It’s a Christmastime Parent Trap … in theory, at least. For Becca Baker and Nathan Montgomery, the Christmas Buddies program is a chance to get their respective dads — Baxter Baker, who is an actual baker, and Paxton Montgomery, the town grouch — to be friends. Or at least to spend time together so that Becca and Nathan can also spend time together. The only problem is that Paxton, for some reason, has taken a disliking to Baxter. Maybe it’s the ever-present smile, the over abundance of holiday cheer, or the fact that Baxter is an out and proud man. Or maybe Paxton just doesn’t get enough sugar in his coffee. Whatever the case, Baxter is willing to try his best to make his daughter happy, and if that means turning a grinch into an elf, so be it!
But people aren’t simply the labels slapped on them. Paxton has been a single parent since his son was born to a mother who didn’t want anything to do with him. Nathan would come home from every visit he had to her house — with her new family — hurt and quiet, nothing like the cheerful, easy going boy Paxton knows his son to be. What is even harder for Paxton is the fact that, at 18, his son is getting ready to leave the nest, to move on from high school and onto the next phase of his life. A life that will be his own, leaving Paxton proud … but less able to protect his son.
Baxter is all smiles and cheer, at least on the outside. Ever since his niece was put in his arms, he’s loved her. And ever since his sister died, he’s made his life revolve around two things: Becca, and being the best dad he can be. With Becca growing up and growing away from him, Baxter is lost. Who is he if not a parent? His life is scheduled around his bakery — currently down for the count — and his daughter. With both identities in the air, Baxter feels like his life is spiraling out of control.
I found this book uneven. The writing is fine, and the pace is good, but a giant portion of the book is introspection and character monologues as Paxton and Baxter think about their lives, their children — who they are with them and without them — and holiday shenanigans. A quarter of the way into the book, the families have met a handful of times and spent hours together, but the only conversation Baxter and Paxton have had on page is a truncated one where they snipe at one another. Scenes later, they’re visiting one another’s houses and events are happening (sledding, cookie decorating, tree shopping), but they still have almost no conversation.
It felt as if the story just wanted to get to the good parts — the cute scenes of sledding, the first kiss, the first sex scene — without having to bother with showing the two characters talking. The men go from only knowing who the other person is without having had conversations to breathless musings of being in love and yet it’s all trapped in either Baxter’s head or Paxton’s. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of cute moments, a fair bit of breaking and entering in the name of being quirky, and lots of holiday cheer, but so many inner monologues. And, unfortunately, a lot of the inner thoughts of either or both Baxter and Paxton musing on things — from children to cookies to holidays or feelings — felt super repetitive. Their voices are almost identical, save for Paxton thinking about how cute Baxter is versus Baxter thinking about how tall and hot Paxton is. It made the book feel longer, in the reading, when so much ground was covered twice, usually one chapter right after the other.
All in all, it’s a cute story. There are some good ideas, but the execution didn’t totally work for me. I would have preferred more moments involving both characters at the same time, rather than so much time spent in one head or the other.