A Family for Christmas
A Family for Christmas is delightful. Much like other books I’ve read by Jay Northcote, the story features interesting characters dealing with relationship problems we can all relate to. There are no gazillionaires, athletes or celebrities here – just ordinary people trying to find love. In A Family for Christmas, though the formula of two regular guys falling in love is a familiar one, the holiday setting adds an extra bit of cheer to the happy ending. This is a feel good story through and through, and I enjoyed almost everything about it.
Rudy is a sweet, shy twenty-four year old virgin with a major crush on aloof co-worker Zac. He spends his days trying and failing to figure out how best to approach Zac and get to know him. Fortunately for him (and us) it’s holiday time! An invitation to have drinks with his co-workers before the office shuts down for the long weekend provides the perfect excuse for Rudy to spend some time with Zac. He manages to maneuver himself close to Zac at the table, and several drinks later, their conversation evolves from casual to flirtatious. When Zac offers to walk him home, Rudy is thrilled. Drunk, happy and for once, at ease with Zac, he kisses him.
Zac is surprised (and secretly delighted) by Rudy’s attentions. He doesn’t push him away, but when the kiss ends, he’s confused by how much he enjoyed it. Rudy is clearly looking for more than a hook-up, but Zac doesn’t do relationships. Later on in the story we learn more about why Zac keeps his distance from everyone, but at this point it’s clear from his PoV that he’s not looking for anything long-term. Yet it’s obvious Rudy is in no condition to be left alone, so Zac puts his reservations about Rudy and his hopes aside, and walks him home, intending to simply drop him off and then call a taxi to get himself home. To Zac’s dismay however, it’s not as easy as that. It will be more than an hour before he can get a cab, so when Rudy invites him to stay the night, he reluctantly agrees.
After a tense evening filled with regret (on both sides), they share breakfast before heading to the office. Trying to make things less awkward, Rudy asks Zac about his plans for the holidays. When he learns Zac intends to stay home alone, he invites him to spend the holidays with his family. Zac surprises both of them when he agrees, and they head to work with very different ideas about what the coming holiday might mean. For Rudy, it’s a chance to spend more time with Zac and hopefully act on his attraction to him. For Zac, it’s a chance to celebrate the holiday the way he imagined it as a child, and maybe become better friends (just friends) with Rudy.
Things get off to a rocky start when Rudy’s mother assumes Zac is Rudy’s boyfriend and puts them in the same room together. But after seeing how flustered Rudy gets trying to straighten things out, Zac offers to make things easier and pretend they are a couple. After all, he is attracted to Rudy and it’s clear Rudy is attracted to him. Oh Zac. The holidays? Alcohol? The same bed? Rudy? Any romance reader knows where this ‘fake’ relationship is going – and so does the author. Happily ever after! Duh! But it’s a delightful journey nonetheless.
Christmas at Rudy’s is the stuff of fantasy. An old rambling house, a large and lively family, great conversation, delicious food, a sweet and devoted black labrador, evenings playing games by the fire (it all sounds like so much fun!)… Rudy’s home and family are everything Zac has ever longed for during the holidays. The two men are both scared by the strength of their attraction – Rudy, because he’s never been in a relationship before, and Zac, because he’s never opened up to anyone. But sparks fly between them, and their not-so-fake relationship, quickly evolves into a deep and passionate holiday affair. By the time the trip ends, both realize that though the holiday is over, their relationship has just begun.
Jay Northcote’s books are appealing for so many reasons. They’re easy to gobble up (it’s turkey time folks!) and enjoy in one sitting, and the happy endings are both realistic and appropriate to the people in the stories. They’re also just the right length, the stories move forward at a rapid clip and the narrative never stalls. A Family for Christmas is no different. When the book opens, Rudy is eager and optimistic about love while Zac, a loner hardened by a childhood spent in foster homes and on the street, is slightly bitter and emotionally closed off. Spending time together over the holidays both matures and seasons Rudy (Zac knows what’s what in the bedroom), and softens Zac. In the end, Zac’s emotional barriers are no match for Rudy’s affection and love. For this couple, happily ever after (glimpsed in a delightful epilogue) isn’t the stuff of fairytales, but the stuff of a life together.
A Family for Christmas is a charming story about two likeable characters who fall in love despite their differences. If you have a few hours to spend on the couch this holiday season, I recommend you pick it up. Uplifting, romantic and sweet – it’s a gift that keeps on giving even after the last page.