Author: Amy Lane
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
From the Publisher:
Sometimes the best thing you can get for Christmas is knowing what you really want.
Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them—just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity—Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not—but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.
But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.
Rusty is in a predicament. Well, a few predicaments, actually. He is straight and is attracted to his gay best friend, Oliver. He is struggling to make decent grades at UC Berkeley and not having much success. He has a roommate in sexual overdrive. Heap upon this overloaded emotional plate parents who cannot accept his possible feelings for Oliver and kick him out of the house – at Thanksgiving!
One of Amy Lane’s strengths as an author is her ability to write characters that the reader simply wants to take home and nurture. I found myself wishing that I could drive up to Berkeley, put Rusty in the car, and bring him to my table for a home cooked meal and some loving parental support. His low self-esteem tugs at the reader’s heartstrings and creates a strong desire to see him grow and succeed.
As the story progressed, I was pleased to see Rusty make some tough decisions and find his strengths, taking his future into his own hands with Oliver’s help and that of Oliver’s large, nosy family. Amy Lane shows us a familial love that knows no boundaries in a manner that is completely believable and relatable, a striking contrast to Rusty’s parents. Oliver’s father was particularly likable, with a gentle, simple wisdom that helped soothe internal conflict. I also liked how the character of Rusty’s sister remained a positive, supportive female influence, helping to keep Rusty connected to his own family while his parents rejected him. However, it was Rex, Rusty’s roommate, who I felt brought color, humor, and exuberance
Only a few minor elements within the story gave me pause. First, the dialogue with Oliver’s family tended to be a bit too long and detailed, and I felt it bogged the scenes down somewhat. I would have liked a little less of the actual discussion and more of how the characters made Rusty feel. Additionally, I grew a frustrated with Rusty’s constant concern that he wasn’t good enough and couldn’t provide enough for Oliver. That is certainly reflective of one with low self-esteem, but the fact that he fixated on it through so much of the story dragged that particular conflict out a bit too long for me.
Ultimately, Christmas Kitsch is a sweet, romantic tale not only of friends who become lovers, but also of a young man who accepts who he is and takes charge of his own destiny. As in other books I have read by Amy Lane, she writes characters that push my empathy buttons and peppers this story with beautiful lines that fill my heart. Though it may have a Christmas theme, this is truly a love story that can be enjoyed year round.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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