Note: The sensuality rating of these stories ranges from Kisses to Burning
If you liked the movie Love Actually but wished more of the characters had gotten happy endings, Amor Actually, which re-imagines every plot thread from the movie, might be the anthology for you. Like the original, the characters are interconnected, in this case as LatinX New Yorkers all planning to attend the same Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) party. And also like the original, the quality varies between plot threads. The biggest change here is the inclusion of a range of LGBTQ+ characters, including a poly romance.
Make the Yuletide Gay by Adriana Herrera (the musician/manager story)
Vivi, forty-five year old Latin pop legend, falls for her manager, Leila, in a story that is rushed and marked by inconsistent characterization. I generally struggled to tell which first-person narrator was speaking – a problem I think the author shared, since at one point the first-person narrator, Leila, turns on a sex toy and then notes that “Leila jumped.” Also, while I’m into stories which explore misogyny and patriarchy, other stories – even some in this collection- do it in less of a heavy-handed ‘let’s pause our makeout to do Intro to Gender Theory’ way.
Only Yours by Sabrina Sol (the prime minister-aide story)
David, the mayor of New York, has a crush on Natalia, the liaison from women’s soccer. Contrived separations, little character development, and a silly spin where ‘going up and down the street to open all the doors’ becomes ‘look in all the rooms in a hotel hallway’ – come on, it’s not THAT hard.
Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by Priscilla Oliveras (the widowed dad/new love story)
Hector’s son’s music teacher is making him feel sparks again for the first time since the death of his wife. Unfortunately, the school tells Cristina she may not date a parent. I liked the pacing here, and genuinely felt a connection between these characters. I always like it when stories with kids invest in making sure we feel the new love will get along with the child, and that’s certainly the case here.
All I Want for Nochebuena by Alexis Daria (the stand-ins for a sex scene story)
Helena and Juliana – aka porn stars Honey Grayson and Just Julie – have been flirting on social media for a while before teaming up on their first porn shoot. These ladies are adorable as they fangirl over each other and snuggle to stay warm on an under-heated set. I had a stupid soppy grin watching them flirt, such as by gifting hand-knitted Christmas socks. My biggest complaint is that after one explicit opening sex scene, the author took their next days of filming off-page.
Santa’s Eager Little Helper by Mia Sosa (the interfering brother story)
Grumpy chef Carlos has had a crush on Sarita, whose brother owns the meal-prep company where he works, but Sarita’s brother takes advantage of her and books up all her time. The characterization here is inconsistent, as we are told Carlos is a man of few words but then see him star in an Instagram live cooking video and declare love to Sarita. However, it was nice to see Sarita establish boundaries, and she and Carlos have good chemistry.
The Nochebuena Dating Dare by Diana Muñoz Stewart (the cheating husband story)
Eneida has left the husband who cheated on her (she discovered it when she opened a jewelry gift containing a note to the mistress), but she’s scared that starting to date again will upset her children and her family. Broadway hip/hop rap composer Tony (a thinly veiled Lin Manuel Miranda) volunteering at the school where she works forces her to choose. I enjoyed the prose here, but I found Eneida’s waffling frustrating and I never really saw why Tony was so swept away by her.
Love in Spanglish by Zoey Castile (the cross-language lovers story)
Author Callie discovers her boyfriend cheating and runs off to an Air BnB, where she ends up snowbound with the owner’s brother. The extended proximity gives these characters time to fall in love, and I liked watching Callie work through her creative issues. It’s nice to see the author address language loss in immigrants.
To Us, You Are Perfect • Alexis Daria & Adriana Herrera (the guy with the cards and the newlyweds story)
Pasquale and Yamilette have married, breaking the heart of Marcelo, Pasquale’s lifelong best friend, and former bed partner of both characters. Pasquale and Yami vow to win Celo back. I felt annoyed with Celo, who kept ghosting Pasquale and Yami (going silent for an entire year???) and while I understood Celo and Pasquale’s long-term connection, I didn’t get enough explanation for why Yami wanted him as a permanent poly partner instead of just a hookup. Also, while I don’t think a poly story has to be written as burning, this story seemed to be setting us up for explicit content, so it was disorienting when the characters kicked the bedroom door shut.
The Great Holiday Escape by Zoey Castile, (the exchange student who went to America story)
Gigi takes her first break in forever at a hotel in South Beach and ends up hooking up with a sexy pair of men. This is just… silly. In almost every way, it’s the opposite of Castile’s other story in the anthology about the snowbound author. Castile’s author character was more cautious about accepting a ride in a snowstorm than Gigi is about getting naked with a pair of large strangers. The author and her snowbound buddy spent days forging a connection; Gigi hooks up with two hot guys on vacation and invites them back to meet her family on Christmas Eve. What?
An anthology with two DIK stories and several Bs is a good find, plus you get a lot of page count and short stories for the price. The anthology would have been strengthened by a clearer choice on sensuality levels (it’s weird to have stories rated kisses and burning in the same anthology), but on the whole, it’s a nice and inclusive addition to the holiday booklist. Just be prepared to make a few skips.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.
|Review Date:||December 23, 2021|
|Book Type:||Contemporary Romance|
|Review Tags:||Anthology review | AoC | bisexual | bisexual hero | bisexual heroine | Christmas romance | F/F | Holiday romance | librarian | Ménage | musician | New York City | older couple | PoC | Queer romance | sex worker | short story|
I kind of desperately love the idea for “All I Want for Nochebuena.” The rest of this is on my TBR pile!
* All of this.
There’s a 6-episode mini-series on Amazon Prime right now, “With Love”, that explores love in various forms among members of an extended LatinX family – gay, straight, transgender, old, young, middle-aged, single, married. Each episode is centered on a different holiday, beginning with Noche Buena, through New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and so on through the year. I’ve only watched 3 episodes so far, but it’s made me laugh and sigh equally.
I second the recommendation! Binged the entire series last Sunday and loved it!