Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: 7 hours, 1 minutes
Length: Tim Paige
Gideon Holiday is well aware of his last name, and he has quite happily embraced it. Not only that, but Gideon carries the holiday spirit around with him 24/7, 365. Need help moving furniture? He’s there. A dozen extra guests show up to your dinner and you need chairs and wine? He has it. What about someone to drive you to the store for some last minute shopping? Gideon will be happy to oblige. The one neighbor on their street who hasn’t asked him for help is the dashing silver fox, Paul Frost, Gideon’s next door neighbor. The only neighbor on the block who hasn’t decorated his house for Christmas, no matter how many times Gideon has offered to help.
Paul has no intention of doing more this Christmas than watching TV, eating dinner, and relaxing with his dog in his unfinished fixer-upper of a house, much as he’s done for quite a few Christmases. But when his younger brother calls to let him know that, for once, he and his girlfriend are going to be visiting him for the holiday — they live on the opposite coast where they go to school — Paul panics. He has nothing set up. No tree, no garland … not even a couch.
If there’s anyone who can help him make this the perfect Christmas … it’s Gideon.
Gideon lives for holidays — and not just Christmas! He also lives for Easter, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving … you name it, he’s ready for it. The parties, the festivities, the people, all of it. Growing up, his parents went through an acrimonious divorce and it was only his grandparents who helped get him through it. Visiting them for the Christmas holiday, seeing the neighborhood lit up with lights, it made him happy. For a small time, it took away everything dark and sad and angry and made him feel hopeful. And now Gideon does everything he can to share that hope with anyone else who might need it.
After his grandparents died, Gideon was once more at the mercy of forgetful parents and step-parents who rarely had time for him. That uncertainty growing up has left him with a lot of lists, plans, spreadsheets, and organization. Never again will he be uncertain about tomorrow, and it’s that planning that makes him so popular in the neighborhood, but Gideon finds it hard to believe anyone actually wants him around. His help, yes. His quick wit, his charm, his effortless ability to host a party, decorate a room, or find a deal, certainly. But no one, other than his grandparents, ever wanted the real Gideon hidden behind the smiles and sugar cookie facade.
Paul lost his parents to a fire, and it was up to him to fight tooth and nail to keep his brother. Over night, he became brother and mother and father all in one. There was no money, so Paul had to work hard to make ends meet, and when his brother ended up being a genius — his brother is an actual rocket scientist, of all things — Paul had to find a way to pay for the best school he could. Now, his brother lives halfway across the country and his girlfriend, who is sweet and loves his brother to no end, has rich parents who take them on trips, take them out to gourmet restaurants, and make sure they have everything they need. How can Paul compete?
Paul is a caring person. He’s used to taking charge and being the one to shoulder all the burdens in the world, protecting other people from feeling them. He takes care of his construction crew, he takes care of his dog, and when Gideon agrees to help … he tries to take care of him, too. Gideon’s plans and Paul’s protective instincts pair so very well together. Gideon’s need for stability, though, hides his need for reassurance, and Paul’s own insecurities about being good enough — always comparing himself to someone else — don’t do so well, leaving the two of them unable to get the words out when they need them the most.
This is a perfect holiday romance, giving both the gift of friendship, as well as love, all against the sparkling backdrop of holiday lights and family. I was fortunate enough to listen to the audiobook, narrated by Tim Paige. I think this is the first audiobook with him that I’ve listened to, and I’m happy to say that he does this book justice. Not just the voices (though his Gideon wavers a bit here and there), but the characterizations are so well done. I enjoyed Gideon’s brusqueness when he’s covering his soft gooey insides, or Paul’s cautious uncertainty when dealing with his brother.
I very much enjoyed this book, and it’s a perfect listen during the holiday season. There is just enough angst to balance the sweetness, and enough Christmas spirit to keep any pesky ghosts from visiting you at midnight.