The Christmas Bride

May 8, 2017

I don’t actually want to write a review of Grace Livingston Hill’s The Christmas Bride, but I do want to say:

  • Those of you who were like, “okay, but sometimes the religious stuff is way too much”? I didn’t get it before. I get it now.
  • Apparently what’s wrong with the world is that I am not in Israel.
  • The hero will not give any of his vast fortune to charity because it stops people from being self-reliant.


  1. Oh my! It sounds so bad, now I just want to read it to see!

    • I actually enjoyed the early parts of the book, but eventually the pervasive smugness killed my enjoyment.

  2. For me, when GLH fails, it’s more that there is too much *badly done* religious stuff rather than strictly too much religious stuff – Four Girls at Chautauqua is probably 40% religion, 40% other characterization, 20% Chautauqua-practical-stuff (it’s been a while since I read it, so that’s a really rough spitball) and I’m a fan, but even just a light sprinkling of it being badly done can be too much (and GLH does not always stick to a light sprinkling…). (n.b. avoid Blue Ruin)

    Unfortunately, GLH fails in the really-doing-it-right respect fairly often and, in many books, seems to go for “oh I should shoehorn in some ‘religion'” anyway, or random insta-conversions so as to make it okay for the main characters to marry. But sometimes the rest of the book is good enough to make it worth ignoring (like the landscape wittering in The Blue Castle, which annoys me but the rest of the book is so good!)… and sometimes, nope.

    • That sounds right–especially that just a little bit badly done can poison the whole book. For me, I’d define “badly” as smugness/condescension. There’s a sort of “look how happy we are” vibe that bugged me in Cloudy Jewel and morphed into full-fledged “people who aren’t happy just haven’t tried our thing, and if they don’t want to they don’t deserve happiness” in The Christmas Bride. Looking at a list of her works by date, it seems like she got preachier as she got older, and I might avoid her post-1920 books in the future.

      • I’d say things got sloppier as she went along, which means that when there is religion wedged in there rather than natively occurring, it’s more often badly done – but when you’ve got one person churning out that many novels, some of them being of distinctly low quality is not terrifically surprising. Unfortunate, though.

        Someday I want to write a post on the tension in GLH between 1. religious claims (which include loving neighbors and not seeking revenge) and 2. present/immediate vengeance being really satisfying either to GLH or to her readers (I’m not clear whether she was playing to her audience or herself on that, but People Getting What’s Coming To Them, both positive and negative, by the end of the book, is, uh, pretty consistent).

        The “look how happy we are!” in Cloudy Jewel didn’t bug me in itself, partly because them being happy was really quite plausible given the characters and circumstances, but the “let’s exclude others arbitrarily from our happy group while preaching inclusivity!” did bug me. Not enough to make me dislike the book as a whole, though, especially since the extra two added-kids were being excluded by society in the main and I liked the emphasis on not rejecting people for working and not rejecting people for what their parents did – but yes, one or two bits were grating. But generally, oppressed aunts being rescued and nesting are my jam, so a great deal can go awry in a book if it’s got both of those…

        • More and more I think it’s her declining level of tolerance for people who aren’t like her. Just finished A Daily Rate, and you would not find the level of compassion Hill shows for the more vulgar boarders in a later book.

          The revenge issue is definitely the fundamental GLH thing. It’s so deeply hypocritical, and if it’s about catering to her readers, she was only able to do that well because she clearly found grinding her heel in her villains’ faces to be deeply satisfying.

          I mostly enjoy the revenge stuff, honestly, although sometimes I wish Hill would take a step back. It’s the smugness that gets to me, and it poisoned Cloudy Jewel for me. It’s funny, because Celia an A Daily Rate has this idea that if people aren’t good/happy/cultured it’s their own fault, making no allowances for environment, and Hill obviously knew that was unfair when she wrote it. But later she leans pretty hard into the same mindset, whether consciously or not.

    • Okay, I partly take that back; midway through re-reading The Tryst, there may just be straight-up *too much* in some of these books for some readers. The Tryst occasionally has multiple pages in a row discussing various chunks of the Bible, which is potentially interesting enough if you’re interested, and the characters are, for the most part, plausibly interested, and most of it’s not “badly done” like some GLH wedge-a-bit-more-religion-in-there parts I recall, but… yeah. There is actually quite a lot just by volume! Also, I was remembering the secondary characters in The Tryst more than I was remembering the primary characters, and it turns out that’s because I like most of the secondary characters a whole lot better. That said, there are still some highly enjoyable parts to the book; I just wish the heroine was a little less… bland? naive? generically pleasant?… something, anyway – and I suspect that the religious component might be just plain too much for some people, as some sailing books have just plain too much about exactly what is happening with this rope and that sail for someone who is not in it for the sailing per se. But, in my opinion, the book is worth reading for Hespur, if nothing else. :-)

      • Hmm. We’ll see how long my patience for GLH lasts, I guess. I don’t really mind the high volume of religious stuff in and of itself, I guess–being bored is okay, it’s the books where she genuinely offends me that I want to avoid.

  3. A hero who feels he shouldn’t give away his money is not really hero material to me. He’s smug-condescending-prick-him-with-a-pin not hero type whom the heroine dumps for the real one.

    If he inherited his money in the book, did someone point out that the money should be taken away from him so HE could be more self-reliant?

    • Agreed.

      What’s even more ridiculous is that he was poor himself, and got rich when he struck oil. And he knows that he didn’t do anything in particular to deserve that, and he wants to help people with his money, but he’s disgusted by the poor neighborhood in his city and he doesn’t want to give anyone material help–only tracts.

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