merry cherry Christmas coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

Jeremy Rourke is having a hard enough time finding his way through his freshman year of college. He is having trouble making friends and his parents are not really talking to him after he came out to them. Not to mention they are going on vacation without him, leaving Jeremy to spend Christmas alone at school. Falling on the ice and landing flat on his back in the middle of campus makes things even worse. But when he gets a helping hand from gorgeous football captain, Max Pimenta, it definitely eases some of his embarrassment. With Jeremy’s glasses broken and leaving him unable to see, Max offers to walk him back to his dorm. Jeremy can barely believe this hot guy is willing to give him the time of day, let alone help him home and hang out and talk. But with all the stress, Jeremy finds himself sharing more than he planned with Max about how badly things are going at school — including the fact that he is still a virgin and wishing he could remedy that.

Max is a caring guy and wants to help Jeremy find his footing at school. He sees a chance to be Jeremy’s “fairy godfather,” showing him around the gay scene in town, helping him gain some confidence, and hopefully setting Jeremy up to get himself laid. But as the guys spend more time together, Max realizes that he isn’t so thrilled about the idea of Jeremy getting together with another guy. And Jeremy finds he is way too anxious to hook up with a stranger. So the pair agree that Max will help give Jeremy some experience without all the pressure of meeting someone new. A bond begins to build between them, and both start to dream of something more, but Jeremy can’t imagine what a guy like Max would really see in him, and Max feels like Jeremy deserves to spread his wings as he is just starting to date.

But despite their reservations about making thing serious, Max also doesn’t want Jeremy to spend the holidays alone, and invites Jeremy back home with him. They decide to keep things strictly friends over the break, but it isn’t easy, as the attraction between them continues to flare. Now, Max and Jeremy have to decide if they are willing to take a chance on turning their casual fling into something real.

Merry Cherry Christmas is just what I want out of holiday story — warm, romantic, super sweet, and lots of nice holiday vibes. Jeremy is adorable and awkward and all kinds of unsure of himself, and Max really is that perfect fairy godfather, sweeping in to help him find his way. Of course, things get a bit derailed when Max realizes he is really hot for Jeremy himself and doesn’t want to set him up with anyone else. And things definitely get sexy and steamy between them as Jeremy begins to break out of his shell and start experimenting with Max. But there is still such a sweet vibe here as Max is so adorably protective, looking out for Jeremy and really concerned about helping him along.

The story splits between time at school and then the guys heading home to Max’s for Christmas. I enjoyed getting to play tourist along with Jeremy as Max shows him parts of Toronto he has never seen. Jeremy has a hard time feeling confident enough to make friends and he has been really lonely. So I loved seeing him come out of his shell as Max introduces him to his friends and he gains more confidence. Then the story moves to Max’s family maple syrup farm and it is just the perfect snow covered, warm fire kind of loveliness that I enjoy in a holiday story. We have cookies and hot drinks and maple syrup treats and snowmobiling. Plus some steamy sex in front of the fire. Like I said, this story has that great holiday warmth and sweetness, with a nice dose of sexy.

The conflicts here focus in two areas. One is Jeremy struggling with his family who have been cold since he came out. Jeremy shares the difficult situation with Max, so while we don’t get resolution right away, we see how this is playing out throughout the story, particularly in contrast to the warm way Max’s family treats Jeremy. The other conflict relates to Max and his concerns about whether he really wants to go to law school as planned, both with his own fears about how his family will react, but also his unwillingness to talk to Jeremy for fear of burdening him. I did wish this part was more developed. While we do get a resolution to Max’s immediate decision about law school, the story doesn’t fully develop the issue of Jeremy being a support for Max the way Max is for him. I would have just liked to see that built up a little more given it is a thread that runs through the book.

Overall, I found this to be a fun, sweet, and sexy holiday story. It hits on all the things I am looking for in a holiday read and I definitely enjoyed it. If you are looking for a fun and warm holiday story, definitely check this out.

P.S. If you are a fan of Nick and Hunter from Andrews’ Santa Daddy, they make a quick appearance here as neighbors of Max’s family. You definitely don’t need to be familiar with that book to read this one, but if you are, you may enjoy the cameo.

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