Book Reviews

On Santa Claus Lane by A.J. Llewellyn at MLR Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Romance / Holiday
Reviewed by Serena Yates on 31-December-2018

Book Blurb

Rudy Keller's always felt like a bit of a misfit. Growing up, he felt different from everyone around him. Somehow every toy he was given at Christmas was either missing parts or just didn't work. As an adult, he's taken a weird pleasure in collecting toy farm animals that are broken, especially reindeer called Rudolph. Meeting Boris, his Finnish boyfriend and one of the few vets in the town of Kemi, Rudy feels like an outsider all over again in the tiny, freezing town close to the Arctic Circle.


Somehow though, he and Boris fit perfectly and now that gay marriage is legal in Finland, Rudy's keen to tie the knot. But now, after a decade of waiting, Boris is balking at the idea. In fact, he ends his relationship with Rudy, who flies home to Santa Claus Lane, a tiny eccentric neighborhood in Santa Barbara, California. He seeks comfort from his family and the familiarity of his idyllic enclave, which is actually only a street. But everything's changed and Rudy's in for one shock after another. Can his anguished heart reclaim what he's lost, and what is his, on Santa Claus Lane?


Book Review

The distinction between “being unique” and “not fitting in” may sound subtle, but there is a world of difference between them. Being unique is considered something to be proud of, while not fitting in leads to feeling excluded and not quite knowing what you’re supposed to do with your life. Rudy has this issue in spades and I really felt for him. With his parents’ home address on Santa Claus Lane you’d think Rudy would have grown up happier than he did, but sometimes it takes longer for someone to find their spot in the world – and I was happy to see that this story ends up with Rudy finally figuring out his happy place.

Rudy is home with his parents and sister in a quaint little place in California for the first time in over a decade, but as happy as he is to see them all again, he misses his ex with a vengeance. He doesn’t want to long for a man who dumped him, but the breakup is too recent for Rudy to have dealt with it. And I can’t blame him – after twelve years of living with Boris in Finland and hoping they’d finally be able to get married when same-sex marriage became legal, Rudy is devastated that Boris refused.

Despite the loss and the longing Rudy feels for what he has lost, this story has a very warm feeling. There are lots of family details, some wonderful secondary characters, a setting that is as quirky as it is idyllic, and more than one surprise. The background story of “Santa Claus Lane” and what happened to it is real, and Rudy’s reactions and his shock are credible.

If you like original stories about unusual people and places, if you want to see some sweet family traditions, and if you’re looking for a read that is funny, sweet, and exactly right, then you will probably like this novella.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by MLR Press for the purpose of a review.

Additional Information

Format ebook
Length Novella, 74 pages/20000 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 28-December-2018
Price $3.99 ebook
Buy Link