Ben has had a crush on his best friend Liam’s older brother for years. Ever since he can remember, Ben has looked at Jason with a bit of awe and a ton of desire. But time has passed and even though there is still an eleven-year age gap between them, Jason has begun to notice that little Ben is suddenly looking all grown up. Now poised on taking on a new job and sharing the house Liam has just purchased, Ben is determined to put his long standing feelings for Jason aside and just enjoy being friends.
Unfortunately, every time the two men meet up, whether at a family gathering or at the vet practice where Jason works, Ben can’t seem to shake the attraction he feels for the man. To make maters worse, Ben has agreed to volunteer at the animal shelter where some of Jason’s patients end up after having been rescued from the streets, which means that he sees Jason with more frequency than he can handle. So, maybe it’s time to test whether or not Jason can ever see him as more than his baby brother’s little buddy. Maybe it’s time to prove to Jason he’s very much grown up and man enough to handle a relationship with the reluctant vet.
Poor Ben. Annabelle Jacobs doesn’t make it easy for her main character. In her latest holiday release, Not Just For Christmas, she seems to delight in torturing poor Ben by dangling the object of his affections right before his eyes more and more frequently. If it’s not at the new place where Jason is helping his brother Liam paint and refurbish before Ben moves in, then it’s at the shelter where Jason often comes by to check on former patients who were turned in to his vet practice both injured and homeless. I mean, what’s a red blooded man supposed to do when he’s faced with the guy he’s been secretly lusting after for years? At first, Ben is determined to just be friends—to show Jason how confident he has grown and how easily he can handle being around him without falling all over himself. Fairly quickly, however, that morphs into poor Ben gritting his teeth and trying not to be so obvious when he drools over the older man. But the biggest issue isn’t whether or not Jason feels anything in return—it’s if Liam can accept his best friend and his brother dating—and that question stops both Ben and Jason in their tracks.
The chemistry between Ben and Jason is undeniable even with the age gap; Ben has matured and is just the right person to bring a rather reclusive and shy Jason out of his shell. But both men worry about what their dating will due to Liam. It’s really this conundrum that provides most of the tension in the story. Jason is so worried that dating Ben will somehow hurt Liam. Ben is concerned that dating Jason will make Liam uncomfortable and thereby make their living situation intolerable—not to mention cause a rift with the one friend Ben has had since childhood. The author takes the time to explore not just how Jason will overcome his reluctance to date a guy he’s previously looked upon as a second little brother, but how their dating will affect Jason’s family as well. This little caveat in the story allows for a slow build in Jason and Ben’s romance and also provides some lovely sexual tension and flirtation opportunities.
Not Just For Christmas is a novel that chooses to focus more on the relationship than the age gap and does so with a natural grace and compassion that makes this story very heartfelt and romantic. Ben and Jason grow up together in many ways—leaving behind a slew of past impressions that could have hindered the love they feel growing for each other. This is a slow moving and easy romance, one that fans of this author’s work will no doubt enjoy.