by the end. The hero, a man beset with problems of his own, also wishes for something better. Circumstances  bring them together but it is love that heals past hurts and shows them that together they have the life they once thought would only ever be a dream.

Whether we immerse ourselves in Christmas stories for the setting and its spiritual meaning, or for the expectation that the hero and heroine will find their 'forever love', it seems to me that it's the happiness that fills us while we're immersed that we seek. And Christmas romances always give us joy.

As lovers of Christmas romances, is it the same for you?

Love to love: Several native plants fondly called Christmas Bush for their gorgeous displays of flowers from October to January are found throughout Australia. My favourite is the NSW native Ceratopetalum gumniferum and now I have one of my own for my balcony. 

Love to laugh: romantic comedies are both a joy to watch and oftentimes you can't help but laugh.

Love to learn: Christmas has so many traditions. Christmas trees, Santa Claus, the hanging of mistletoe, fruit puddings and cakes are ones that spring to mind. Each intrigue me as to their origin and so I have the urge to explore.