The Wrong McElroy by KL HughesThe Wrong McElroy by KL Hughes is a contemporary, Christmastime romance.

Fiona Ng is a lesbian college student who has put romantic love on the back burner. Michael McElroy is Fiona’s best friend and one of eight children. Exhausted by his large family’s constant nagging about being single, Michael asks Fiona to attend the McElroy’s four-day Christmas celebration as his pretend girlfriend.

Fiona and Michael share a cute, best-friend banter that’s easy to mistake for something more, and their plan gets off to a good start. However, Fiona didn’t expect to get “gay vibes” from Michael’s little sister, Elizabeth “Lizzie” McElroy. Michael is convinced that Lizzie is straight, and he makes it clear that she is definitely off-limits. Fiona doesn’t want her growing attraction to damage the best friendship she’s ever had.

Can Fiona keep her feelings for Lizzie under control, and can she navigate the McElroy family fault lines that start to appear around issues of race and sexuality?

The Characters

The story is written from Fiona’s point of view. As an only child, being in one house with a large family is overwhelming to Fiona. Fiona is also of Chinese-Malaysian-Singaporean descent, and she’s cautious about the reception she will receive from the white McElroy family. Nonetheless, she is devoted to Michael and determined to make the fake girlfriend charade work.

Lizzie is film student in her mid-twenties living in Los Angeles. She is freckly, curvy, and has a warm personality. She also has no problem speaking up for the marginalized during McElroy family discussions. As outspoken as Lizzie can be about politics, she is equally mum with her family regarding her sexuality.

The Writing Style

KL Hughes is a polished writer, and the story flowed well. I found the interactions between Fiona and Michael to be tender and convincing, and they served to highlight the stakes of Fiona falling for Lizzie and potentially risking her relationship with Michael. This novel also lit my internal Yule log with its descriptions of snowball fights, gingerbread decorating contests, and pie.

The Pros

The main character’s identity as a person of color is not just an afterthought in this book. Rather, the author chooses to actively discuss issues of race. We get a glimpse of how Fiona feels as a minority in the McElroy house, and also of how much she wants Michael to step up to his role as an ally.

Another pro for me was the novel’s celebration of Lizzie’s curvy figure. It was lovely to see an intimate scene featuring healthy thighs and a non-flat stomach. Lizzie’s confidence in her body makes for an empowering read.

The Cons

There were no cons for me.

The Conclusion

If you are hungry for a romance featuring non-traditional main characters, then this book will satisfy your cravings. It’s a fun twist on the fake relationship trope and a worthwhile addition to your holiday reading list.

Excerpt from The Wrong McElroy by KL Hughes

“Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey, loser!”

The words thumped through the haze of sleep mere seconds before the weight of a body slamming into hers jolted Fiona awake. She let out a horrendous scream as the person landed directly on top of her and yanked the comforter off her head. Her arms flailed helplessly as her hair clouded her vision.

“Oh, holy shit! You are not my brother.”

Fiona’s heart raced. Her eyes were sticky with sleep and blinded by hair, and all the oxygen in the room seemed to be evading her lungs. She quickly swiped her hair away and blinked up at the petite but curvy young woman straddling her and slowly calmed as she took in each feature: frizzy dark-orange hair, a toothy grin, one blue eye, and one green.

“Lizzie, what the hell are you doing?”

Fiona leaned up to see Michael standing in the open doorway of the bathroom, mouth covered in toothpaste foam and a towel wrapped around his waist. Clearly, he’d been up for a while.

“Uh, apparently making a complete jackass of myself,” Lizzie said with an awkward laugh. She looked down at Fiona, red-cheeked. “Sorry. I’m Lizzie.”

“Fiona.”

“Oh, Fiona! Hey, yeah, Michael’s talked about you before. Nice to finally meet you.”

Fiona pressed a hand to her heart and took a deep breath. “You scared the hell out of me.”

“Yeah, the bloodcurdling scream sort of gave that away.” “Do you always introduce yourself by jumping on people?”

Lizzie smiled, her entire face crinkling. Freckles spotted her face like a game of connect-the-dots, and Fiona suddenly found herself thinking of connecting them, one by one, with the tip of her finger. She used the sleeve of her dark-green flannel shirt to swipe a bit of hair from her face. “Only the cute ones.”

A jolt sparked low in Fiona’s gut. She squirmed, surprised. They stared at one another for a long moment, unmoving, with Lizzie still straddling her and Fiona wondering where she should put her hands. She felt flushed and confused and entirely unwilling to contemplate the fact that the weight of Michael’s sister on top of her felt so much more pleasant than burdensome.

“Uh, Liz?” Michael said.

“Yeah?” Lizzie didn’t look at Michael. Her gaze was fixed on Fiona.

“You can get off my girlfriend now.”

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Bits and Bobs

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