Short Stories 366:310 — “Twelve Days of UPS,” by Eli Easton

When I saw Gifts for the Season was a charity anthology, I nabbed it despite not knowing more than a couple of the names in the anthology, and I’ve been reading it out of order depending on the story length and the time I’ve got. I stared with “The Twelve Days of UPS” because I tend to do a re-listen of Eli Easton’s holiday novellas as the holidays approach, and I was happy to find a new holiday themed story from her. To my surprise, this one is set during 2020, complete with Covid, and while that made me nervous when I realized it was happening, honestly? It worked.

The set-up is simple: a fellow who has a more-than-passing crush on the burly UPS delivery guy (who fills a uniform superbly but hasn’t revealed his face, thanks to face-masks and social distancing) starts to receive a box a day. They boxes are from anonymous senders, and they seem sort of random at first, until he realizes they follow a loose theme based on the “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol. Are they from a secret admirer? That would be sort of a nice, wouldn’t it?

Well, except that would mean they’re not from the UPS guy.

This is a charming little story, and the slow “getting to know you” set-up of brief conversations during delivery and then one evening meal shared at a social distance in the back yard made for a nice slow pace. Ultimately, this being a romance collection, you know who is going to end up with who, but the “how” of it was cute, and had just enough holiday sparkle to it to make me smile.

By the time I closed Gifts for the Season, I found a quartet of stories I enjoyed, and I want to take a moment to point out that it’s a charity anthology and a good cause, so I don’t regret the purchase, but if there’s a singular flaw in this anthology it’s that most of the stories aren’t stories, exactly, but brief revisits with characters from previously published novels, and my experience reading them was mostly feeling disconnected with not enough of an idea of who the characters were, as the authors assumed readership would come into the tale pre-loaded with that knowledge. So, I can’t really recommend the anthology in and of itself as a whole on its own merit, but as a charity donation, the four stories I’ll be mentioning felt worthwhile.

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