One of the best things for me during the holiday season when I was working insane hours as Christmas approached was audiobooks. I had a long commute, and I was on the bus, and physically reading a book on the bus made me feel a little ill. Audiobooks were just the ticket. I’d listen to a book both ways (often an hour on the way to work and an hour a half on the way back). For the longest time, this was how I listened to bestsellers and other major titles I was supposed to keep up on for my job at the bookstore, and I did find quite a few new authors that way.
Then, a couple of years ago, I started to say gay books becoming audiobooks. This was freaking awesome. I also started to see novellas, which I happen to love, and when turned into an audiobook, they would last me a few days at most, rather than a week or two, and as the worst of the holiday season would come, that was even better: I didn’t have to try and maintain concentration over a long period of time.
Did I mention working Christmas retail is mentally depleting?
Since I’ve stopped working at the bookstore, I’ve been trying to restore my Christmas Spirit. Last year, the novelty of my first Christmas not working in decades was incredible, but it still felt “off” and strange not to be going a bit crazy. This year is no different, though I’m finding a bit more joy in the day to day, and making a more concerted effort to actively seek out the cheer.
Hence all the queer holiday books and audiobooks I’ve been finding.
The main voice of the story is Rusty, a big jock of a guy who self-admits to not being that bright. He’s not hopeless: give him time, instructions, and repetition, and he’ll figure things out, but he’s not instantly-bright or quick. He’s rich, from an entitled background, blond, and pretty much the typical wet-dream son of the wealthy white family. And when he meets Oliver, things start to go south.
Oliver isn’t white. Oliver is very clever. Oliver speaks his mind. Oliver is gay. And Oliver becomes Rusty’s best friend, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone in Rusty’s life, with the exception of Rusty’s sister, who struggles to fit their parents’ idea of what she should be.
If you’ve read any m/m, you know the inevitable is coming, and of course it takes Rusty (again, not-so-quick a guy) a while to figure out why he’s so drawn to Oliver, but when he does, things go downhill, fast. By the end of Thanksgiving, rich, cared-for Rusty is out in both senses of the word: he admits to being with Oliver, and gets kicked to the curb by his parents.
This is where the story really takes off for me: Rusty has to make a new home, a new support network, a new plan, a new everything. This was my experience. This was the experience of so many queer people I know. And it’s handled deftly, if in the positive and warm-feelings way of a romantic novel set leading up to Christmas. I especially loved in the inclusion (even in a minor way) of Rusty’s college roommate’s parents—”the Moms”—and the message they send to Rusty through their son when everything hits the fan.
As far as Christmas listens go, this was lovely. I enjoyed it over the course of a couple of days of chores and even took it with me when I went to pick up my last couple of stocking stuffers, and finished it just as I was wrapping the last present. The performer is solid (though sometimes it’s a little obvious when the performer took a break and came back to recording, as his voice sort of “resets” a bit and it takes him time to get back into character). And if maybe even the former not-so-great people in Rusty’s life get a shot at a bit of redemption, I can live with that. It’s a Christmas story. It can be happier than real life typical turns out to be.