Jack DeLacy isn’t in the holiday mood. Not since his boyfriend of several years, Sam, ran off with his ex-best friend two months ago. Now, all the holiday parties seem downright miserable, and Jack has resorted to lying to his family and friends about an imaginary boyfriend who’s way better than Sam ever was. And, he’s missing Sam every moment.
Returning home one extremely snowy evening, Jack kicks what he thinks is a bag of abandoned trash—and finds Rory, a young homeless man, amongst the rubble. Jack is horrified, and Rory isn’t even close to prepared for the worsening inclement weather. Jack offers Rory at hot cuppa and a meal, and amends that to add a shower once they get inside and Jack catches a solid whiff. He gives Rory some of his clothes and lets him stay on the couch overnight, knowing the shelters will all be filled and the blizzard is a death sentence if Rory heads back out in it.
While trapped in close quarters, Jack’s lies about a boyfriend compound. He’s being called on to present said boyfriend at Christmas dinner and some benefit soirees that he can’t attend without a dazzling plus one. Seeing that Rory is down on his luck—and pretty dang attractive—Jack offers to pay him to be his fake boyfriend. Room and board are included, but no sexy extras—Rory hasn’t been on the streets that long, but he’s unwilling to prostitute himself, even if he finds Jack totally attractive. The agreement is struck, but it’s a mess of feels as these two lost souls spend more and more time together.
I really liked this sweet slow-burn romance. Do not expect any sexytimes. Jack is scrupulously aware of his position over Rory and doesn’t want to do anything to make Rory feel as if he needs to trade sexual favors for his safety. Instead, Rory, a laid-off cook, warms Jack’s heart through his stomach. They develop a fabulous camaraderie, with Jack’s holiday spirit returning out of gratitude for how much enjoyment Rory gets from it. They decorate the broken-down old tree Jack got in college, and enjoy movies while sipping homemade egg nog. Jack is so grateful to have Rory around; Rory’s kindness and eagerness all throw Sam into a horrible light. Through these easy interactions, Jack’s able to unpack his struggles with Sam and recognize how toxic their relationship had been.
Meanwhile, all the trappings Jack buys for Rory make Rory feel special for perhaps the first time ever—never wanted or cared for, previously, Jack’s solicitous attention brings out Rory’s admiration and his insecurity. Though performing perfectly, and fooling all Jack’s catty friends, Rory is troubled by his growing affection for Jack, who he sees as an upstanding man. Learning that Jack’s family is uber-wealthy makes it too much to bear, and leads to both men scrambling to share their true feelings before it’s too late.
Expect a bit of trouble due to lack of communication. That didn’t trouble me much, on account of these guys having such a short acquaintance. The brief confusion is resolved very quickly, and in a lovely and tender way.