Exit Through the Gift Shop by Kim Fielding
Alex’s family compromises on their Christmas vacation every year, which is how they wound up at Poseidon’s Planet theme park instead of Disney. Alex enjoys the time with his family and he enjoys the break from the life he hasn’t quite figured out yet. When he meets Rory, who is in full pirate costume as a park employee, Alex’s vacation is looking up. While it’s only days before Alex returns home, it may be long enough to leave his heart behind.
Kim Fielding offers up a cute, theme park inspired holiday short. Alex is on vacation with his family and while they are all in the dental field, Alex wanted to be an artist, but he’s anything but settled in his career. He meets Rory at the theme park and there is an instant spark. Fielding offers just enough of each guy to make this feel like a complete story, although due to page constraints, their ending moves quickly. For a shorter story that captures the magic of the holiday season, Exit Through the Gift Shop hits a lot of the right notes.
After his parents disowned him when they caught him kissing another boy, Charlie is trying to earn some money in the forests of southwestern Australia as a timber faller. The money will get him passage to London and the promise of a new life. But the men get paid by the amount of completed work and Charlie is certainly not cut out to chop wood to precision. The other men aren’t kind to Charlie either and his slight frame makes him self-conscious around the harsh men who never have a kind word for him. Jack is the fastest faller of them all and while he’s not mean to Charlie, he doesn’t speak to him either, but Charlie has to try hard not to look at Jack who Charlie thinks is quite easy on the eyes.
When the other men go into town for Christmas, it leaves Charlie and Jack alone in the forest for a couple of days. Passion ignites between the two men, but when the rest of the crew returns, tempers flare. Charlie once again has decisions to make about his life in the forest, his safety, and his future with Jack.
I got caught up early on in this story of young Charlie, completely out of his element, trying to earn some money to make a new life. He is ill-equipped to be a tree faller and since the men are paid by the amount of work they turn in, no one will help Charlie improve his skills. I found the initial set-up learning about what Charlie was working on interesting and the setting of the forest lent atmosphere to the story.
A lot of time is then spent on Charlie’s work, however. We get glimpses of his old life and then his attraction to Jack. The men spend the briefest of time together and then have to hide their relationship from the other men. We are not given Jack’s motivation and I needed more from him to round the story out for me. The ending is rushed from the relationship side and it had the feeling of these guys being together more out of loneliness and another scene at the end could have polished the romance. The title of this year’s advent collection is “warmest wishes” and I was not left feeling that here, which was unfortunate as the story had promise earlier on.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.