christmas leap coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel

 

Michael has been in love with his straight best friend, Will, for years. It reached the point where even being around Will was too painful, so Michael pulled away and has pretty much ghosted Will for the last two years out of self preservation. Michael had hoped he finally found a guy who loved him and with whom he could have a future, but when he overhears Jared talking about breaking up with him, Michael knows it’s over. Despondent and needing to get out of the house, Michael takes off driving, only to end up in a remote area with a broken down car. And when he really needs someone to talk to, the person he most wants is Will.

Will is headed to a weekend retreat for work when he gets Michael’s call. As much as Will is hurt and angry that Michael seems to have just dropped him as a friend, he can’t help a thrill at finally talking to him again. When he learns Michael is stranded nearby, Will insists on coming to get him and bringing Michael with him to the retreat until the tow company can get his car. When the men arrive, Will’s coworkers immediately assume that Michael is more than a friend, since this is a family event and people have brought their partners. The situation gets complicated as the men try to explain what is really going on, and when even Will’s boss thinks they are a couple, they decide to just fake it for the weekend rather than attempting to untangle it all. After all, Will’s boss is all about family and she seems to love the idea of Will with a boyfriend — and when she offers him an important assignment, Will is afraid revealing the truth now will make her question his integrity.

Being near Will again is wonderful for Michael, but also a struggle as the two share a cabin –and a bed. He realizes he is just as in love with Will as he was years ago and distance isn’t going to change anything. For his part, Will is finding faking being bisexual is not as hard as he would have thought. Will has found himself more interested in gay porn and fantasies lately and so pretending to be Michael’s boyfriend isn’t much of a stretch. But when Will gets offered a key assignment over the holiday, the men may have to continue pretending to be together longer than they expected. But the more time they spend together, the more both men realize this may actually be something real between them.

The Christmas Leap is the second book in Keira Andrews’ Festive Fakes series and shares a world with The Christmas Deal. Seth and Logan appear here as minor side characters, since Seth and Will are coworkers. We also reconnect with various folks from Will’s company, including his boss, Angela. That said, the real plot of the story stands alone just fine, so while the work background crosses the series, the romance works on its own.

I really enjoyed Michael and Will together and Andrews does a great job showing the chemistry and connection between them. I could fully believe that Michael was in love with and pining for Will, as well as the strong bond of friendship the guys have. Though they haven’t really talked in a couple of years, they just snap back together as soon as they see one another again. Even when he thinks of Michael as just a friend, Will has such a sweet tenderness about him. He is a caretaker and he loves and accepts Michael just as he is — which is something definitely not true of Michael’s last boyfriend. So there is just a lovely sweetness here as we see these guys slowly move from friends to lovers. And things heat up nicely when they finally recognize the other’s interest and act on their attraction. Things are stymied by a lack of communication, so it takes a while for the men to sort themselves out. I feel like a lot could be resolved by talking to each other more clearly. But it wasn’t enough of an issue to affect my enjoyment and the strong connection between the men really worked nicely for the story.

As I said, this book once again features the company Will works for (the same one as Seth in book one). I found myself continuing to really struggling with their boss, who I think we are supposed to like, as the story notes how generous she is and how much she looks out for those in her circle. But I just really could never warm to her due to what I felt was heavy handedness and intrusiveness. In the first book, she is known to only promote folks who are married over single people (hence Seth and Logan’s fake relationship). Here she is past that, but she is way over-involved in her employees’ personal lives to me, and her lack of boundaries felt off-putting. The same holds for Will’s co-workers, who feel almost obnoxiously into who Will is dating. The guys end up traveling with Will’s boss and her family and it just felt somewhat awkward to me considering Will seems to barely know her and suddenly she is all involved in their lives.

My second issue is Will pretending to be bisexual (or allowing others to think he is bisexual) for the purposes of a potential job advantage. Yes, it turns out he really is bi, but even Will doesn’t realize it at the time this is all happening. We do see Will question whether appropriating an identity not his own to get a plum job assignment is a problem, yet everyone else says go for it and he does. So I do appreciate that the story acknowledges this situation, but I am not totally thrilled with the way it plays out.

While I did have some issues with the work side of the storyline, I really loved the relationship piece, which is most of the focus here. So I could put aside some of those niggles and focus on the romance without too much of a problem. Michael and Will are so clearly meant for one another and I really enjoyed watching them reconnect once again and grow their friendship into something more. If you enjoy a sweet and sexy holiday contemporary, particularly with a fake relationship element, definitely check this one out.

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