Short Stories 366:343 — “Being Merry,” by Meka James

I found this novella through Women of Color in Romance (which, if you don’t already know about, you should check out). Meka James is a new author to me, but when I saw a women-loving-women holiday short? Well, you know how I get about holiday shorts, and this one hit so many of the right notes for me. First, “Being Merry” kinda/sorta delivers a “stuck together” plot, in that Noelle thinks the sister of her friend is 100% on board with letting her rent a room at her house. But when she arrives, Lennox doesn’t really know anything about what’s going on, or a least, is mostly blindsided, and also really, really doesn’t love how chatty and holiday-obsessed Noelle seems to be—she looks like Christmas exploded all over her, complete with holiday-themed headband! It looks like Noelle is going to be stuck with a grinch, and it looks like the grinch is going to make things difficult.

It’s not long before we get a sense of the “why” of these two: Noelle works at a children’s hospital, and as a doctor there, she does anything she can to inject some frivolity of the holidays into what is, for kids in her care, the worst possible kind of Christmas ever. Lennox, on the other hand, works with the public at a bar, so I 100% gave her a pass on being a grinch. I worked holiday retail. I get it, Lennox. But the two definitely have sparks with each other, and it’s not just dry desert air and Noelle’s tinsel.

Meka James nudges the tension up a bit at a time, and then lets it boil over in a blow-out that works perfectly for the characters, and then tips over into something with sizzle. There’s not so much a black moment in this story as there is a loud clearing of the air (followed by some grovelling) and I appreciated that a lot. It’s one of my favourite things about holiday romances, actually: that we don’t need a horrendous dark turning point, just a realization and a setting-to-rights. How Lennox goes about making it clear how she feels about Noelle was truly a series of romantic gestures (and even includes getting her family involved). Basically, this one hit all the right notes.

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