Rating: 2.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

Sasha is putting on his best Scrooge impression, having been fired from the Christmas village where he was a not-very-cute elf — yelling at children, yelling about children, and in general being far from festive. After collecting his cat, Sasha heads home to deal with his lack of money, lack of job, and lack of anything and everything that makes him happy when he suddenly finds himself whisked aboard an alien ship! He and his cat are showered with affection and awe; his cat, for being a cat (naturally) and Sasha for being a would-be film maker (if someone would just give him a chance).

The three aliens who abducted Sasha are Khephren, the magenta one; Najar, the tawny one; and Luna, the one in shades of green. All three of whom have tentacles. And all three of whom are interested in having Sasha show them how to have the perfect Hallmark holiday! Fortunately, Sasha is quite taken with Kheph, with his magenta hair, his sweet smile, and his seductive pink tentacles.

This story is part of Tinsel and Tentacles, a multi-author winter holiday tentacle romance collection, and it felt too shallow for me. Don’t look for deep, intricate world building and plot, because that’s not what this book is about. Instead, it’s a silly, wacky, little romcom about a human kidnapped by a trio of aliens, one of them hotter, sweeter, and more hung than the others. At one point, the intrepid human filmmaker who has been abducted asks … why the tentacles? (Kheph’s species seem to look human save for the dramatic coloration and the tentacles down their back). Keph’s answer: “The scientific and anthropological experts on my world are not entirely certain, from an evolutionary perspective, why we developed them.” And yet, they move faster when using their tentacles than by using their very human legs and feet. So why did they evolve legs and feet? If the tentacles are down their back, how long are they that they can be used in warfare and running? At several points, Kheph refers to his tentacles as having their own feelings and minds — much as a shifter might refer to their wolf having opinions — which … what? Are the tentacles sentient on their own? I don’t understand, and there is not enough world building to explain anything.

As someone for whom world building is my favorite part of a book, this lack of it left me ambivalent — and left the book with a harder sell, because it now relied upon the strength of the characters and their relationship to keep me invested. Unfortunately, the characters are inconsistent, seeming to randomly change opinions and personalities to suit the story. Sasha hates Christmas so much so that he’s fired from being a holiday elf, but one look at a tall, magenta pink alien with long, thick tentacles and Sasha feels protective, indulgent, and the holiday spirit in equal measure. Khephren, who already fetishizes humans and their cultures, has at least some token nod as to why he’d be instantly in lust with the first human he meets. I don’t mind stories made of sugar and frosting, but I need some more character development, some reason they fall instantly in love — even if it’s just a token.

It feels like the point of the story comes down to the tentacles. It doesn’t seem to matter why Kheph has them, it only matters that he does. It didn’t help me that the author themselves pointed out — through various PRICKS (Privately Relayed Intergalactic Communication and Knowledge System) — the problems with their relationship, such as the power imbalance of having a hostage who can’t escape, a person in your control who has no ability to consent to anything you ask of them. The fact that Archer was quick to brush away these issues through in-world dialogue didn’t remove those critiques, it just made them stand out more for not being well addressed.

I didn’t connect to the humor, was indifferent to the characters, and uninterested in the lack of world building and plot combination of runaway bride meets Grinch, all culminating in the convenient holiday ending. However, if you find yourself chuckling just a little at a secret room being called the Augmented Reality Simulation Environment (ARSE), or the spacefaring Alliance of Neutral Alien Lifeforms (ANAL), and enjoy instalove, pop culture references, and a fairly laid back approach to world building and characters, you might have fun with this book. The writing isn’t bad, and the pacing is fine; this just wasn’t the book for me.