Gideon Holiday is always ready to help out. He loves to organize and schedule and manage. Some people would call him bossy (and Gideon would agree), but he loves to be helpful. As is annual tradition, Gideon is organizing the neighborhood lights display to help raise money for the local community center. The lights are a big draw, so he is frustrated that once again his grumpy neighbor, Paul Frost, isn’t decorating his house. Gideon has even volunteered to decorate for Paul, going so far as to draw up a design and everything. But Paul refuses Gideon’s offer.
The holiday season isn’t particularly easy for Paul. He raised his brother after their parents died, but Brandon and his girlfriend now live on the west coast and Paul ends up spending most of his Christmases alone. He doesn’t have any interest in decorating and he certainly doesn’t want his pushy next door neighbor doing it for him. But when Brandon decides to join Paul for the holidays — and will be proposing to his girlfriend on Christmas, no less — Paul realizes he needs to get the house in shape for company and bring in some holiday spirit. So he decides to take Gideon up on his offer to help.
Gideon is thrilled to jump in and he has plenty of plans and ideas. Rather than be overwhelmed or annoyed at Gideon taking charge, Paul finds himself relieved to have someone who knows what needs to be done and is happy to help. And truth be told, Paul kind of likes Gideon’s bossiness. Aside from being sort of adorable, Paul likes knowing exactly what Gideon wants and what he needs to do.
As the preparations continue, an attraction also blooms between the men. All those days shopping and decorating lead to some hot nights between them. Paul can even imagine something long term developing between them. But as the holiday approaches, Gideon fears things will be all over once he is no longer useful and Paul doesn’t need his help. Now, Paul has to show Gideon how much he has come to mean to him, and this Christmas could be the best one ever for both men.
The Geek Who Saved Christmas is a sweet and romantic story between two men in their 40s who aren’t expecting they can still get a happily ever after, and who both are lonelier than they would like to admit. Albert creates a story that combines some intense holiday cheer with some deeper moments that really nicely develop Paul and Gideon as characters and give them a well-earned happy ending.
As the story starts out, we have a bit of an enemies to lovers vibe. Or at least, a grumpy Paul who is annoyed by Gideon’s relentless cheerfulness and persistence that Paul decorate for the holidays and a sunshiney Gideon who can’t understand why Paul can’t get in the spirit, particularly for a good cause. I’ll admit that I found Gideon a lot at the beginning. He feels over-the-top in his enthusiasm and attempts at helpfulness, to the point where he doesn’t seem quite real. I also found myself frustrated that he couldn’t even consider why someone might not want to decorate their house with lights and lawn/roof ornaments for the holidays. While Albert does note that they are not specific about Christmas decorations and some families decorate their exteriors for Chanukah, Kwanza, and Solstice, the reality is that many people who don’t celebrate Christmas do not consider this type of outdoor decorative display a part of their holiday observance. So I am getting personal here, and this may not bug anyone else. But as someone who is Jewish and who would never consider holiday lights and ornaments a part of my holiday celebration, I found Gideon’s persistence/obliviousness kind of bothered me. And if one of my neighbors took it upon themselves to draw up a schematic for a holiday display for my house, complete with lighting plans, and expected me to just let them come over and set it up on my house as Gideon does, I would be mighty offended. Not to mention that even people who celebrate Christmas have a right not to want to decorate their homes without their neighbor pestering them.
Fortunately, after the early part of the book, this really turns around. First off, Gideon’s enthusiasm is given a proper channel in that Paul genuinely wants his help once he learns Brandon is coming. He really appreciates Gideon managing a task that is overwhelming for Paul and leaves him feeling anxious about creating a special holiday for the brother he loves. Second, Albert does a really nice job letting us get to know Gideon and see what is behind his at times frenetic need to jump head first into the holidays. Because the reality is both these men are lonely, and the holidays just makes it worse. In Gideon’s case, he is always the single friend, the one who helps out and pitches in and is the life of the party. Because if he helps arrange an event, or comes bearing the perfect platter, or handles the task no one else wants, then he is needed. And Gideon really worries that if he is not needed, he is not wanted. I was really impressed by the way Albert brings this out slowly throughout the book, even at the end when Gideon assumes that now that Christmas is over and the job is done, Paul won’t want him anymore. It makes Gideon so relatable and my heart kind of broke for him, always having to put on the perfect face. So it is so lovely to see him find happiness with Paul who adores him regardless of what Gideon is doing for him.
For Paul, he is lonely and a little grumpy. He stepped in to care for a younger brother when their parents died, giving up a lot to help raise Brandon. Paul wants what’s best for Brandon, even if that means making his own sacrifices to make that happen. So again, it is really rewarding to see someone like Gideon come in and help take care of Paul, to let him not always have to be the strong one. What is really nice here is the way these guys agree it is ok not to be fine, that they aren’t going to put on a front with each other, but they are going to admit when they are not ok or things are hard. They are a sweet and sexy and really lovely pair and I very much enjoyed them together.
So this one was a little bit rocky for me at the very beginning, but it comes together so nicely. I found these characters well developed and I appreciated that they are both more than they first appear, and that they can be their true selves together. If you are looking for an entertaining holiday story, particularly if you like a grumpy/sunshiney pairing and heroes over age 40, check this one out.