Author: Liam Livings
Publisher: JMS Books
Cover Artist: Written Ink Designs
Rating: 4.0 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 05/28/2016
Length: Novella (~ 15K-50K)
Genre: Gay Fiction
Christmas Serendipity: In a snowy small town in England just before the festive season, refugees of bad luck Christian and David find themselves thrown together at a friend’s non-family Christmas. Both men realize this may be just what they need, when they need it.
Serendipity Develops: David and Christian met a few weeks ago, and were thrown together last Christmas through a mixture of luck and fate. They felt an instant spark for one another, but now neither want to rush into bed until they’re ready. David thinks he is, but Christian’s emotions are all over the place. A stay in hospital makes David wonder if their relationship too much for him to cope with.
The Next Christmas: In a snowy small town in England, just before Christmas, garage mechanic David and office worker Christian are preparing to spend the festive period with Christian’s parents. The parents who told Christian last year he wasn’t welcome to their family festive celebrations since he told them he was gay. The parents welcome show the men to separate bedrooms. Will their love overcome prejudice?
Although I read these charming Christmas novellas in the order in which they were published, they clearly ought to be read in the order I list their titles above (Christmas Serendipity, Serendipity Develops, The Next Christmas). And do buy all three and read them at one go. I’ll try not to think about why Liam published them in the order he did, but I’m sure there was a good reason.
This is the very sweet, non-epic saga of David and Christian; two young middle-class Brits, one butcher, one fey-er, one rather more blue-collar and one very white-collar. None of that is made too much of here, but it is clearly part of the dynamic. David and Christian meet one Christmas when each of them is at a low-point emotionally, through the intervention of David’s best mate Tony and Tony’s housemate Cathy, who works with Christian.
Got all that? Well that’s as complicated as it gets. What is true in this winsome series is the same thing that holds for all of Liam’s work so far: a sort of true-to-life reality that feels intimate and authentic. Livings is not a hugely stylish writer, but his style is distinctive and gently visceral in its sense of being written by a real person about real life situations.
In “Christmas Serendipity” David meets Christian, and they begin to fall for each other, but in a rebound-y sort of way; so in “Serendipity Develops” they try to control how they feel so that they can see how their relationship might really evolve into something solid and real; and in “The Next Christmas” we see the quiet, not-entirely-inevitable happy ending that is the result of patience, compromise and true love.
I keep thinking of Jane Austen. Not sure why, but it persists.
David and Christian’s personalities are deeply fleshed out, and we really get a chance to understand how their minds work. Strangely, for me, we never learn anything significant about David’s family or back story, which was the one significant flaw here. We get great detail about Christian’s life “before” and his family – indeed that’s sort of a driving motif in the triad of novellas. But I very much wanted to know more about why David is who he is and was disappointed to have that aspect of his character left resolutely blank.
The two major secondary characters for David’s half of the story are Tony and Cathy. Tony is a brilliant, flamboyant archetype of the proud, fey gay man, purposefully tweaking the bourgeoisie with his pastel cigarettes and unfiltered (but calculated) conversational gambits. Cathy is less vividly developed, but she is a nurturing presence, a strong pro-gay force who has her life in order and thus can be supportive and caring for her friends who need her.
Christian’s two secondary characters are his parents, Gloria and Peter. They are handled in a slightly too stereotypical way for my taste. Since they’re probably YOUNGER than I am, I think they suffer from that youthful myopia (Livings’ perspective) that paints all straight adults with a similar brush. I kept thinking of Penelope Keith and those great britcoms that we all watched avidly in the USA in the 1980s, assuming that they were windows into British middle-class life. Maybe they were. On the other hand, Gloria’s personality becomes richer and better developed than Peter’s, giving us insights into the truth that uptight parents were once young and in love, too. I guess I must forgive, because of course the whole book is purely from David’s point of view, and thus he’s going to see Christian’s parents through his own eyes, and only his own eyes.
I am a Liam Livings fan, although I wait in fearful anticipation of the book he writes that I won’t like. So far, his stories touch me and make me feel as if I understand human emotions better after having read them. Let’s hope he can carry on.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
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