Title: A Gift of Mistletoe
Author: Alex Whitehall
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: Short Story

Rating: 3.5

A Gift of Mistletoe is a short story published as part of the Dreamspinner Press holiday anthology.  It follows Harry Rapshire as he returns home from school for the Christmas holiday. Harry is looking forward to seeing his family, and most especially his former tutor Theodore Dorry.  Harry has feelings for the man, but isn’t sure how exactly to tell him. As Harry awaits the train, he jots down some notes about what he wants to say.  Notes that accidentally make it into Theodore’s hands. But luckily it looks like his feelings might just be returned.

I thought this was sweet story and a nice little holiday nibble.  Although it covers a short period of time, I felt we get enough backstory to accept the men coming together so quickly. We know Theodore has been with the family four years so the men have had time to establish their bond, even if they are just admitting it now that Harry is home from school.  So it felt natural to have things jump in to sharing strong feelings for one another and planning their future even though things happen quickly when Harry comes home.

I liked the way the men discuss the relationship and how they can make it work for them. Theodore is wary of starting something with Harry because he knows how difficult it would be for two men and is worried about the risks that Harry especially faces with his family. However, both men decide it is worth the risk and they care too much for each other not to at least try.I also thought the book had some some holiday imagery. The scenes of the sleigh rides and cutting down their own tree helped evoke that spirit of the holiday.

I had few issues with the story though. Although it seems like Theodore has had some experience with men, it is unclear if this is the first relationship (or encounter) for Harry. We learn Harry is an avid reader of Oscar Wilde so he has had some exposure to the idea of gay men, but I was a bit surprised at how quickly he jumped into kissing Theodore, laying in bed with him, etc, especially around their house where they could be so easily caught by the family or the other servant.  I guess I am just used to this issue being more serious in historicals and here the men seemed to take things relatively casually.  Then again, this is a sweet little holiday story so perhaps it is more fitting here to take things a bit lightly.

One other thing that caught me up a bit is the present tense story telling. Personally I find past tense easier to read and there were a few times it interrupted the flow for me.  I guess present tense feels a bit choppy to me sometimes, maybe because each thing is described as it happens.  So there were a few places were I felt a bit pulled out of the flow of the story, especially in places where there is a lot of action to describe.

Overall I thought this was a nice, sweet holiday story.

Cover Review: I think this cover is super cute. I love the Christmas undies!  This is the cover for the anthology, not this particular story (no blue briefs in historicals, lol).  But really well done.