It is that magical time of year where multiple holidays stack up against one another and people are feeling festive. In the spirit of holiday-time, the December Her Story Arc Book of the Month we’ve selected is a Christmas short story collection self-published by four women. “Four Fantastical Christmas Romances” features four unique stories, each with its own distinct tone, genre, and theme. Before I go any further in this review I must warn you that this is a Romance short story anthology, and it does not shy away from erotica. This is definitely an 18+ book!
Each story is so different that I find it hard to write a review on all of them at once. So I made the (difficult) decision to single out “The Christmas Troll: A Netherworlder Story” by author Suza Romero for the sake of this review.
Not offensive to women = 1 pt*
Easily passed. I did not find myself physically or emotionally uncomfortable by how the women characters were speaking, acting, or portrayed in this book. I was engaged by, and impressed by, the women characters.
Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character = 2 pts
“The Christmas Troll” is mainly from the point of view of Adele Golembeck, a forty year old woman who has inherited a timber business and vast estates from her deceased parents. She is a tall and stocky woman learning to be a lumberjack.
Passes the Bechdel test = 3 pts
Suza’s story does not pass the Bechdel test, but other stories in the anthology do. In the case of “The Christmas Troll” it does not take away from the feminist perspective that only one woman character moves through the story.
Artistic and/or Entertaining = 4 pts
Very. “The Christmas Troll” captivates you with an alternate-modern earth where magical creatures live alongside humans. The history of how this peaceful system came to be is just as messy as all other imperial stories, involving historical cruelty and slavery at the hands of European colonialists. This sordid history rears its ugly head in northern Minnesota just as lumberjack Adele is settling in for a comfy Christmas in solitude. As things take a turn for the worse, there is a glimmer of hope that all will be well in time for the new year. Confident Adele may have wistfully dreamed of two hunky men being delivered to her by Santa Claus, but she would never have predicted how that wish would be fulfilled.
A particularly well written scene towards the beginning of the story shows us an unsurprising encounter where a law enforcement officer refuses to believe that Adele is in need of help, speculating that she is only upset about a date that went bad. This is unfortunately very realistic, but shows honestly how Adele has to jump through hoops to convince the officer to come to her aid. One of the things I loved about Suza’s writing is how she doesn’t skirt around issues, whether they be ugly or beautiful, but instead lays them out and lets you be the judge.
One of my favorite characters in “The Christmas Troll” is Diffy. It/he/she is a blue ethereal cloud that eats dust and mutters it’s opinions in fey-speak intelligible only to the other Netherworlders. I picture it/he/she looking like Bibble from the Barbie Fairytopia movies, and they provide comedic relief and emotional support to both the characters and the reader.
And BOY is this story steamy – be warned that this reviewer will not be held responsible for any unintended actions you take after reading this! Suza writes with frankness, warmth, and explicit details. In other words, you and your partner(s) will love it too 😉
Above and Beyond General Media = 5 pts
The first thing that stood out to me from both Suza’s story, as well as E.G. Scott’s story, is the compelling romance between characters of the same sex. “The Christmas Troll” tells us the story of two male Netherworlder lovers (one werewolf and one troll) who are reunited after a long separation. E.G. Scott’s story shows us twin sisters on a cruise, where one sister is a lesbian and the other is straight, who soon find that their intended romantic partners are connected in ways they couldn’t have foreseen. In “The Christmas Troll” Suza also introduces a polyamorous relationship that shows honestly the non-jealous, open romance that is possible between more than just two people.
I have selected some of my favorite lines from Suza’s story to further highlight how deep the feminist themes run.
This disturbed his 1800’s male sensibilities. It took some mental adjustments to think of women being allowed to vote, let alone a female wanting to do hard labor outside the home.
“The Nineteenth Amendment, Mr. Troll!” Adele said with satisfaction.[…]
“Oh you’re in for it now, old timer,” Benedict chuckled and went back to rolling pie crust. “Welcome to the age of the feminist.” Diffy bubbled with unwelcome commentary as Velcor got an earful from the modern woman.
“The his jaws tensed and he growled savagely, “Move on me, Adele. Please.” Even in the midst of passion, he didn’t take, he asked. Adele loved that about the troll.
On body positivity:
Her love handles and stomach had a mind of their own. Unless she starved herself, she kept a round tummy and a full bottom. She would never achieve the mythical thigh gap flashed in the fashion magazines, and didn’t want to.
It was hard for me to choose these lines out of the dozens I highlighted with my Kindle App, but you get the idea! All in all, this erotic/romantic short story collection achieves a 15/15 on the Her Story Arc Scale of Inclusivity. Treat yourself (and your lover(s)!) this Christmas Eve and buy a copy of this awesomely feminist book.
*This is a category that could get very complicated, very quickly, if we tried to list everything that could be offensive to women. Instead, we use this category as a way of showing our own personal reaction to whatever we are reviewing. All contributors to this site are women and can speak from a woman’s perspective. However, no woman can speak for all women so we do our best to explain our choice one way or the other. We encourage all readers to share their opinions in the comments of every post if they want to express agreement or disagreement with our rankings.