Charlie had thought he would be with his boyfriend, Nick, for the holidays. Charlie had a plan to ask Nick to marry him. It would have been dramatic and fantastic (and Charlie’s fans would love it)! Only … Nick found someone else to kiss under the mistletoe.
Now, Charlie has a new movie coming out and needs to keep every eye on him. With Valentine’s Day coming up soon, and a premiere, Charlie can’t be seen alone, so he asks Jacques to play the part of his boyfriend. Jacques doesn’t mind; he’s dealing with his own ex, who doesn’t seem inclined to take the hint that Jacques is no longer interested. Besides, Jacques has a new fashion collection to launch and he, too, could use a little extra publicity. But while things start out as a ruse, it may just turn into something real for Charlie and Jacques.
Our Valentine’s follows right after Your Christmas, the first book in the Once Upon a Holiday series, which features Nick’s romance and leads into this story. While I haven’t read the first book, I had no trouble getting right into the story, since the focus here is firmly centered on Charlie and Jacques. Being a novella, the pace is lightning fast, with the plot moving from Christmas day right into Valentine’s. Even so, the romance didn’t feel rushed at all, thanks to the strong characterization and steady writing.
We start with Charlie, whose point of view we follow through the book, watching as his ex celebrates a stolen Christmas moment with his new boyfriend and a kiss. He should be feeling heartbreak and loss, and sure, there’s some of that, but there’s also Jacques, whose outfits and expressions Charlie notes with devoted attention. Nick is never in his thoughts, which are too taken up with convincing Jacques — whose every facial expression, whose every mood Charlie obsessively pays attention to — to continue their fake dating (which started in the first book). It’s easy to see where Charlie’s true focus us, and so then it’s just enjoying the rest of the book as we wait for Charlie to catch up to everyone else.
Jacques, on the other hand, is more of a cypher. Being French, he has a Gallic tendency towards both sincerity and self-defense. Jacques’ emotions are kept close and rarely shared, but when he thinks Charlie is hurting or upset, he’s more than willing to be a shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen, and a heart to share the burdens of grief. He’s brusque and blunt, poised and perfect, and it’s hard for Charlie to find a way in, because Charlie is thinking of Jacques like someone else, someone who needs the fancy footwork, the grand displays, the pageant and display, when all Jacques really needs is … Charlie. His sincerity, his authentic self, not some movie star flirting publicly for a little media attention.
This really is an adorable little read and I regret it isn’t longer. I would easily devour a full-length novel about these two finding happiness together.