I tend to read most of my holiday-themed reads in November and December. It falls back to my days in retail, where I needed to work hard if I was going to recover any shred of joy to be found in the season (fist bump of solidarity to any of you retail workers out there… just twenty more days!). Add to that the relentless “Blood Family is Everything!” message of the holidays, and really, I was done. I’d come home from work, try not to snarl too much (and likely fail) then have a bath and throw myself into bed to try and recover enough for the next day. Ho-ho-bloody-ho.
But holiday stories (and particularly holiday romances) were a way to get through that. I always start new holiday stories a little wary though. For one, I’m not looking for yet another “Family is Everything!” experience, and if it’s a queer read in particular, that can get all the more tangled with “Kicked out, but with a Blood Family is Everything Reconciliation Chaser!” that makes me want to hurl the book across the room.
And I also find holiday stories don’t often drown in angst, which I definitely don’t want during the holidays. The holidays are hard enough, thanks.
This means I often re-read holiday stories I already know I enjoy—with the added benefit of being less likely to keep me up late at night, too, since I’m not pulled into the ‘just one more chapter so I can see what happens next!’ vibe.
So, over the month, I’m going to post here and there about some of the holiday stories I’ve loved in previous years, ones I re-read, and new ones I’ve stumbled into or been recommended (which I love, by the way, hit me with your fluffy queer book recommendations (with the above caveats: low-angst, no reconciliation if including kicked-out-queers, no “Blood Family is Everything!”)
Here are three such lovely holiday tales, in no order what-so-ever.
Season’s Meetings, by Amy Dunne, was a new-to-me book this year. I listened to it on audio. It’s a “forced proximity” holiday romance, and this story matches Katherine (a workaholic who has buried her feelings after a terrible breakup) with Holly (a vibrant, if stubborn, business owner) on a trek up to the middle-of-nowhere Scotland. Instead of their destination, they end up crashing in Holly’s car in the middle-of-even-less-where, and find themselves snowed in at a honeymoon cabin rented in a small town, and joined by a super-cute puppy dog.
Katherine’s history with Christmas is such that she doesn’t really celebrate, whereas Holly brings her vibrant spark to everything, especially ugly holiday sweaters, baked goods, and general Christmas cheer. But as the two feel sparks that aren’t at all due to the ugly wool jumpers, they navigate the reality of their two very different lives, the friends they have in common, and wonder if things are worth the risk.
If you’re feeling a bit grinchy about the holidays, Season’s Meetings is just the audiobook to restore a little bit of faith in the holidays. The performer did a lovely job with range of voice, and accents were spot on, as was the pacing and emotionality.
A Family for Christmas by Jay Northcote was a lovely little story I discovered last year, about two men who struggle with connection. Rudy is super-shy, and although he loves his job at Rainbow Futures (a youth-services organization working with LGBTQ youth) and has overcome the shyness with most of his coworkers, the new guy—who is super-hot—leaves him completely locked inside himself.
It doesn’t help that Zac never involves himself with any of the rest of them. He does a great job as the social media manager, but he is the least social person around. That Zac’s history has taught him this is the only way to stay safe is beside the point.
A holiday party, a bit too much tequila, a kiss, and an offer made in the spur of a moment combine to push Zac and Rudy together for the holidays alongside Rudy’s odd (and awesome) family. After that? It’s all up to some holiday magic, and maybe there’s some help from a kitten.
Oh, Blame it on the Mistletoe! This one’s a yearly re-listen (I have it on audiobook) from Eli Easton and performed by Jason Frazier. It’s not a story that really has Christmas centre-stage, so much as it happens during the holiday, and post-retail me is okay with that.
This is a fun novella-length audiobook that I tend to listen to every year when it’s time to bake the Christmas cookies (because I’m contrary and the POV character is anti-sugar). The narrative set-up is pretty simple: a super-healthy jock has a roommate who’s a super-smart (and rather cute) nerdy type. They’re very close, and when the nerd learns that jock has the reputation of being the best kisser on campus, he asks for kissing lessons.
Yup. That’s right. Kissing lessons.
The reason why, and how the two end up together, is actually quite adorable. Even better, the (as-yet) self-identifying straight jock character doesn’t come across as a gay-for-you character at all (a trope I have zero patience for), but rather a character who has successfully managed to not-think-about-it for a very long time—until his roommate’s request makes him realize what’s going on.
It’s sweet. It’s fun. And it’s performed wonderfully by Jason Frazier, who I honestly think is one of the best audiobook performers out there. Seriously – everything I’ve heard him perform is elevated by his skill as a narrator. If you’re at all an audiobook enthusiast, check him out.