Disclosure: I was given a free advanced Kindle version of Make You Mine This Christmas via NetGalley in return for a review.
I love a good festive romance. It doesn’t matter if it’s a book or a movie, there’s nothing I love more than curling up and losing myself in the warm fuzz as the days turn colder. But one thing I have noticed is that there is a definite lack of queer festive romances. And so as soon as I heard about Make You Mine This Christmas, I knew I had to read it!
The classic fake dating story, with a twist
There’s a reason that fake dating is a popular trope within romance – it makes for a fun story as the characters realise they have feelings for each other but are too afraid to make a move. But Make You Mine This Christmas has taken this trope and added an extra twist.
The main character, Haf, agrees to pretend to be Christopher’s girlfriend for the festive season, after his ex catches them kissing under some pitiful looking mistletoe at a party she and her friend Ambrose crashed. An accidental sharing of this news in the family group chat means Haf is invited to the Calloway’s for Christmas, and Haf thinks this is a better idea than the alternative loneliness she was preparing for as a solo Christmas loomed before her.
Although Haf and Christopher hit it off immediately, it becomes clear very early on that neither of them have any romantic attraction to the other. This cannot be said for the woman Haf bumps into at a bookshop in the train station on her way to the Calloway’s. The attraction is immediate – it’s a typical meet cute. But she doesn’t catch the woman’s name or get her number, and believes she’s missed her moment.
Until she arrives at the Calloway’s and sees the woman again. Because she is Christopher’s sister, Kit. And thus begins the complicated and utterly adorable development of a romance, that neither Haf nor Kit can admit to at first, because who steals her brother’s (fake) girlfriend?
The quirky, clumsy, main character
One of the things I absolutely loved about this book is that Haf is brilliantly representative of all of us who feel like we put our foot in our mouths far too often and get into all kinds of situations we don’t quite know how to get out of.
She ploughs through life with such a passion for those she cares about and very little thought for her own wellbeing. Like agreeing to fake date the man she has only just met, or wading into a duck pond in the depths of Winter to rescue a baby reindeer from an angry goose! The latter scene was my absolute favourite and had me laughing so hard.
The author notes at the end of the book that Haf was written as someone who is autistic but doesn’t yet know it, and most likely has undiagnosed dyspraxia too. And honestly, this makes so much sense to me. As someone who is almost certain she is autistic, and is always bumping into things or falling over her own feet, I loved seeing a main character like this. Who didn’t always understand her emotions or what she was supposed to do, but tried her absolute best anyway.
Representation in Make You Mine This Christmas
Haf isn’t the only character who is relatable though – many of the other characters are too. Kit, the love interest, has the hypermobile form of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) and walks with a stick. She also talks openly about how fatigue impacts her life, and the challenge of being a disabled person in the workplace.
Then there’s Ambrose, Haf’s non binary housemate. They adore starting Twitter polls about the situation Haf has found herself in, whilst simultaneously being the reliable best friend, who drops everything to come to Haf’s rescue when needed. Ambrose is a big deal in the fashion world, and they work with Christopher’s ex, Laurel, to create Haf a gorgeous dress for the Christmas ball.
Which is another thing – it was wonderful to see the ex-girlfriend being developed as a full character in her own right, who isn’t simply painted as an awful character. Laurel and Haf actually like each other and get on well, just as Laurel and Christopher have managed to do post break-up.
Finally, I couldn’t finish this section on representation in Make You Mine This Christmas without mentioning that Haf is a size 20 and proud of her body. The only comments made about her size come from her, when explaining to Christopher that she can’t just go to a shop last minute to buy a ball gown, because no High Street shops cater for people her size. The rest of the time Haf’s experience is one of knowing exactly what she has – like when she knows how good she looks in the right clothes, and joking about “the lads” (her boobs).
It’s a story of believing in yourself
The overall plot of Make You Mine This Christmas, beyond the “fake dating, falling in love with my fake boyfriend’s sister, oops” storyline, is one of believing in yourself. The only reason Haf and Christopher enter into this whole fake dating thing in the first place is because neither one of them want to admit how miserable they are in where their life is heading and they cannot tell their families to butt out and let them figure it out for themselves.
The book ends with both Christopher and Haf making changes to their lives, with Haf still not sure about the exact details but believing in herself enough to know she deserves more from her life. It has the classic feel good ending you want from a festive romance, whilst still leaving enough loose ends to make it feel truly believable. Everything isn’t all neatly packaged up with a bow, just like in real life, but there is a real sense of promise.
Buy Make You Mine This Christmas
I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a queer, festive romance that is both relatable and funny. You can grab a copy of it here. Please note it is only available as an eBook and audiobook at present. The paperback is due out on 28th September 2023.
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