Author: Liam Livings
Publisher: Self Published
Cover Artist: Meredith Russell
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Publication Date: 12/12/2016
Length: Novella (~ 15K-50K)
Genre: Gay Romance, Winter Holiday
A house exchange between two single men leads to a romantic new life for both of them.
Oliver and Kyle live thousands of miles apart, but each needs a break from his current life and love. Enter the Cloud B&B website, a wonderful new way to exchange homes for the holiday. They both muster their courage, and decide to visit another continent for Christmas.
In the UK, Oliver has been pining after his neighbour for far too long, living his comfortable but quiet life in a town in the New Forest. When his crush moves on in the worst possible way, Oliver is seduced by the chance to stay in fun-loving, sunny Miami.
In Miami, Kyle is a club owning workaholic, who suddenly discovers the man he lives with has been unfaithful. Yet again. As consolation, Kyle is tempted to see first hand the picturebook charm of the New Forest in winter.
Both of them find not just a new setting but a new romance. Oliver makes a big effort to shed his inhibitions and meets a musician, Mark, who plays in the Florida bars, and who may be just as cautious and polite as Oliver in making the first move.
And while Kyle’s trying to come to terms with England’s very different culture—and food!—he’s charmed by Oliver’s best friend Edward, who’s bold and sexy, but secretive.
Will Oliver take the leap of faith and encourage a lover who can and will give the commitment he deserves? And will Kyle find a man who can be loyal and also offer Kyle the family life he needs?
But perhaps more importantly—when Christmas is over, can a new life survive?
One of the best things about being tapped into the LGBTQ writing community is that we get to enjoy holiday specials, just like on TV! I always set aside my Kindle backlog to read Christmas (and Solstice) stories and novellas. The holidays are fraught with all sorts of emotional complications, and it’s lovely to have reading material (other than Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”) to remind us that we’re all in a similar boat at this time of year.
Liam Livings is a young author whose books I watch for. He has a distinctive voice, and I like that. He writes about the world he knows, and that gives his readers insight into something vividly real. “A New Life for Christmas” takes two young men, one in Miami Beach, one in Lyndhurst, England, and through the miracle of the internet, allows them to trade homes for a Christmas holiday.
Kyle is co-owner of a successful South Beach gay bar and nightclub. He is suffering the aftereffects of an ugly break-up and pondering his inability to form relationships. Oliver, nestled into his prosperous antiques shop on the high street of his small country town, has just been hugely embarrassed by the sudden heterosexual marriage of his friend and neighbor, about whom he had harbored romantic fantasies for years. Both men are looking for something completely different.
The complications begin when Oliver meets Mark, a pianist who has played in Kyle’s club; and Kyle meets Oliver’s best friend Edward. Kyle and Oliver are very different people, but both of them are stuck, hiding behind the familiar in order to avoid emotional pain. What Livings lays out for us (and for the gay readers, it will all feel very familiar, since we’ve all been through it) is no less than the immemorial conflict between life and love; the need for romance battling the practical realities of getting on and keeping one’s routine in order.
What I rather loved about this novella is that the solution is ultimately unveils isn’t remotely tidy or pat. It is romantic, but it is messy and fraught with risk and hinges on Kyle and Oliver’s willingness to trust someone else when their trust has been badly shaken before.
I confess I got rather weepy several times in the story – which is totally appropriate because weeping is a topic that comes up in significant ways in Livings’ narrative. The point is, even after 41 years (as of this New Year’s Eve) and two children, I still remember the emotional traumas of my 20s. I remember the risk of commitment, and the uncertainty of attaching my star to another man’s life. From my current perspective, it all seems fated; but from Kyle, Oliver, Mark and Edward’s viewpoints, not so much.
I love reading about gay vampires and werewolves; I love fantasies with LGBTQ characters and action-packed adventures in which queer people become heroes. But I also love to read about the kind of reality that most fiction in the world today ignores. Liam Livings has a gift for this kind of reality, and I hope he continues writing it for those among us who cherish it.
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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