Title: When Sam Met Santa and Other Stories
Author: J.R. Rain
Publication Date: November 12, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: 43 pages
Source: I received a free copy from the author.
Rating: 3 Stars
Santa’s surprise visit, a backroom deal, a rare map, and someone’s been really, really bad. Five holidays tales, including an all-new Samantha Moon short story!
“When Sam Met Santa” – When Santa Claus shows up at Samantha Moon’s door, it’s hardly the strangest thing that’s ever happened to her. What happens next, however, is another story…
“The Santa Call” – After accidentally forgetting his wife at home during a weekend getaway, ol’ St. Nick returns to discover she’s left him. At wit’s end, Santa turns to a radio talk show for some much needed love advice. But will he win Mrs. Claus back in time to save Christmas?
“The Deal” – Where does Santa get his coal for all those stockings? You’re about to find out.
“The Christmas Map” – Purchased from eBay, one young adventurer is about to discover if this map really does lead to Santa’s village.
“Santa Snitch” – Sometimes the Big Guy has to step in to deal with those who grow up to be really, really bad…
Content Warning: Life-threatening illness in a child, and a small amount of blood in one story.
Since the blurb already provided brief descriptions of every stories, I’ll stick to sharing my impressions of them in this review. The interesting thing about “When Sam Met Santa” was how it turned many common beliefs about Santa – among other magical beings – on their head. It reminded me of how gossip can take a sliver of truth about someone and wildly distort it into something that is all but unrecognizable in the end. Of course humans would do this to Santa, too!
“The Santa Call” was a humorously accurate snapshot of radio culture and advice programs. Regardless of how you feel about that sort of entertainment, it was well done. I liked the brusque manner of the Love Doctor as well as how Santa responded to him when he refused to help. The deep dive into Santa’s personal life and problems with his wife and elves was also worth reading.
Mr. Rain tends to write pretty dialogue-heavy stories, and this technique worked especially well in “The Deal.” It involved a conversation between a buyer who urgently needed more coal and a seller who quickly grew more mystified by the details their client was providing. Due to how short this one was, I can’t say much else about it without giving away spoilers other than to note I wish more details had been included as there was a lot more the author could have done with such a concept.
Anything can be bought online, and if you’re a character in “The Christmas Map” it might even be the real deal! I appreciated the fact that the author was willing to write such naive and selfish characters for this one. Those were exactly the personality traits needed to take the Christmas map seriously and try to see if the village drawn on it really existed. With that being said, I did find myself wishing more time had been spent exploring why these characters behaved this way and what might have happened to them in the past to explain it. Not having that information made it harder for me to connect with them than I would have liked to see.
Can I give “Santa Snitch” a little extra credit for using the name Earl for its protagonist? That name is sorely underused in modern fiction in my opinion, and it gives me a thrill every time someone decides to use it. As everyone knows, only good kids receive toys on Christmas Eve. This tale expounded on that idea by introducing readers to a man who had been on the naughty list for many years. This was the darkest instalment in the collection, and I only wish more time had been spent developing Earl’s backstory and explaining why he was in such big trouble.
When Sam Met Santa and Other Stories was a gentle, playful look at Santa lore.