Ben has Christmas, cats, and mistletoe on his side…. Jason doesn’t stand a chance
For Ben Slater, moving back to Bristol means being closer to his family, living with his best mate, and volunteering at the local animal shelter. But there’s also Jason, his best mate’s eldest brother. Ben’s had a crush on Jason for as long as he can remember, but the eleven-year age gap has always seemed insurmountable.
Jason Armitage works as a vet at his uncle’s practice. He owns a cute cottage on the outskirts of the city, and a loving dog. The one thing missing is someone to share it all with. His brother’s best friend seems a bad choice, but Jason can’t help taking a second look. Ben’s changed a lot since Jason last saw him; both in appearance and attitude. Gone is the shy young boy, replaced with a confident, twenty-four-year-old man.
In the run up to Christmas, the festive period gives Ben the ideal opportunity to show Jason what he has to offer. But concerns for his brother’s feelings hold Jason back. If they have any chance of making this work, Ben must convince Jason that he’s old enough to know what he wants, and Jason needs to believe that a relationship with his brother’s best friend won’t ruin their friendship.
Review by Natalie: This is only the second book by Annabelle Jacobs that I’ve read but she’s an author I’d look to when I want a comfort read. Ben and Jason were delightful, as Jason comes to see that young Ben has become quite the man. Having them bond over abandoned cats and the time Ben spends helping at the local animal shelter makes this a heart-melting read. Both men’s families are included in the story, so we get to know the characters well, with lots of background and history. Liam, Ben’s friend and Jason’s brother, adds contrast in a good way, being a little more brash and outspoken than Ben. There was an 11 year age gap between Jason and Ben, but that was barely noticeable, as everyone acts and speaks like real live grownups.
Third person POV’s for both characters suited my preferences and kept the narrative moving along. A story lacking any sort of major conflict, homophobia or family issues was a pleasant experience, and welcome in a holiday tale. Yet it’s not sappy or sugary in the least, just warm, fuzzy and touching. It’s set around the Christmas season but it suited this Grinch-y reader and didn’t try to drown me in holiday spirit. I enjoyed the very English setting and flavour (see what I did there!) in the narrative, with its rather low-key, gentle delivery. Living in the southern US, I also liked getting my chills and snow from visuals inspired by words, not actual weather! I would very much recommend this story, especially for the critter loving crowd.
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Ben tried not to look, but inevitably his gaze was drawn to Jason still sat on the sofa. He stood as Pete stepped back, and Ben got a proper look at him. Ben wasn’t the only one who’d changed a little over the past couple of years. The last time he’d seen Jason, his hair had been short, like an army cut, and he’d had a beard. He’d looked hot then, but now…. Ben had to forcibly shut his mouth so he didn’t gape.
Jason’s thick dark hair, still shaved at the sides, was now a good couple of inches longer on top. And he was clean shaven. Ben kind of missed the beard, but without it Jason looked much younger, and his strong jawline was a thing of beauty. He looked thinner, too. Ben frowned because Jason ate like a horse and had always been bulkier than his brothers. That thought somehow made its way out of Ben’s mouth.
“Have you lost weight?”
Jason laughed softly, one hand immediately going to his stomach. He patted his belly and sighed. “God don’t you start. Mum’s already been on at me about not eating properly.” He pulled Ben in for a quick hug. “It’s good to see you, even if you do put the rest of us to shame.”
Oh God, that voice. As smooth and deep as Ben remembered.
Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with three rowdy children, and two cats. An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They’re usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it – fighting enemies and adversity – but they always find love in the end.
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