Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: John Solo
Length: 8 hours, 13 minutes
It’s December and Logan’s life is far from jolly. In fact, he’s getting evicted, his stepson hates him and is going to get kicked out of school, and Logan has no job, no savings, and no place for either of them to go. It’s all very Dickensian. For Seth, it’s been a long year of bad decisions. He and his ex moved to a new town for work, which … didn’t fix their relationship. In fact, it killed it. Seth has thrown himself into work and is hoping for a well-deserved promotion.
Seth’s job has a new boss, one who wants to encourage diversity. She means well, for all that she talks about “the gays” and is more acquainted with stereotypes than real people. Seth’s co-worker (who just so happens to be Logan’s sister), trying to help, puts a picture of Logan and his stepson on Seth’s desk, hoping to get the boss lady to look in Seth’s direction for the new position. She and Seth are both delighted when it works! Now all Seth needs is for the handsome man from the picture to be willing to pretend to be Seth’s boyfriend.
The boss has invited herself over to a family dinner, complete with the perfect and diverse family. She hopes to see all the bells and whistles, sparkle and tinsel, and Seth and Logan are going to give it to her all wrapped up with a bow.
Seth was raised in a very evangelical family and Christmas was always a big thing for them. Ever since coming out and being cast out, he’s lost a bit of that holiday spirit. He came to a new town for the job, hoping it would be a new start for himself and Brandon, but it didn’t work. Brandon found new friends and a new boyfriend and left Seth alone with a half-finished house and a fully broken heart. He was Seth’s first love, first kiss, and only lover.
Logan is an ex-marine whose been through a lot. He compartmentalizes. His shitty job that screwed him over, leaving him taking the blame for an accident that wasn’t his fault and ruining his chances for getting a new job go into one box. The accident that nearly broke him and has left him with panic attacks goes in that box. The death of his wife — who he loved, even as the two of them were thinking of divorce — in that one over there. And his frustrations at being helpless, useless, at having to maybe beg his sister to let him sleep on her couch until … well, until he gets a job or gives up completely; he’s still trying to close that box.
And then there’s Connor, a thirteen-year-old kid whose father lives in Florida and doesn’t seem to want anything to do with him, whose mother has recently died, and whose stepfather either yells at him or ignores him. They lost the house, they’re now losing the crappy place they’ve been renting, and he’s aware that he’s not really part of Logan’s family. But he kind of likes Seth. Seth listens to him, doesn’t judge him as the kid he was (or the brat he’s been), and treats him like he’s a real person.
Seth is lonely and shy. Having Logan and Connor move into his house is … actually not bad. Having other people in the house to focus on, having Logan finish up the kitchen, having people to come home to — it’s nice. And it makes Seth feel cared for and like he’s part of something, again. Being raised shy and sheltered, Seth thinks sex is something for people in love, not for flings and simple pleasure. But he’s not shy about it, or ashamed, and when Logan offers to turn their fake boyfriend into a fake boyfriend with benefits, Seth is happy to accept.
But no kissing. (That’s Logan’s rule.) And no emotions. Because Logan and Connor are going to be gone by January. Until there is a kiss, and it’s a great one. Until emotions do start to flare up between them and neither Seth nor Logan really want to deny them.
This story is like a lovely Christmas cookie, all filled with sugar. It’s sweet in the right spots, funny, and fun, and John Solo’s narration is the frosting on top. As ever, he does an amazing job, both with Logan’s quiet defensiveness, as well as his blitheness when he’s airily brings up the idea of sex. For, you know, Seth’s sake. Since Seth has only ever been with one person and Logan doesn’t mind broadening his experience. Ahem. Solo also does a great job of conveying Seth’s difficulties with saying the word ‘cock’ or swearing at all. It’s a dropped whisper — even in his inner monologues — where it gets across equal parts childish shame at saying something naughty and a more adult glee at getting away with it.
It’s the season for good things, and this book is one of them. Treat yourself and enjoy!