Russ Quarrington may be wealthy and powerful, but he is also lonely. Not only does he work all the time, but he never knows if a man is interested in him or his money. Not to mention that the gossips go crazy as soon as they see him out with anyone. The holiday season is particularly hard for Russ, and for some reason, this year it’s even worse. Russ runs an annual charity masquerade gala in one of his clubs, and his assistant, Caleb, encourages Russ to dress up this year and let loose. If he chooses the right mask, no one will realize who he is and he can can actually enjoy himself in anonymity. Russ isn’t so sure, but with Caleb’s persuasion, he reluctantly agrees.
Leif Caldwell is an art student who could never afford to attend a ritzy event like the masquerade party, but his best friend has won tickets. Leif is striking in his homemade reindeer mask and he has all heads turning. When he meets a masked Russ, the two men hit it off right away. The attraction sizzles between them and the two of them head off for a hot night together. It should have been just a hookup, but both men find that they don’t want things to end. Russ is fascinating and warm and down to earth in ways Leif never expected from such a wealthy man. And Leif seems to get Russ in a way that almost no one does. He brings badly needed warmth and joy to Russ’ life. The men come from very different financial means, but it turns out that they may just be a perfect match.
I think N.R. Walker is supremely talented and this story is another example of why. In Reindeer Games, Walker takes a tried and true (and at times overdone) premise and really creates something unique and wonderful. This story could have so easily fallen into cliche given the set up. To be honest, I assumed the conflict here would be a result of Russ keeping his identity as a wealthy businessman a secret from Leif for too long. But I am delighted to say that Walker has created a really lovely, warm, holiday story here that is much more than its set up.
First off, the masked identity issue is resolved quite early on, which I really appreciated. Russ doesn’t attempt to hide who he is once he and Leif are moving toward a hook up and it is never an issue at all for the story. Instead, the focus here is really on Russ coming to terms with his past and the ways Leif helps him through that. Russ was thrown away by his parents for being gay, and all his hard work to succeed has been a desire to prove his worth to them. However, now that he has reached a place of wealth and power, he has realized it isn’t filling that loneliness inside him. I really appreciated that not only is Leif a source of love and companionship, but he helps Russ work through things so he can begin to figure out how to make peace with his past and move forward in his life.
This story is part of the Ace’s Wild series, a collection of stand alone books by different authors that are all connected by a visit to a specific sex shop. In this case, both characters go shopping there for accessories for the gala. The story is sexy and there is a great sexual tension and connection between the men that we can feel from their first moments together. It balances really nicely with the warmth of the story, as the men are so supportive and loving to one another. The book takes place over Christmas, and there are some nice holiday moments, as well as a sense of family that Lief shares with Russ. I also really enjoyed the exploration of art, as the men share an interest in art and design, and I found this aspect particularly interesting. So Walker really balances the story nicely and I found it to be both sexy and romantic.
So if you are looking for a holiday story that is warm, sexy, and has well developed characters, definitely check out Reindeer Games. It is a lot more than meets the eye and is well worth the read.