Rating: 3.75 stars
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Countdown to Santa reunites us with Gabe and Matteo, new fathers whom we first met in Countdown to Daddies. Things aren’t going particularly smoothly for the men as they navigate life with four-month-old twins. Although they are getting a bit of a routine down, Matteo is finding himself frustrated with Gabe and his need to be in constant control. Gabe seems to want to handle all of the caretaking for the babies. He always worries obsessively over every little sniffle and is constantly rushing them to the doctor or hospital for imagined ailments. Not to mention going way overboard buying things for the babies that they will never want or need (life-sized stuffed pony and unicorn for the backyard anyone?). Matteo is trying to be patient and understanding, but Gabe’s over-the-top behavior is making him crazy. Not to mention that the men have little time alone together, and when they do, Gabe seems to only focus on the kids. Both men are committed to the babies and their relationship, but they need to learn to work together and talk through their problems to get things back on track.
So after seeing all the build up to the excitement of the babies’ birth in the first story, this second one shows us the aftermath of two parents struggling to adjust to life with newborn twins. Klein does a nice job of depicting that frenzy that most parents feel as they face life with sleep deprivation and endless days and nights of feedings, diaper changing, and crying kids. It is hard to deal with anything rationally in that state and both men struggle to handle working through their problems. I think the story really captures that stress, along with the love these guys feel for each other.
We once again get the story from Matteo’s POV, which in this case resulted in me feeling a lot more sympathy for his plight than Gabe’s. Gabe is pretty consistent from the way he is portrayed in the first story, although perhaps even more intense and high stress now, if that is possible. He is so crazy and obsessive and from a reader POV, comes across as a little out of control. And honestly Matteo seems to have the patience of a saint not to totally lose it when Gabe buys yet another needless toy or freaks out about another nonexistent ailment. So I had some trouble really empathizing wtih Gabe in all this. To be honest, he made me a little bit crazy. I think we were supposed to see things more balanced, with both men at fault for their role in the problems they were having. But to me it felt that the issues were largely due to Gabe’s behavior and I found myself pretty frustrated with him for most of the book.
I do think the story resolved well though and I liked that in the end the men were able to talk out their issues and come out stronger. I enjoyed seeing how committed they both were to the twins, and ultimately to each other and their relationship. And I liked that once again we see how important Gabe’s sister Mira is to them and the support she provides to the couple.
One thing I found a little odd is that the story starts in present tense. It was a bit jarring, leaving me feeling somewhat removed from the story and the characters. But within a page or so it switches to past tense. I am not sure I really understand why this was but it felt a little awkward, like an outside person was narrating the events.
So I did enjoy seeing Matteo and Gabe again and catching up with them now that they were settling into life with the babies. And I was happy to see them end up in even a better place than they started. I think if you enjoyed the first story, you will like revisiting the characters here. I just wish that things felt a little more balanced to me and that I could understand better where Gabe was coming from with all his crazy. But ultimately a sweet story that ends well and brings some nice closure to the tale of this new family.