Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: December 10, 2018
Received From: Review requested by the author
Nico Hamurişi is the one and only son of Santa Claus. All his life, Nico has known he’s expected to fall in love and find lifelong commitment by the Christmas of his thirtieth year—like every other heir before him. But knowing and accepting are vastly different things, and as the final countdown begins, Nico has yet to embrace his fate. His once great enthusiasm for eventually becoming Santa has been dimmed by uncertainty over how the Santa Line will be affected when he marries a man.
With only a year left, will Nico have time to find love and commitment all while learning how magic will transform the family line to accommodate who he is and who he loves?
SEXUALITY: homosexual, bisexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic, biromantic
TROPES: holiday romance, magical abilities
TAGS: adult, fantasy, romance, queer romance, queer characters, POC characters, coming out, Turkish character
WARNINGS: cissexism/anti-trans, anti-aro language, anti-bi/anti-pan language, ableism
This book was fun and cute and sweet!
I really liked both the main characters, Nico and Elliott, and their interactions together, and I also enjoyed the family dynamic and how that changed depending on which characters were being focused on. I especially enjoyed the close sibling relationship between Nico and Noelle, who always seem to be there for each other and are good sounding boards for the other. Also, I was very interested in the magical world Hoyt created and how everyone seemingly has some kind of magical abilities.
However, a lot of aspects of the plot fell flat. Not in a way that made the book unenjoyable, but in such a way as to make the story lackluster.
Since I mentioned the magical world, I’ll start there: it’s not fleshed out at all. It’s clear from the beginning that Nico’s family has magic, and Nico and his father have particularly strong magic due to being Santa. But other than that, the magical system of Hoyt’s contemporary, but fantasy, world isn’t ever explained. Nico briefly makes mention of a guy he slept with previously showing his magic, and Elliott clearly knows magic exists because he’s not surprised when Nico’s manifests, but that’s it. I was completely surprised when it’s mentioned that Elliott has magic! Because the worldbuilding is not…built. Do all people have magic? Do they all have different kinds of magic? Do some people have stronger magic than others? Magical worlds are so fascinating, and it would’ve been so interesting to see more of that play out in the contemporary setting.
Also, the romance between Nico and Elliott wasn’t as involved as I’d expect from a full length novel–it’s too rushed where it should be more drawn out. Mostly because we don’t meet the love interest until 40% into the book! In a romance, the love interest should be introduced a lot sooner than that, especially when the story is only being told from one point of view. As a result, the scenes with the two of them aren’t illustrated enough. Sure, they’re cute and sweet, but it seems artificial since we don’t get enough details about their time together. A whole year is stuffed into this book, yet we only get small snapshots of their time together
And related to the previously mentioned, there are a couple random characters who were clearly inserted into the novel for a reason but who could’ve very easily been cut out and not affected the story at all. First is Willa, Elliott’s ex-girlfriend, who is in the book for less than two pages and was completely unnecessary. Eliza, Elliott’s best friend, is also relatively irrelevant due to the way Hoyt wrote the novel. She’s there on the night that Nico and Elliott meet and plays a relatively big role in that whole scene, but after that is only on page two or three more times and very briefly, at that. I think Eliza would’ve been more involved if the book was dual POV and we got to see her and Elliott together, but since that isn’t the case, she could easily be removed. Finally is Taylor, Nico’s ex-boyfriend and only serious partner from his past. Nico spends several chapters angsting about Taylor (before the 40% mark), to the point where I actually thought this was going to be a second chance romance story and the two of them were going to end up together. Instead, they have a brief run-in, and then another one several chapters later when Nico is out with Elliott and Taylor with his fiance. The first only served to up his angst (and further convince me it was going to be a second chance romance, but alas), and the second one was apparently there to prove to Nico that he was right to let Taylor go all those years ago because he was able to find Elliott. While I see the relevance of this, I honestly think Hoyt could’ve gotten Nico to reach that realization without adding an unnecessary character on page.
Finally, the plot itself is a bit anti-queer in some ways. While I like the idea of “Santa’s gay son” and Nico being the first Santa to be married to a man, the concept of the Santification process was upsettingly anti-aro. The whole premise of the Santification process is “falling in love and being loved in return,” which is great! In theory. Because the novel makes it clear that the only kind of love that qualifies is romantic love. Anything else wouldn’t be strong enough. Especially as Santa-Nico would need to produce an heir, which was another issue, though not as much of one. It’s mentioned from the beginning that part of Nico’s stress if having to produce children, and he, rather dramatically, wails on about not being able to do that because he’s gay. Happily, there actually are several discussions about adoption and surrogacy, but. Not once is the concept of trans people existing factored in, which is tiresome at best. For all Nico knew, he could’ve met and fell in love with a trans man who wanted to have kids biologically! But it’s never even considered as a possibility–from ANYONE–and that’s just not okay.
Overall, I did actually enjoy the read for the most part, but it was just too flawed for me to be able to give it more than three stars.
Thematically, Stephanie likes magic and spies and magical spies. Aesthetically, she likes glitter and gold and pineapples. She wants to put more soft, sweet bi representation into the world so people like her teen-self can see themselves in their favorite genres and know who they are is nothing to be ashamed of.
She currently lives in the Great White North (Wisconsin) with her husband, daughter, and three dogs. The only thing getting her through these Midwest winters is the soothing sound of Tim Riggins saying “Texas forever” and the prospect of one day moving back there.
She loves a good astrology Twitter account but ultimately only believes in it when her husband calls her stubborn, and then her response is: “Well, I am a Taurus.”