The Christmas I Know
Grade : B-

I had to laugh when I read the author’s note at the beginning of The Christmas I Know; Nicky James, known for usually having a fairly high angst-quotient in her books says:

Yes, I, Nicky James, wrote this book. It is full of tooth-decaying fluff and oozes sweetness everywhere, so much so that it might make you barf rainbows and shit butterflies if you read it. You’ve been warned.

I’m not the biggest fan of low-angst fluff and I tend to take it in small doses, so this seasonal novella fit the bill. There’s nothing especially new here – it’s a stranded-due-to-bad-weather road trip romance – but it’s nicely done and I liked the characters and the emphasis on the importance of family and tradition.

Andrew Walker is due to fly from California to Toronto a couple of days before Christmas in order to join his fiancé, Val, for Val’s famously extravagant annual Christmas party. Unfortunately, however, Andrew is delayed and misses his flight; he can’t get another that day so ends up spending the night at the airport so he can get the only other flight available – into Detroit, where he’ll hire a car and do the five hour drive to Toronto. Adding to his frustration is the fact that Val is far more concerned about the décor choices and with how it will look when his fiancé isn’t with him to greet his guests than with all the crap Andrew is dealing with, and doesn’t care that Andrew is doing everything he possibly can to get there. (Basically – Val is a self-absorbed dick.)

By the time Andrew lands, a blizzard is setting in, and he’s honestly very nervous about driving for five hours in such appalling conditions. But he’s promised Val he’ll be at the party, so he’s waiting in the coffee shop next door to the car rental office while he waits for all the paperwork to be sorted out. Sitting in the warm for the first time all day, he notices a handsome Black man come into the shop, clearly a regular given his familiarity with the staff, and doesn’t realise he’s been staring until their gazes lock. Andrew hastily looks away – then up again as a shadow falls over his table, and into the bluest eyes he’s ever seen. The man introduces himself as Xavier Lovell and asks if he can join him; as they talk, Andrew explains to Xavier why he’s planning to drive to Toronto and Xavier establishes that Andrew has no experience whatsoever of driving in the snow. Andrew is surprised when Xavier offers to drive him to Toronto – he’s a total stranger after all – but Xavier explains that he’s going that way anyway and besides, Christmas is a time for good deeds. Andrew gratefully accepts the offer.

Andrew and Xavier click immediately and bond over a shared love of Christmas and all its traditions. Andrew lost his parents when he was a kid, but still remembers what a family Christmas felt like, and has been searching for those feelings of love and belonging every year ever since. Right from the start, it’s clear he’s known for a while that he and Val aren’t right for each other; when they’re together things are fine and they have fun, but with increasing clarity he’s coming to see that their long-distance relationship is very one-sided (in that Val always gets what he wants) and to admit to himself that he’s clung on to their relationship for too long because he doesn’t want to be alone.

Xavier is a good guy – kind, supportive and a good listener – the complete opposite of Val, which serves to bring home even more forcefully just how wrong Val is for Andrew. I admit that I always struggle, in stories where one character is in a relationship with someone who is so obviously wrong for them, to fathom why they’re with them at all. Nicky James does, at least, have a good stab at explaining it, and perhaps I’d have been able to buy that explanation a bit more if Val had been less of a caricature.

Andrew and Xavier end up spending Christmas together, (nothing happens between them until Andrew and Val have split up, in case you were wondering) and it’s exactly what Andrew has been longing for all these years. Xavier is a little too good to be true, and the romance is, as with so many novellas, a bit rushed, but they make a good couple and there’s definitely chemistry and connection between them. But Andrew and Xavier are based in completely different parts of the country, so after their idyllic Christmas, they have some difficult decisions to make. The fact that they can’t just up sticks to be together immediately adds a nice note of realism to the fluff which makes their eventual HEA that much more satisfying.

Christmas stories tend to be cute and fluffy and this one is no exception, but despite her disclaimer, Nicky James doesn’t go completely overboard with it so I didn’t feel like I was drowning in big puddles of sticky-sweet goo! The Christmas I Know is a quick and heartwarming read that’s just the thing to curl up with on a chilly winter’s evening.

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : B-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : December 23, 2023

Publication Date: 11/2018

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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