HOLIDAY REVIEW: The Solstice Kings- Kim Fielding

The Solstice Kings Book Cover The Solstice Kings
Kim Fielding
Gay Romance. LGBT Short Read, Romance Short Read
Tin Box Press
Oct 6, 2020

Miles Thorsen’s adopted family is… unusual. But that’s not why he fled after graduating from college. Now, after ten years of restless wandering, he returns home for the winter holiday celebration. The solstice is a time of change, and perhaps it’s time for Miles to face who he is, who he loves… and who he’ll become.


The Solstice Kings, a romance set in the holiday season, is charming and warming, and certainly its author, Kim Fielding, never fails in terms of imaginative elements, personal discovery, and of course the happy ending. But there is something of the quality of It’s a Wonderful Life. In this story there is a considerable amount of angst that must be got through before anything really positive happens.

Miles is a not-too-successful street artist, living in New Orleans, who goes home just before the holidays, to a small Oregon town. Here, in an enormous house, called by town-folk the Castle, live his copious extended family, the Thorsens, which is reminiscent of Edgewood from John Crowley’s classic novel, Little, Big.

But there is a fly in the ointment, and this is that, while the Thorsens are all Nordic and blond, Miles is not. He was adopted as a boy, and even now he appears not to have fully come to terms with this, resulting in a discord between his feelings and the homey warmth of his surroundings

Perhaps it is in the effort to maintain this discord that the author falls short in depictions of interactions with various family members. It is in the deft use of such mundane yet detail-filled exchanges that communicate a sense of realism, and the effect of this shortfall is that there remains a residual haziness in the presentation of both family and house. Too much is alluded to, too little is shown.

Fielding also employs a questionable stylistic choice in merely naming certain culture-based elements in passing, without any explanation about what they actually are. This forces the reader to look them up. For example, the holiday decorations include “lavender wands” and “clove-studded orange pomanders.” The former are lavender buds tied together with ribbons and used to scent drawers, the latter being oranges tied with ribbon and having patterns of cloves stuck into their rinds.

Although the casual mentioning of these items is presumably meant to embed them firmly within the created world, that is not the effect produced, which is to make the reader feel an outsider—creating a distance rather than immersion. This approach is puzzling, for the job of the story teller is to paint a picture, and any explanatory descriptions are natural and welcomed. It is their absence that is distracting.

The love-interest character is raven-haired Remy, a nominal member of the household. His presence and nature are left rather vague in the first half of the story, to such a degree that the statement: “Remy had seemed more present than before,” leads the reader to leap to the conclusion that he is some kind of ghost. Which he isn’t.

Remy’s significance and history in Miles’s life are left similarly vague, which, when combined with the general angst of Miles’s state of mind, makes for some uphill reading. Yet the reveal when it comes, is gratifying—for Fielding does this sort of thing beautifully. But the story telling would have benefited from a use of sufficient foreshadowing. As it is, the reader’s reaction to the eventual revelation is one of relief rather than delight.

The task of sustaining a mystery, presenting a situation with an embedded, hidden problem, is a tricky thing to carry off. Fielding, who is not at her best here, doesn’t quite manage this. An example demonstrating this point is found in chapter 8, when Miles reflects: “It was a good evening. A great one. Almost perfect, really. Except that Remy’s absence was as obvious as a gaping wound…” The juxtaposition of the evening being almost perfect, and the sense of gaping wound, produces in the reader a kind of double-take, perceptual whiplash.

Given the richness of the imaginative details (such as the suggestions of just how odd both family and house are, which tantalize), The Solstice Kings has great potential. The evolution of Miles’s sense of himself within this so-accepting family is at times charming, and the romance between Miles and Remy is sweet. The result is a good story that aspired to more.

Leave a Comment