Title: Mending Noel
Author: Charlie Cochet
Length: 64 pdf pages.
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m comic fantasy
All is not sparkly snowflakes and sweet candy canes in North Pole City. Office workers Tim and Noel do nothing all day but antagonize each other—petty fighting that might be based on hatred… or a heated mutual attraction. It’s up to Jack Frost and his elf-friend Rudy to broach the hostilities and introduce some Christmas kisses, but is the Frost Prince up to the challenge of launching a new romance when someone’s trying to break his holiday spirit?
A really fun little North Pole adventure, which should charm even the most fussy readers.
This is one of those blurbs that gives slightly the wrong impression again (I keep picking those). It makes it sound like Tim and Noel are both at each other’s throats, but it’s not like that at all. In fact, Tim is the wronged elf, who does everything he can to appease his grumpy, bullying supervisor. Both elves have served for a long time in Kringle’s admin department–a job most elves move on from at the first opportunity. However, although Noel would never admit it to anyone, both elves are lacking in the magical skills to make it in a more rewarding job.
Tim is a sweet, unassuming character. He’s not only much smaller than the other elves (especially hunky Noel), but he seems unable to stand up for himself and has been ground down by his lonely life of poverty, surviving on gifts of fudge and slowly ruining all his good clothing (this is largely Noel’s fault). North Pole City certainly isn’t a fairytale setting. All the Sugarplum Fairies these days seem intent on getting drunk in gingerbread bars, the Mouse King’s hoodlums are on the streets, and homophobia is rife. After dealing with an afterhours coal delivery at the office, Tim sets off home through the mean streets, only to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, overhearing a conversation between one of the hoodlums and two corrupt Tin Soldiers. Unfortunately for Tim, Noel blunders in and alerts the miscreants, who then chase them down.
The two elves are saved by a handy intervention by Rudy, one of the Rein Dears–heroic elves who deliver the Christmas presents with their glamorous fairy helpers. Only Rudy is a bit different. Rudy offers the two runaway elves jobs as his helpers, and a scandal threatens to turn everything upside down at the Christmas Ball.
The worldbuilding in this story is fabulous. Being British, I’m not overly familiar with the lore that’s built up around Kris Kringle and the North Pole, but Cochet has had merry fun playing with all the popular myths. I love the way this North Pole isn’t perfect, and there’s enough grit to keep things interesting. I also adored the way the elves use appropriate slang expressions, such as “praise Santa”, “bah humbug” and “crapapples!”.
As for the romance? Well, you get two for the price of one here, as while Tim discovers the real reason Noel’s been so horrible to him, we also find out about the longterm secret relationship between Rudy and Jack Frost, who play matchmaker for the two younger elves. Noel’s character goes through a transformation as he learns not to be ashamed of his desires, and although I didn’t like him much to begin with, I was pleased to see him grow into a much nicer elf.
There’s also an adventure story here, with dramatic public comings out, political intrigue and renegade toy soldiers. Definitely a story that works well on many levels, and I was impressed with how well Cochet keeps the different strands working together to weave a thoroughly memorable and fun tale.
If you’re looking for a well-written story with Christmassy humour, genuine character development, sweet romance and adventure, you can’t go far wrong with this one. Highly recommended.