Landon grew up in a family of villains, but he would much rather spend his days reading than trying to be evil. His family mostly wants to take advantage of Landon’s incredible telekinetic powers and don’t seem to care much about him as a person. While they used him as a child to help them steal things, now they are mostly such small-time villains that their actions are more embarrassing than evil. While they are constantly trying to rope him into the villainous life as his alter ego, Leviathan, Landon would rather they leave him alone.
When Landon reluctantly agrees to help his brother with a bank heist, he encounters August Bell, aka the superhero Chronobender. August is the world’s fifth most powerful superheroe and has both super strength and the ability to temporarily stop time. Landon has had a crush on August since they went to middle school together, and while they lost touch when Landon switched schools, his interest has never diminished. Landon knows August will want nothing to do with him once he realizes that Landon is also Leviathan, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting to be around August as much as he can.
The men find an immediate connection with one another, especially as they both have reason to resent their powers and the way others treat them because of their abilities. But Landon can’t keep hiding the truth from August forever about his villainous background. However, even when the men work through that hurdle, they have bigger problems to face. The local villains have a plot that is threatening the city, as well as the various superheroes, and Landon is determined to help his man fight against them. But things are far more complicated than either Landon or August could have anticipated, and now the men must fight with all their abilities to protect the city, catch the culprits, and make it out of the whole mess alive.
I am a superhero junkie, so I was so excited to see that Alice Winters was releasing A Villain for Christmas. Winters is one of my favorite authors, particularly for humorous action adventure, and this story was pretty much everything I wanted. First off, the world building is great here. I loved learning about the characters’ powers and the different abilities and seeing them play out throughout the story. Winters also builds a great larger world, introducing us to the different villains groups, showing what things are like in superhero headquarters, and highlighting the way the police sort of sit back and let August handle any problem that arises. There are great battle scenes and lots of exciting action as the heroes try to fend off the villains. There is almost a suspense feel to the story as the men encounter dangers and have to figure out who is behind it all. So I found the superhero storyline to be really exciting and engaging and Winters brings it all to life so well.
What really makes this story shine for me, however, is the connection between Landon and August. Things start out adorable as both these men are clearly crushing on one another and a little bit bumbling around each other. The early focus here is watching the men start falling for one another with the anvil of Landon’s true identity hanging over them. I was really pleased to see that this issue doesn’t overtake the story, and it resolves fairly early and the men are able to move forward to bigger issues. They are both so sweet, and warm, and caring — even though Landon would deny it to his last breath. But they also have a connection where they really understand each other. Landon has always felt that his family only cares about him for his abilities, and here we can clearly see how they use him and seem to take advantage of him all the time. For August, his powers make him so famous and popular no one really cares about him as a person either. He also feels overwhelmed with taking care of the city basically alone, and fearful that even the slightest mistake can lead to someone getting hurt. Both of these men feel like their lives have been dictated by their abilities and they can relate to each other in ways no one else can.
As always with an Alice Winters novel, this story is full of humor and fun. As the men get to know one another, the snark and banter starts flying. August is definitely the more sweet and innocent one, and I love watching him get a little corrupted by Landon’s more devilish side. There are some cute moments where August breaks out of his “good guy” shell and his delight over his tiny infractions is adorable. It is fun to see him learn to cut loose a little and be able to have some fun in his life of endless responsibilities. Landon also loves to poke at August’s manager, who keeps him on a pretty tight leash. Most of their hijinks are good fun and I enjoyed the playful side to both of these men. I also have to give a shout out to Landon’s hairless cat, Zacia (aka Balzac, because she looks like…well… a ball sack). Zacia is basically a dog in a cat’s body and Landon takes her everywhere. She also has a series of outfits, including a mini Chronobender costume, and I found myself totally delighted by this whole aspect of the story.
One of the things that Winters does so well is take the humor and combine it with real emotional resonance. I already mentioned the frustration both men have about being trapped in their lives and only being wanted for their powers. But there are also some other nice themes here, like not judging people solely on their past, and also some more poignant moments surrounding family. And as this story takes place over the holidays, we also get a little dose of holiday spirit, though it is pretty low key on that end. The book is also part of the Snow Globe Christmas collection, but each book is written by a different author and stands alone. The connection appears to be the snow globe theme and this story is a complete standalone.
So I was really thrilled by Winters’ foray into the superhero genre. This story has all the things I love about her books — humor, action, and lots of heart — along with a big dose of superhero fun!