“Felix Navidad” by ‘Nathan Burgoine

24 Feb
Illustrated cover shows two white men, one clearly very cold and hugging himself, and one wearing a thick jacket and warm hat, standing on the snow in front of a cabin. There are a few trees with lights strung between, and ice and snow everywhere.

I can hear you groaning all the way over here. “Az, haven’t you hated on Christmas romances enough already?” and indeed, I have. But, hear me out:

This one is lovely.

(And I owe the author an abject apology for not reading and reviewing it on time for its release–see footnote 1)

It’s absolutely a Christmas novella, and absolutely the holiday matters, but it’s not preachy in a “your lord and savior” and “hell and damnation”, but in a, “cherish the moments with the people in your life, for they are fleeting” way, and oh, it’s lovely. (Yes, I’m aware that I said that already.)

Reader beware: death of a parent (backstory), death of a character (not on page, not unexpected), mentions of parents disowning queer offspring.

“Felix Navidad” by ‘Nathan Burgoine

This novella is the latest release in the The Village stories, but can absolutely be read as a stand-alone. The story is told entirely from Felix’s perspective, and it follows two timelines, one in the present December, starting with a wedding, and the other starting just over a year before that.

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

Felix doesn’t do impulsive anymore. But attending a friend’s wedding reminds Felix he’s the only one of his friends attending solo, and recent losses have him thinking he’s swung too far in the not-impulsive direction.

So, impulse decision number one? Cutting in on a dance with handsome farmer Kevin, the ex of one of the grooms, for a spin at the reception. Impulse decision number two? Planning his first holiday vacation off work. Christmas in Hawai’i will be a gift to himself.

When dancing doesn’t work out, Felix keeps high hopes for his vacation right up until the first flight cancellation. After bumping into a stranded Kevin, who lost his flight home, Felix gives impulse a third try: Why not drive to Toronto together? But after ice rain strands them halfway, it looks like Felix isn’t going to get to give himself his gift after all. Instead, this Christmas is a small cabin—and Kevin.

Then again, sometimes unexpected gifts turn out to be the best.

I’m having some trouble articulating my thoughts about this story, other than, “It’s so good!”

There’s a real sense of community, even though we spend most of the time just with Felix and one other person. In part through the way the story is told–those alternating timelines–and in part through conversations, texts and other interactions, we get to know this community just as we get to know him.

Felix is honestly, sincerely kind; the kind of person who gives of himself mostly because it’s the right thing to do. He could be just too Pollyanna to stand, but the way he’s written, he’s not; Felix is just a good person, with flaws and foibles and insecurities. And he’s very likable.

Mr Burgoine does not shy away from the realities of being queer in the world today, but rather than making pain the story, there’s just this sweet undercurrent of defiant, hopeful joy. Yes, not every individual story will end happily, and yes, some people will struggle harder, but there’s joy, and it’s worth being here to witness it, if nothing else.

There’s a lot about this novella that hit me right in the feels. From the general state of the world (censorship and puritanism, fighting to preserve queer history, fighting to find joy despite bigotry and prejudice), to the personal (falling into a rut and feeling like the one who’s always in the periphery of one’s own community, never really belonging).

Christmas is the center of the story in the sense that everyone celebrates it, and as an important family tradition for the characters, rather than as a religious holiday, and as such, it works very well for me. As does the author’s writing. There’s a gentleness towards the characters that just grabbed me by the heart. (If there’s a weakness in the world Mr Burgoine has built in this story, is that there is no mention of other holiday traditions.)

There is no explicit sex on the page, there’s a definite HEA, and I’m now getting the other novellas in the series, because I’ve found another author whose voice and writing resonate with me.

“Felix Navidad” get 8.50 out of 10

* * * *

1 The title of the novella is an obvious play on the Christmas song by José Feliciano. I have hated that song for almost 35 years, and that may have contributed to my putting off reading the story on time. Why I hate it, you ask? Because the ‘lyrics’ are the same phrase repeated 29 times in a row–just because it’s in two languages doesn’t make it a different sentence. Which could be borne if one didn’t have to hear the full song more than once every hour for weeks at a time, every holiday season. /rant

8 Responses to ““Felix Navidad” by ‘Nathan Burgoine”

  1. Miss Bates 24/02/2023 at 7:45 AM #

    LOL, when I saw the title of your review, I thought “ugh” b/c I’ve hated that song forEVAH too! But the novella sounds lovely as does Burgoine’s ethos and I shall definitely look out for more in his work. Lovely review too!

  2. willaful 24/02/2023 at 4:52 PM #

    I went and recommended it to our library. Bonus points for supporting one of ours. 😉

    • azteclady 24/02/2023 at 6:25 PM #

      • willaful 28/02/2023 at 3:42 PM #

        And they bought it! They’re generally very accommodating.

      • azteclady 28/02/2023 at 4:56 PM #


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