Narrator: Mark Steadman
Length: 3 hours, 41 minutes
Justin and Sean have been best friends for years. Justin has had feelings for Sean forever, but Sean only recently came out, and ever since then Justin has always been involved with someone else. Plus, Justin figures if Sean was interested in him, he would have said something when he came out. Now Justin has recently broken up with his cheating boyfriend (and coworker) and has a work holiday party to attend that he can’t bear to go to alone. Sean is back in town after months of traveling and staying with Justin until he gets settled. So he offers to go the party with Justin as his pretend boyfriend and date.
It turns out Sean is hiding feelings for Justin too. Having recently come out, Sean hasn’t worked up the nerve to share how he feels. It has never seemed like the right time, especially as he was preparing to leave for a long trip. But now being home and spending so much time with Justin is making Sean’s feelings even stronger. And after the two get a little drunk at the party, they have a hot night together that only cements the feelings they both have for one another. But even though both men have real feelings for each other, they also both think the other sees their relationship as pretend, or at best, as a bit of sexy fun. Now Justin and Sean need to work up the nerve to share how they really feel about each other, and they may just have the future both have been dreaming about.
What Happens at Christmas is a fun, sexy story with a nice holiday focus. It is a quick, easy read (or in this case, easy listen) and provides the light and sexy romance with a friends to lovers vibe that Jay Northcote does so well. It’s obvious from the start that these guys both want one another, but neither is ready to admit it. There were some times when the lack of communication frustrated me, especially as both men come so close to admitting their feelings and then backing off multiple times. But this is a short novel so the conflict doesn’t feel overly dragged out. I enjoyed the easy comfort these guys have for one another and Northcote makes it clear how perfect they are for one another. You can’t help but root for them to get their acts together and just go for it already, especially when things start to get sexy between them.
The story takes place over the holiday season, and the guys do spend a Christmas together that helps cement their feelings for one another. However, the holiday isn’t a major part of the book, more background to the larger story of the guys working up the nerve to share their feelings for each other.
I listened to this in audio and enjoyed Mark Steadman’s narration. His portrayal of Sean and Justin feels right for their ages, and their voices are distinct enough to tell them apart. Most of the book is focused on the two of them alone, but the side characters that appear are also done well. The tone is good and the story is well portrayed through the audio. I think Steadman does a really nice job here and made the audio enjoyable.
I can definitely recommend this book in audio, and Wendy really enjoyed the book in print form when she read it last year. So I think you can’t go wrong with either version. If you are looking for an entertaining friends to lovers story, particularly one set over the holidays, What Happens at Christmas is a great story to give a try.