Auden hated living in New York. The noise, the stress, the loneliness… All his life, he’s wanted to be an artist, but when he was working himself to the bone just to be able to afford a roof over his head, it didn’t leave much time to follow his dreams. So, Auden has moved back home to be with his family. True, it’s less glamorous, less exciting, but it means that he can see his family whenever he wants. Sometimes, though, like right now, Auden’s family can be a bit much. Christmas in the Wipple household is a boisterous, bawdy, and bubbly affair of grandmother hitting the eggnog with all the enthusiasm of his one-year-old niece playing with a new toy.
Escaping to the woods for some fresh air and a moment’s peace, Auden runs into Porter Eldin. As handsome as he is — and Porter is very, very handsome — he’s the last person Auden would ever make eyes at. For years, the Whipples and the Eldins have hated each other. Auden was in summer camp when it happened, but he knows it has something to do with his being out and proud. Taking the opportunity to reach out an olive branch and maybe find a bit of peace between their feuding families, Auden says hello.
This is the first Christmas Auden and Porter spend together, but it won’t be their last.
Auden has this idea of himself that he’s the stereotypical gay guy just because he’s slender, pretty, and wants to be an artist. Auden is the one more likely to step up and do the talking, or take the actions, or stand up in defense of those he loves. He’s compassionate, giving and — like most people — a mixed bag of the good, better, and best qualities of a person with a dash or two of selfishness and neediness.
Porter seems at first like he’s a calm, laid-back guy who likes to hit the gym in the morning and laze about the house at night. Growing up in an abusive household, outnumbered by his father and brothers, Porter has gotten used to not rocking the boat. He works out to make himself strong, strong enough to defend his mother, strong enough to stand up for himself, strong enough to make his dad stand down. And yet, beneath all that, he’s the one who needs Auden’s support.
Both of them have had a difficult time coming out. Auden was bullied in school, but his parents had his back and weren’t afraid to fight for him. Porter was in the closet for a long time and when he did come out, his family wasn’t accepting. In fact, quite the opposite. Porter is willing to let Auden stay quiet about their relationship because he’s learned that letting people know what you love is also letting them know how to hurt you, and he’d never want Auden hurt. Auden, who grew up in a household of love, doesn’t understand where Porter is coming from, and it’s nice to see how he struggles against his own fears regarding his own family when he thinks of letting them know their son is in love with an Eldin.
This novella is a collection of four scenes over the course of four years, four Christmases with Auden and Poe navigating their feelings, their families, and finding a future for themselves separate from the expectations and emotions of the people in their lives. There’s not much depth to this story, but it’s still a cute and friendly read with an emphasis on love, forgiveness, and acceptance.