Christmas on Firefly Hill
Garrett Leigh’s Christmas on Firefly Hill is a fairly short, emotionally charged and low-angst read that, while not heavy on the turkey or the tinsel, still has enough festive cheer to warm the cockles. It’s a bit of a trope-fest, really: there’s an age-gap, a divorced dad struggling to parent young kids, and an insta-connection, with some hurt/comfort thrown in for good measure. I liked the two leads and the quirky feel to the location, and the kids in the story read like real kids with personalities of their own rather than plot-moppets. I enjoyed the story, but can’t say it knocked my socks off.
Firefighter Logan Halliwell is moonlighting as a fire marshall at a summer festival when he first sees Remy Collins, a lithe, vibrant poi/fire dancer who is, quite literally, the most beautiful man he’s ever seen. The intense connetion pulling them towards each other at the end of the dance is like nothing either of them has ever felt – it’s so strong it really leaps off the page – and they share a brief but passionate kiss. Before they can get as far as exchanging names (or numbers) though, Logan is called away. Neither of them expects to see the other again.
Not long after that meeting, Remy suffered a serious accident which broke some bones and left him unable to perform for the rest of the season. He’s unsettled and directionless, just about making ends meet while living out of the back of his clapped-out Transit van, and the cold weather isn’t doing the residual pain in his right hip and leg any favours. He’s pinned his hopes on renting a workshop for the winter where he can pursue his other business, making jewellery and other decorative items, and to this end, he’s just about got the old van up Firefly Hill to meet “Uncle Marr”, the eccentric old gent who owns the building – and to Remy’s surprise and relief, he agrees to rent the space to him on favourable terms and tells him “the boy” – his nephew – will be in to sort out the finances.
To say Logan is surprised to learn the identity of his uncle’s new tenant is an understatement. Not a day has gone by without his thinking about the gorgeous dancer and the single kiss they’d shared – and now, here he is, the man of Logan’s dreams standing right in front of him, a blinding grin on his face.
The connection that flared between them months earlier roars back to life, as strong now as it was then, bringing with it a chance for Logan and Remy to find out how – or if – they might make room for each other in their lives. Their mutual physical attraction is not in question, but they’re very different men with messy, complicated lives and baggage that will have to be dealt with if they’re going to make a go of it.
Logan is struggling to balance his job as a firefighter in the city with his family responsibilities. He and his ex-wife Bec share custody of their seven-year-old twin boys, Billy and Sam, and while Logan is a great dad and loves his kids to bits, mostly he’s knackered and feels like he’s an inadequate parent, not doing enough or not doing it right. Remy is outgoing and free-spirited, although his accident knocked his confidence a bit and he’s feeling more vulnerable than he would like. He’s prickly and fiercely independent and has learned the hard way – his dad died when he was twelve and his mum doesn’t give a shit – that the only person he can really depend on is himself. Nobody has ever got under his skin the way Logan has, but Remy doesn’t want or need to be rescued. He has to find a way to learn to accept help, and Logan has to work out how to temper his strong protective instinct and understand Remy’s need to look after himself.
The romance is bursting at the seams with heartfelt emotion, and the thing I liked best about it is the way these two look for ways to help and support each other in many different ways, from Remy fixing stuff around Logan’s place (a leaky tap or wonky gate) to Logan casually offering a hot meal and the warmth of home and family that Remy has never really had. I liked the fact that they’re not into playing games or manufacturing drama; Logan isn’t great at using his words, and that sometimes feeds into Remy’s insecurities, but their communication improves as they get to know and understand each other and to work out what they want from whatever is happening between them.
For a book with “Christmas” in the title, Christmas on Firefly Hill isn’t overtly Christmassy, but I didn’t mind that. The message that comes through in the story is that warmth and family and love are the important things and trees and decorations are just shiny extras that, while they might be nice, are not as important.
There’s not a lot of conflict here, and what there is is dealt with in a mature way; just two guys figuring out how to make a life together who sometimes mis-step but work it out eventually. The two boys are extremely well written with very different and believable personalities, and while Bec can come across as a bit cold and self-centred at times, she’s likeable at others and obviously loves her boys.
I do have some niggles though. I’m not a fan of insta-love/lust, and I sometimes found the language used to describe the emotions rather overblown. Plus, I really didn’t like Remy’s choice of nickname for Logan – “Papa”. It’s not daddy/boy kink, he uses the name in regular conversation and it made me cringe every time.
In the end, Christmas on Firefly Hill falls into that middle-ground category of ‘didn’t love it, didn’t hate it’ books, ones I enjoyed but will probably have forgotten about in a week or so. Still, if you’re in the market for something to bring the warm fuzzies on a cold winter’s afternoon, it might just fit the bill.