Do You Hear What I Hear?

I’m a lover of audiobooks. From a practical point, they’re fantastic while working on mindless chores or in places where physically reading isn’t going to work because my hands are full or I’ll start feeling sick (raking the leaves in Autumn, doing the dishes, laundry, riding the bus somewhere…)

I have some favourite performers – top of the list are Barbara RosenblatJayne Entwhistle, and Jason Frazier – and I’ll often take a risk on an audiobook that might not otherwise entice me if one of those performers is involved in the audiobook. When you find a great performer, as an audiobook fan, you hunt down everything else they’ve done. It’s a thing. Trust me.

As the holiday season approaches, I always found myself listening to more books than usual – on the bus to and from work, especially, but also on my days off, when my brain power was much reduced, and I took a long bath and just listened. Now that I’m not working through the season, I rather thought I’d shift from that habit, but it wasn’t quite been true – I’ve craved someone telling me the stories as much as ever. And, also, I’ve been specifically hunting down some queer holiday audiobooks. Now, a couple of them get entries of their own on some upcoming Sunday Shorts for December, but here are a few I’ve found that I enjoyed, and are worth a shot if you’re in the mood for someone to tell you a sweet queer holiday story.

His for the HolidaysThe first audiobook comes with a bit of a caveat – His for the Holidays is actually four queer holiday novellas. So, from a story-to-credit point of view, there’s quite a lot here to get. But I have to admit, of the four, there were two I really enjoyed, one not so much, and one that – while really good – was really quite dark and not at all what I was looking for given the cover and vibe of the book.

That said, Z.A. Maxfield‘s “I Heard Him Exclaim” is awesome, and just what I was looking for. It’s about an uncle who – under sad circumstances – is facing his first Christmas taking care of his niece, and a former bear of a man (now much slimmer) who used to be the seasonal Santa of everyone’s dreams, but is trying to run away from the “new” him that he doesn’t really want to be. The two find each other near Christmas via a poorly maintained car, and the sparks fly. It’s a warm and cute story, as well as a little bit sexy. I loved it.  The other story I quite enjoyed in this collection was “Mistletoe at Midnight,” by L.B. Gregg, but the collection as a whole was worth it just for the Maxfield story.

CandyAlso sweet (if you’ll pardon the pun) is Candy Man, from Amy Lane, which follows a fellow who finds himself with one last chance. he’s looking after his cousin’s place after crashing and burning from his career, his family, and pretty much his entire life thanks to the consequences of coming out and loving the wrong guy. He needs a job – any job – and he finds one at a local Candy shop, where he also meets a bright and upbeat fellow with an unconquerable streak of hope and brightness that might just be enough to crack through the big guy’s shell. A cute and fun story.

MenAnother “four for one” deal (with four novellas, and most of the same authors) is Men Under the Mistletoe, and again, one story grabbed me more than others. I quite liked Ava March‘s “My True Love Gave to Me” which was a historical, and had the added bonus of including characters who really struggled with the reality of their time and their sexuality (what with it being illegal and all) – I like that touch of realism in a historical queer setting, but it doesn’t overshadow the overall happy ending. That said, the two men hurt each other a lot before they get there. The Christmas cheer here comes as much from the sense that they’ve finally got a chance at happiness as it does from the two of them finding each other in the first place.

Do you have a holiday listen you’d suggest? Or is it all carols, all the time? Got a favourite audiobook performer? Do tell.

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