Short Stories 366:333 — “A Christmas Miracle,” by Fiona Riley

Rounding out the trio of awesome women-loving-women holiday romance novellas in All I Want for Christmas is Fiona Riley’s “A Christmas Miracle” and once again, I have to underline just how much this book was the low-angst, warm-simmer anthology I needed so very much at the time I read it. This time, we get a Grinch going head-to-head with a Christmas Queen, and I was on board pretty much from the moment it began, where the Grinch in question, Mira Donahue, is suddenly short-staffed during the holiday rush at the Mirage, the Best-in-Boston bar she owns and operates. I worked retail for a couple of decades and let me tell you, if you want my empathy as a reader for your character, this is a short, immediate way to my heart. Retail holiday season is awful. Now, Mira has more than just the seasonal rush as the source of her holiday malaise, so even the stoutest of Christmas Champions couldn’t begrudge her a little No-ho-ho.

Well, except maybe Courtney, who is planning her company’s holiday party and wants it to be so perfect it’ll land her the transfer to the event-planning side of the business where she really wants to be and is totally the right person to shine. Courtney has holiday ringtones. Courtney has a list of holiday-themed drinks she wants Mira to have at the party. Courtney likes white garland with lights. In short, Courtney is just that Christmas Champion, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that Mira and Courtney end up doing some massive, high-chemistry flirting before either of them realizes they’re each other’s business meeting. Oops. (This is a Fiona Riley story, so naturally there’s some off-the-charts chemistry and sizzle.)

For fans of holiday tropes, I have two delightful phrases to offer up on this particular holiday cookie plate: snowed in for Christmas is the first, and there’s only one bed is the second. Oh, and if that’s not enough (it’s totally enough) can I add the final revelation of Mira’s dislike of the holidays is just… I mean… GAH. I loved it. Alongside the aforementioned trademark sizzle Riley brings to all her romances, this one definitely hits all the right notes for the holidays, and closes out the trio on a wonderful, happy note, and let me just a wee bit sad the ride was over. I loved all three of these novellas, and I can imagine them going into my holiday rotation next year as low-to-no-angst re-reads. Just go pre-order the whole collection already, because it’s magical.

I met Fiona Riley a few years ago at a Bold Strokes Writing retreat, and as a fun fact, she’s the person “my” Fiona is named for in my own holiday novellas, as she gave me the nudge I needed to try to find my own holiday novellas a home. So I asked her “where’d this one come from?” and here’s the answer:

Have you read Bet Against Me yet? I ask because the inspiration for this novella came from that novel.

I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but Mira, and specifically her bar, are important as characters and scenes in that story. In fact, every book in the Bet Series will feature scenes at Mirage. It’s their local, high end, bougie hang out spot. The Mirage is as much a character as any I’ve written thus far.

I used some of the best bars in the Seaport of Boston as a physical reference, taking some of my favorite aspects—the tall ceilings, mix of industrial steel and old wooden charm of the historic old buildings of the renovated shipping buildings in that area that are hundreds of years old. I detail the architecture of the Mirage more in the first Bet book. I knew that the bar (and Mira) were going to need their own story the moment I decided upon a name and location.

Long story short—The Mirage is the backdrop for some amazing moments for my Gamble and Associates colleagues, and Mira was too interesting to leave as a background character. Plus, Courtney is adorbs, right?

—Fiona Riley

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