Zach Greenfield is stuck in his hometown. Not that he doesn’t love Lighthouse Bay, Maine, because he does. But he also desperately wants a job in nearby Portland as an event planner. He wants to do something with his life. But until he gets the job, Zach’s working for his sister at his family’s café. And ogling Holland Stone.
Holland is 15 years older than Zach, and used to be his 3rd grade teacher, but now he’s finally found his calling and is the town’s handyman. He doesn’t seem to notices Zach’s infatuation. When Zach gets the opportunity to organize the town’s Christmas parade, the two men are forced to work in close proximity. And when Santa’s sleigh arrives damaged, Holland offers to fix it and make a float to finish off the parade, all while working on his own.
Zach and Holland dance around each other until it’s clear what they both want. Their relationship moves slowly, especially because Zach doesn’t want to have sex. They find acceptance and understanding with each other, and come to care for each other very deeply. But when a misunderstanding tears them apart, it’s up to Holland to show Zach that he truly loves the younger man and that they have a future together.
This is my first book by Aislin, and I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to get. Happily, this story is sweet and lovely, well written, and despite one big flaw for me at the end, I really enjoyed it. The author captures the beauty and frustration of living in a small town, and sprinkles holiday cheer throughout every page of the book.
I simply adored Zach. He’s far older than his physical years, at least in his soul, and he’s had not the easiest of lives. He’s always been a little bit different, a little bit odd, and has never really had a lot of close friends. He was bullied, but not terribly, and he’s grown into a sweet and caring man. He knows what he wants, and is willing to do what it takes to get it. At least when it comes to his profession. Holland is another matter, as Zach is convinced someone like Holland would never want someone like him. I really loved all his layers, and I loved watching them come out naturally as the story progressed. He was really well done, and as I said, I adored him.
Holland, for the most part, also had me enamored. I loved that he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he was older, and he too, is multi-dimensional. His experiences have shaped him and they inform his decisions. I loved the way he cared for Zach, and let Zach care for him. Really, their chemistry sparked and sizzled from the very beginning and really took off when they finally got together. Together, these guys are even better than they are apart, and it really fueled the magic of the story for me.
There are a ton of secondary characters, and almost all of them are unique and wonderfully nuanced. Some of them, it’s clear, are meant for their own stories, and I am definitely interested in reading them in the future. The others do a great job of fleshing out this small town and the lives of the two MCs.
So there was great writing, great characters, and wonderful pacing. But I will admit, the “dark moment” made me sigh with frustration. The Big Misunderstanding reared it’s ugly head, and did it in a way that was only marginally believable. After everything these guys had been through, everything they’ve talked about, the fact that Holland would think what he did and act the way he did made me, well, mad. It seemed out of character, despite the fact that he’s been burned in the past. It was, for lack of a better word, cliched and it didn’t work for me at all. Now, I’m not a big fan of miscommunication being used as the dark moment anyway. I’ll admit that. But here it was done poorly, and so it really didn’t work for me.
In spite of that, I enjoyed this story. As I said, the writing, characters, and pacing are great, and the nuances with the holiday spirit are beautiful. I loved the MCs, enjoyed their chemistry, and was really pleased with where they ended up and the way the entire story ends. All in all, I don’t have a problem recommending this book to anyone who loves holiday romances and/or small town romances.