It seems like each year brings even more Christmas romances than the last, doesn’t it? Winter holiday romances were hitting the shelves as early as August this year, which may be attributed to the “Hallmark effect.” People need joy and feel-good stories, and Christmas is a known mood-booster during the darkest time of the year. We’re also seeing a rise in Hanukkah romances, like The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer, and New Year’s romances, like This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens. All the holidays are getting a share of the love, with one notable exception. So I must ask, where are the Thanksgiving romances?
Look, I get it. Christmas is flashy. It’s got all the decorations and pretty lights and cute songs. Romance novel protagonists can kiss under the mistletoe or flirt while gift shopping or argue over which Christmas tree to bring home from the farm. This year, we’re even getting a good number of queer holiday romances, including Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun and You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky, among others. Historically, holiday romances have been overwhelmingly written by white authors, but that’s starting to change too with books like The Christmas Clash by Suzanne Park.
But I’ve got to get something off my chest: I’m a Grinch. I hate Christmas. It’s the worst holiday, okay? It’s overly commercialized, it’s stressful, freezing weather sucks, Santa is creepy, and everyone seems to forget that it’s not a secular holiday but actually associated with a colonialist religion that’s harmed a lot of people. “But the stockings! And the reindeer!” I hear you saying. Yes, I know I’m a party pooper. I’m the character in the novel who needs a hot lesbian in a Santa suit to show her the true meaning of Christmas.
I won’t try to pry anyone’s beloved Christmas romance novels out of their cold, mittenless hands. I’m just here to argue that we can spread a little love to the other seasonal holidays, right? And let’s start with Thanksgiving. It’s not a perfect holiday by any means. It’s also colonialist and it erases Indigenous history. That’s something I’d love to see recognized in a Thanksgiving romance, or explored in a romance by an Indigenous author. In fact, let’s normalize holiday romances that point out the problematic nature of the holiday at its center!
Here are the reasons I think this holiday deserves just a little of the romance novel treatment Christmas has received.
Romantic Autumnal Vibes
I’m not sure why romance authors are so obsessed with winter, the coldest, grayest, worst season, when autumn is right there. We all love When Harry Met Sally for those colorful changing leaves and lovely sweaters, don’t we? It’s called cuffing season for a reason: because lesbians have to figure out how to roll up the sleeves of their flannel and because it’s time to lock it down with a romantic relationship ahead of the winter holidays. Come on, Thanksgiving romances. Give me apple picking and corn mazes. Let those lovers cuddle and roast s’mores over a campfire. Throw in a make out session in a pile of leaves (but watch out for spiders).
Foodie Romance is Sizzling
Everyone knows that food and romance goes together like turkey and dressing. Foodie romances (aka “apron tuggers”) are incredibly popular right now. There’s nothing hotter than someone who knows their way around a sizzling stovetop. And as a holiday set entirely around a big meal, Thanksgiving is the perfect chance to throw two lovers in a kitchen and let the sparks fly. The possibilities are endless here: two talented cooks battling over who can make the best turkey, a chef teaching a cute new love interest their secrets for gravy, a clueless couple bumbling their way through making a family feast…I could come up with a dozen ideas faster than you can say “pumpkin pie.”
Meeting the Family Hilarity
Introducing your family to a significant other is rich material for comedy and drama in romance. It comes up in Christmas romances plenty, and the opportunity is right there for Thanksgiving as well. Not only do you get to meet the family; you also get to see contrasting family traditions. Maybe one character’s family does things very traditionally, while the other’s family prefers doing something surprising, like eating tacos and going go-kart racing. Thanksgiving is the perfect chance to contrast the different ways two love interests were raised and what their families value.
There are a handful of Thanksgiving romances out there — you know you can count on self-published authors to deliver the content traditional publishers are lacking — and the ones I’ve read largely revolve around family drama. Jackie Lau’s novella A Match Made for Thanksgiving is part of the Holidays with the Wongs series where each sibling gets a chance at love during a different holiday. In the first, the Wong parents set up each of their adult children with a surprise date for Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving, which totally counts). But Nick just had an unforgettable one-night stand with Lily, the date his parents invited for his brother Greg. Confusion, jealousy, and secret flirting obviously ensue.
Many romance readers go gaga for tropes, and Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity for a festive twist on classic setups. Picture a meet-cute over the last can of cranberry sauce at a crowded grocery store. Enemies turn to lovers as they compete over who can roast the best turkey. Childhood sweethearts are reunited when their families decide to have Thanksgiving dinner together. Exes fight over who gets the kids for Thanksgiving and decide to host dinner together, ultimately getting a second chance at love. Sparks fly between friends at the Friendsgiving table. Tiffany Reisz’s Her Naughty Holiday stuffs a little Thanksgiving cheer into the fake dating trope. Clover’s family won’t stop bugging her about finding a husband, so her teenage employee sets Clover up with her hot dad. Do they end up having sex on the very table they’ll later use to serve Clover’s family a feast? Absolutely.
Black Friday Chaos
If you’re about to say, “But Susie, you just complained about the overcommercialization of Christmas!”…You’re right. But what’s more ripe for drama than two lovers trying to snag a Black Friday deal? If you’re looking for a third act breakup, there’s nothing more likely to tear a new couple apart than a bargain brawl. Set the scene at IKEA for double the relationship intensity. Or maybe one character gets sexily protective of the other when someone tries to punch them over the last half priced Playstation. If you’re not so into Black Friday, it’s the perfect opportunity for the rest of the family to be conveniently absent while our lovers get busy back at home.
Did I convince you? Are you ready to give a Thanksgiving romance a try? I hope so! While we wait for publishing to catch up, here are some other holiday book lists you might enjoy: