Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
It’s Christmas, and Justin’s life is fraying at the edges. The family business he took over instead of going to art school is bleeding money, and his boyfriend of seven months cheated on him. Under these circumstances, family gatherings can be rough, but Justin believes he has everything under control. That is, until Elliot, his former best friend (and the first guy to ever break his heart) unexpectedly shows up at the holiday dinner party.
With both of them still nursing the wounds of the past, it might take a real Christmas miracle for Justin and Elliot to learn to appreciate the art of second chances.
Justin is the best of sons, to the detriment of himself sometimes. He has been trying his best to make his family’s hardware store a success but the arrival of a Big Box store (Tool Depot) just a little way from their store has hit the finances hard. He doesn’t want to spoil the holidays so he puts on his best faux happy face. Add into this his boyfriend Mark was caught “I literally walked in on you with your pants around your ankles and some guy’s mouth around your d**k” and, well, it’s a rough holiday season.
For the icing on the cake he walks into his parent’s holiday dinner to find Elliot, the boy who had been his best friend and the man who had broken his heart, is there on visit from California, where he runs a successful art gallery. He and Justin were supposed to go to art school together but when Justin’s father was diagnosed with cancer Justin stayed and Elliott left.
I was thoroughly in like with Justin but Elliott brought my rating down somewhat. I understand continuing to follow your dream even when your boyfriend can’t, but to cut him off completely? If nothing else, they had been best friends for years and Justin deserved better. “It was selfish of me, I know. I got everything I wanted, and I took it.” I get that, but “You never called or responded to any of my messages. You ignored me on social media…” He did that on purpose, “I thought it’d be easier that way…I figured at some point you’d give up.” Do you do that to a friend? Even if you want out of the romantic angle, do you just cut off your best friend who’s father is going through cancer treatment? When Elliott’s parents are killed in an accident and Justin tries to reach out, again, “The truth is, I was avoiding you.” I’m not sure how we are supposed to view Elliott but I’ll be honest – I thought Justin deserved to be treated better.
I very much appreciated they didn’t fall immediately into bed and the magic penis solved all problems. The ex-boyfriend showing up helped with that but Justin himself didn’t think it was the best idea and I agreed. Elliott’s ham-handed attempt at a second chance just made me want to shake him. “Mark’s betrayal had stung but this breach of trust cut so much deeper.” I am a fan of second chance stories and I was very glad Justin gets to have his HEA but I’m never going to be a fangirl of Elliott.
This is a new author for me and I enjoyed the writing very much. Characters were well fleshed out, even given the short length of the story (74 pages). The connection between the story and the title was perfection.
The cover by Natasha Snow, two men facing each other as background to a single vibrant iris, fits the story perfectly.
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Published November 4th 2019 by Nine Star Press