The Zebra in the Manger
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Pages: 29
Goes Well With: A warm turkey sandwich and a mug of hot chocolate (with marshmallows)

With the temperatures dropping and the snow falling outside your office window, it’s the perfect time of year to stay in for lunch and read a cozy holiday romance—like Karen Hall’s The Zebra in the Manger.

Ever since they met years ago, at a friend’s holiday party, Eleanor Hamilton and her husband, Drew, have spent the holidays together. But now the British government has sent their best spy overseas on an important matter of national security, and it’s been weeks since Eleanor last heard from her husband. As her three young children decorate their home for the holidays, Eleanor looks back on the night that she and Drew first met, praying that he’ll be home for Christmas.

Meanwhile, miles away, Drew misses his family—his wife most of all—as he, too, recalls the night when he first fell in love with Eleanor.

The Zebra in the Manger is a charming Victorian romance about the magic of the season—and the magic of love at first sight. It’s a simple story—no action-packed spy scenes or spicy love scenes here. But it’s as warm and sweet (and as cozy) as a big, comforting mug of hot chocolate.

Hall’s writing style pulls readers into the story’s Victorian setting. Whether you’re reading about the children decorating the crèche (with six-year-old Edward’s creative addition of a small plaster zebra) or about the party where Drew and Eleanor first met, you’ll be able to feel the flickering glow of the candlelight and hear the church bells ringing in the background.

Since the story is so short, it does have its limitations—so it leaves a few questions unanswered. You’ll never really know why it was so important for Drew to go on another mission after years of retirement—and the details of the mission are a bit fuzzy. While I would have enjoyed a bit more intrigue, though, this isn’t a James Bond story; it’s a romance. And the romance is warm and cozy, making it just the thing for a quick, quiet lunchtime break in the middle of the hectic holiday season.

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