Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
This is the last Christmas book I am reviewing this season, and I’m going to treat it a little bit like a hallmark movie. At a different time of the year, I would probably be more cynical and take off a star, but this is the season of peace and goodwill, so if the characters act a bit schmaltzy I am just chalking that up to the spirit of the season!
Bowen Merlin is a classical musician who has left the NYC rat race to teach band in northern New Hampshire. He’s excited about the opportunity, and the chance to work with elementary and high school students. He knows he can’t expect much of a gay scene, but he’s pretty much sworn off trying to find a compatible boyfriend – after all, who would expect a tall, skinny redhead with a penchant for bow ties to be an alpha male?
Felix Hansen is a single father, and proprietor of the Snowy Ridge Apple Orchard and Christmas Tree Farm. He’s a big guy, but he’s shy and tender-hearted, easily hurt, and self-conscious of the extensive scars he carries from the fire that burned down his house and prompted his move to New Hampshire. He has also been out of the dating game for years, content to raise his teenage son Alan and support his community.
Bowen has sound-to-color synesthesia, which means that all sounds have specific colors for him, and affect how he feels about or reacts to people. His first exposure to Felix is hearing his voice, which is a rich amber, warm and affectionate, a color that Bowen has never experienced before and he is incredibly attracted to it. After an adorable meet-cute, the men start dating, and quickly find that they are perfect for each other. There are obstacles to overcome – like the fact that Alan is one of Bowen’s band students – but things look like they will be pretty rosy.
But since this is a Christmas Hallmark-type story, there has to be some conflict, and it comes in the guise of homophobia that might destroy both men. But the wonderful secondary characters – Bowen’s best friend Scarlet, accounting teacher Stephen, and of course Alan – jump in and save the day, with help from the entire town (except for the homophobic assholes who are basically tarred and feathered and run out of town). And they lived happily ever after.
Even though the plot was simple and the conflicts resolved way too easily to be anything like real life, I found both MCs to be wonderfully likeable and their romance inevitable. The dialogue is light-hearted, the pace is steady throughout, and the book is easy to read in one afternoon. I loved how the synesthesia was worked into the story. Although the book is from Bowen’s point of view, the colors he saw and the way he described this condition to others (which was exactly like Wikipedia, but that’s a good thing, right?) created a different kind of visualization of his emotions that was really intriguing.
Cover art by Reese Dante is perfect for the book. The models are just what I expected the characters to look like – minus scars – and the gold/amber lettering and music notes highlighted one of the main themes, which also ties in with the title. It’s a nice cover regardless, but after reading the book I really appreciated it!
ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: December 25th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press