Between the grueling reality of life as a farmer and the on-the-road schedule of a professional hockey player, Ryker Madsen and Jacob Benson struggle to find meaningful time together. It’s been two months since they last saw one another, but Christmas is just around the corner. That means several days together in the family cabin with their friends from Owatonna. Despite the pressures of the farm, Jacob expects to devote himself completely to Ryker for the precious few days they have. Still, life has other plans and those plans will mean big changes are on the horizon for both Jacob and Ryker. But as long as they have each other, they know they can manage anything.
In a surprise release, R.J. Scott and V.L. Locey have given us a sweet little story set in the Owatonna U series and just in time for Christmas. Christmas Lights doesn’t offer a ton of tie into the series as a whole, but at the very least you need to have read Ryker in order to really appreciate the relationship between Ryker and Jacob. This is a blip of a story and it won’t take readers any time at all to complete. But it is well suited to the season and given that we just had our first major snowfall in my corner of the world, Christmas Lights was a pleasant wintery read.
Jacob is desperately struggling to keep his family farm from going under and that desperation really comes through, despite the quick pacing of this story. We can see the battle is one that he’s losing despise his best efforts and it’s breaking him in more ways than one. He and Ryker seem closer than ever, despite the time they’ve spent apart, and their devotion to one another is at the heart of this novella. Jacob’s sacrifice has some Gift of the Magi overtures, but it works given the context of the failing farm and his parents’ worsening health. It doesn’t feel hokey or excessive and fits with his sweet and devoted personality. Ryker doesn’t get as much time on page as Jacob, but his love of Christmas and determination to make the best of a situation beyond their control merely adds to his charming demeanor.
Christmas Lights is a quick read and, while it doesn’t add a ton to the ever-growing Harrisburg Railers/Owatonna U/Arizona Raptors lore, it is a delightful gift for fans. Anyone familiar with this close-knit hockey universe is going to enjoy Christmas Lights. It’s the kind of treat that I love to get around the holidays and the chance to visit familiar and enjoyable characters is always fun.