Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Eddie Rodrigues doesn’t stay in one place long enough to get attached. The only time he broke that rule, things went south fast. Now he’s on the road again, with barely enough cash in his pocket to hop a bus south after his (sort-of-stolen) car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Midwest, USA.
He’s fine. He’ll manage. Until he watches that girl get hit by a car and left to die.
Local shop owner Grayson Croft isn’t in the habit of doing people any favors. But even a recluse can’t avoid everyone in a town as small as Clear Lake. And when the cop who played Juliet to your Romeo in the high school play asks you to put up her key witness for the night, you say yes.
Now Gray’s got a grouchy glass artist stomping around his big, empty house, and it turns out that he… maybe… kind of… likes the company.
But Eddie Rodrigues never sticks around.
Unless a Christmas shop owner who hates the season can show an orphan what it means to have family for the holidays.
Well, this turned out to be an amazing Christmas gift! In the early chapters, I was worried that this might be one that I’d have to force myself to read, but I forged ahead a little further anyway and suddenly—surprise, surprise—I was caught up in the story. So, although the author didn’t grab me in the first few chapters while she was building the storyline and character backgrounds, I was hooked by about 20% in, and by 50%, I got so immersed in the story I couldn’t put it down.
The men, each damaged in his own way, take quite a while to come together, but when they do, it’s obvious to readers that this couple is going to be memorable.
Gray is an older man, alone in the world and abandoned by his former lover, who found the night life of Chicago more to his liking. Unfortunately, his departure came shortly after Gray purchased a home for the two of them to spend the rest of their lives together. Now Gray’s rattling around in it by himself, with only volumes of old sci-fi books, memorabilia from ancestors, and a bottle of Scotch to keep him warm on the cold winter nights when his Christmas shop is not open. And since the store is only open two months each year, he spends a lot of time alone with only his thoughts and the ghosts of memories for company in his big family-sized house.
Eddie is an artisan, a glass blower and Ren Faire traveler, who normally works the circuit and then winters in Texas. But this year, he followed his dreams and bedded down with a guy in Chicago who turned out to be nothing like he expected. He’d borrowed the guy’s car and was headed southwest toward Texas when the car broke down, so he began to walk and ended up hiking through the little town of Clear Lake in the dead of night. He wasn’t quite alone, though; he happened to see a young girl crossing the street just as the headlights of a speeding car approached, and he was shocked to witness the girl being slammed into the air and landing in a gutter. Though shaken by the horror of it all, he stayed with her until his screaming summoned help, and he found himself being led to a neighbor’s home to spend the night. And that’s how Eddie met Gray.
These two are so opposite, yet ultimately so perfect for each other! Gray needs someone to shake up his world, and Eddie certainly does that when Gray offers him a part-time job in his shop for the holidays, and Eddie reluctantly accepts it, and ultimately even adds his glasswork to the products for sale. But behind the scenes, Gray is working on Eddie’s emotional attachment issues, and Eddie is working toward helping Gray exorcise the “ghost of Christmas past”—Gray’s former lover.
There’s an additional complication or two along the way, including Gray’s distrust of Eddie’s ability to help people see what they’ve wanted to buy without putting pressure on them, something Gray perceives negatively as pushy salesmanship, and there’s also the sulky teen who keeps dropping in to the shop. Is it to shoplift as Eddie believes? Or is it because he wants something completely different from Eddie?
The author explores trust issues, hope, family of origin, and family of the heart in this beautiful story. It put a smile on my face and a warm and fuzzy feeling in my heart. I highly recommend it to lovers of MM romance, especially those who enjoy age gap, slow burn, and stories of hope and redemption.