and, predictably, they fall in love

After years of turning up my nose at them, I’m watching all the Hallmark Christmas movies this year. Well, not *exactly* Hallmark Christmas movies since – even though I supposedly have access to the Hallmark channel through my Dad’s shared YouTube TV subscription, I cannot get my Roku to allow me to search for the thing I want to watch. (What a sentence.) But all the Hallmark-adjacent silly Christmas romance movies where a sad, overworked urban single person returns home for the holidays and (SURPRISE!) finds love with a sweet, burly, flannel-wearing guy next door.

Yes, I will share some reviews here. But first, let me tell you that, like all good media consumption pipelines, I came to these implication-less movies by first reading implication-less books. In what I can only really understand as an attempt to escape the worrisome reality we’re all living in, I have read SO MANY romance novels this year. Romance and mysteries are comforting because no matter what happens, you can be guaranteed that the plot will be resolved and end on a high note. Always.

I have long been a book snob, and refused to read any kind of pulp-y fiction, but my friend Carynne, who is super smart and with whom I love talking books, told me a while ago that she reads romance all the time. And then she started sharing recommendations. And I discovered that the people who write romance novels are *writers* who, unlike me, have the skill, fortitude and patience to write *entire books.* And some of those books include deftly written characters, razor sharp humor and imagined worlds where I want to live. Plus, as mentioned, they always end well.

The romances kept me reading, and rocketed my 2021 tally to over 100 books read. If you, like me, are skeptical, might I recommend “Red, White and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston or “Get a Life, Chloe Brown” by Talia Hibbert or “Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors,” by Sonali Dev. Then you can move on, like I have, to everything Jenny Colgan has written.

Like the books, the Hallmark Christmas movies are guaranteed to be what some might describe as “heartwarming.” There may or may not be complicated emotions or family dynamics, but there will certainly be a neatly resolved falling-in-love plot line. Here are my initial reviews of Netflix Hallmark Christmas movies:

  1. The Christmas Prince: apparently a widely appealing film, since it has spawned at least two sequels that I will be viewing. A young, single NYC journalist is sent to a made-up European country to cover the playboy prince who is heir to the throne and, predictably, falls in love with him. This movie is bad. Like, bad even for (what I know of) this genre. But there is a castle, and snow, and the lead wears her Converse to royal gatherings.
  2. Christmas in a Castle: new to Netflix, starring Carey Elwes! and Brooke Shields! A successful author escapes a messy divorce and writer’s block by fleeing to Scotland, where her family has roots. She meets a duke and, predictably, falls in love with him. This movie is better than The Christmas Prince. It also features a castle, plus Carey Elwes. And there are charming villagers who like to knit and drink. Still bad.
  3. Love Hard: a young professional gets catfished on an online dating app, but doesn’t realize it until she has FLOWN ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO SPEND CHRISTMAS WITH A MAN SHE HAS NEVER MET BEFORE. The guy who catfished her agrees to help her catfish *another* guy – in person this time. Bad, racist portrayal of strict Asian parents and high-achieving sons. Very creepy – dangerous – set up. Also not awful.
  4. Single All the Way: also new to Netflix. The algorithms are on to me after this first week of Christmas romance movie bingeing, and Netflix sent me an email announcing that they thought I might enjoy this new film. They were right. A recently-dumped guy travels from LA to New England to be with his family for the holidays. He brings his roommate/bff with him and, predictably, falls in love with him. This movie is one million times better than any of the others, legit funny, actually charming in some places, and reminded me enough of “The Family Stone,” one of my Christmas movie standards, that it jumped immediately to the top of the ratings in my estimation.

I’m going to keep working on getting access to the actual Hallmark Christmas Movie Universe. Until them, what else should I be watching? Or reading?

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