I came across Leonor Soliz on Instagram during Hispanic Heritage Month when Latinex authors were boosting each other. She describes her writing as comfort books with characters who are trying to be good people with Latine and immigrant experiences and fat representation.
I decided to try her most recent novella, Under the Meh-stletoe, set in the fictional town of Laguna Island. Laguna Island is on the Pacific coast (I think in Canada, as Soliz is a Chilean-Canadian author). In the 1970s and 80s, Laguna Island attracted a lot of immigrants from Central and South America. Thought the town has started to lose people recently, it still has a strong, welcoming melting pot vibe. Once I got going on Under the Meh-stletoe, I inhaled it.
Under the Meh-stletoe is a dual point of view romance, which works really well for Soliz. Her characters are thoughtful and self aware. Ale, short for Alejandra and pronounced as such (she’s not fermented grains), has returned to Laguna Island after her twin sister was in a serious car accident. Daniel chose to make Laguna Island his home after a lot of research. He wants to connect more with his Latine heritage and he wants to revitalize the town. Ale takes over her sister’s role on the town’s Christmas committee and Daniel is on the committee as the town government liaison and holder of the purse strings. As co-chairs they have to work together. As they do, they reluctantly bond over their shared dislike of Christmas. Neither is interested in a relationship. Daniel in particular goes through Olympic level mental gymnastics to convince himself that he is not interested. But they are and everyone knows it.
There are a couple of things I especially enjoyed. I enjoyed how much we saw Daniel and Ale’s interior life. They were thoughtful and considered about how they approached each other. I loved that though there is a lot going on around the main characters, Soliz keeps the story focused on Ale, Daniel, and their growing relationship. If you want to learn how to put on a multi day town Christmas festival, you won’t learn much here. If you want to see a couple progress from a wary first meeting through probably not flirting to flirting to verbal foreplay, this is your book. I got a feel for the town and the characters while happily centered on the emotional arc. It felt like being in a snow globe.
Ale is fat and comfortable with it. I don’t recall any fat phobia in the book. Daniel is attracted to her body, her style, and the little smirk she has when they are talking about Christmas. There is one open door, explicit sex scene towards the end.
CW: off page serious car accident not described in detail.