The-Eighth-NightRating: 4 stars
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Length: Short Story

Age is truly just a number to Davi. He’s had his eye on Dr. Sol Gerber for a while and he’s hoping this is the year he finally gets the silver fox to break his rule about not dating students like Davi. Except there could be some competition for Dr. Gerber’s attention in the form of one hipster TA named Jon Ellis. Not to be outdone by some hot new guy, Davi decides to pull out all the stops and romance Dr. Gerber into his bed by the eighth day of Chanukah by leaving him a little something special for each day of the holiday.

Dr. Gerber likes Davi well enough—he just wishes the young man would lay off all the attention. Dr. Gerber is already in an age-appropriate relationship, but there’s almost no convincing Davi. When he gets wind of Davi’s Chanukah scheme, however, Dr. Gerber steps in with the help of his assistant, Heather, and maneuvers Davi’s endless energy towards a more suitable target, his TA Jon.

This was such a super fun holiday read! I like how the beginning of the book introduces all our main characters—it’s a small, but intimate cast—and that it’s not 100% crystal clear which pairing we were supposed to root for. In fact, I had to read the first several “chapters” to finally rid myself of the idea that there would be a menage between Davi, Jon, and Dr. Gerber. Still, it’s a refreshing change to read a short story that’s all about the get-together, but doesn’t make the pairing a foregone conclusion from page one.

The presentation was a nice mix-up, too. Instead of staid chapters that plod along, the story is broken up into chunks by the scene. The location and/or who is narrating generally dictate where there is a break. Having Davi, Dr. Gerber, John, and the assistant Heather take turns relaying the events help build a bit of suspense and keep things interesting.

The best surprise for me was the depth these characters show despite being such a short story. Over the course of the book, we get to see Jon and Davi interact like real people, not strictly love-interests. Part of that is because Davi is so focused on getting in Dr. Gerber’s pants, we see his initial reaction to Jon is summed up by his epithet for the guy: Hot Jon. Yet as Dr. Gerber manipulates them so their paths cross more and more often, we see Davi begin to really warm up to Jon. They connect over a love of an obscure sci-fi writer and their respect for Dr. Gerber. In another twist, the fact that Davi is open to dating older men is a complete 180 from Jon’s feelings about large age differences. I really liked that these characters get to know each other as people and they show shades of complexity like anyone else, even in such a short story.

And let’s not forget the way Dr. Gerber manipulates Davi’s eight days of surprise gifts to bring Davi and Jon together. Basically, Dr. Gerber works through Heather to make sure Davi’s gifts (meant for Dr. Gerber) get to Jon. So Davi thinks he’s gifting Dr. Gerber and Jon thinks he’s got a secret admirer. Watching Davi react to seeing Jon with the gifts Davi meant for Dr. Gerber was sweet—and added a touch of reality, because Davi notices this while working at the local coffee shop and focuses on Jon and the erstwhile gift more than shilling coffee. I appreciated that Carter made a point of including Davi’s coworkers exasperation at his absent mindedness and they way he’s risking his job as his infatuation shifts from Dr. Gerber to Jon (wow, that sounds like a total wet blanket thing to write, but I sure as hell give Carter props for working this low-grade job drama into the story when it’s not central to getting Jon and Davi together).

Overall, this was a fun holiday read that’s short, so it’ll fit into anyone’s schedule, and bit off the beaten path of holiday stories.

camille sig