…we're keeping our name but expanding our offerings!
Christmas brings dreams of peace, love, and family time for most. Sadly, Russell Moore isn’t so blessed. Since his coming out and marriage prompted a less-than-joyful reaction from his religious parents, Russ has kept his distance to avoid their conservative disapproval. With his husband David deployed overseas for the second Christmas in a row, Russ gives in to the loneliness and takes his stepchildren to meet his parents for the first time, hoping the “goodwill toward men” spirit will overcome his mother’s zealotry.
But Russ’s Christmas joy is too quickly deflated by his mother’s unmet expectations, leaving Russ to ponder if peace, love, and perhaps matricide go hand in hand.
To everyone who understands that a parent’s
honest love and concern can hurt like hell
My initial reaction when I reached about 1/3rd of this book was: “OMG, THIS IS SO F*CKING GOOD!” It was different but different was good. Heck, different was great! The story just hit all my buttons in one easy stride. First, I’m a sucker for an established couple. Second, I’m a sucker for a family story — with all the ups and downs without completely being too black and white (PS: That’s why I don’t like stories with parents kicking out their sons because they’re gay — it’s just too darn black and white and moody for me. I prefer if there is a dynamic to explore, even an uncomfortable one)
This one definitely has it — and oh, how bloody good the set-up was. Russell’s beloved Army husband is currently deployed overseas during Christmas time. He is left to take care of his stepchildren: Emily, who is 10-years-old and Austin, who is 7-years-old. Since Russell promises his family that he will visit during Christmas, he takes Emily and Austin to meet his family for the first time. The thing is, Russell’s mother does not approve of her son’s relationship. She also has a very strong opinion on rules and how to take care of kids. This is not easy for Russell since Austin has Aspergers (GAH awesome plot there, Mr. Grey!) and he needs special care.
I was immediately grabbed by the story … right from the VERY beginning! I loved reading how Russell tried to compromise with his mother. Russell was quite firm when it came to taking care of Austin and explicitly told her so. But at the same time, he was also willing to meet her half-way. Now, it’s easy to think of Doris (Russell’s mother) as an annoying woman; she was frustrating to me too. BUT, I also know this kind of woman in real life — the ones who only see things HER way, so when her kids are not doing it right, she becomes upset. I didn’t think Doris was manipulative — I simply thought she was one of those stubborn traditional women. I could effortlessly say that I’ve known at least one woman who was described like Doris in my life (no, she’s NOT my mother)
Russell’s other family members were great — his father and his younger brother, Max, brought the charm to the whole family situation. Max, especially, was delightful. Is it weird that I want to read a het-romance starring Max?? Because seriously, I would love to see this guy being brought to his knees by the right woman!! Oh, and the kids — Emily and Austin — they felt so frickin’ real. I don’t have kids myself but the way that they are portrayed here was on the right balance!! I loved how natural their relationship was with Russell as their stepfather while their biological Daddy was away. I loved how Russell connected to them. It was so clear that these kids loved Russell so much — even Austin with his Aspergers, showed progress after being with Russell.
I loved how the whole problem with Russell and his mother wasn’t solved with a blink of an eye — but at same time, we also saw the kind of hopeful resolution in the future. Family can be messy but they can also love each other dearly.
The emphasis of the first half of the story was definitely Russell and his family members. But don’t worry, we got to see David too!!! We got sexy times between the couple. Come on, it was bound to happen, no? Dave was away for two years!! We also saw the difference of how warm David’s mother and father were (compared to Doris) which made my heart all gooey.
For a novella, this was almost perfect … it felt mature and complex and engaging at the same time. However, I couldn’t help but wish for this to be part of a longer story. Because I missed the first meeting of Russell and David and how they fell in love. Plus these are David’ biological children, so is he bi-sexual, or did the kids come from surrogacy? Does David have a previous lover who he wanted to have the kids with?!? Since Russell has only been in David’s life for the past four years — meaning Emily and Austin were already born. SO MANY QUESTIONS!!! I missed the two years of Russell taking care of his stepchildren, especially with Austin’s Aspergers, when David was deployed. I feel like I missed A LOT and it makes me crave for more.
I’m so happy that I found this on my Goodreads timeline (my friend Deeze gets all the credit!) and it’s already on my list of 2014 MM-favorites. For a story from a new-to-me author, I’m very much satisfied.