(Part of His For The Holidays Anthology)
Who Likes a Skinny Santa?
Steve Adams’s heart hasn’t been in the Christmas spirit ever since doctors put a stent in it and ordered him to clean up his act. No longer filling out his Santa suit or allowed to make merry, he’s forgoing the holidays this year and heading to Vegas to indulge in the few vices left to him: gambling and anonymous sex.
His road trip takes a detour when he encounters Chandler Tracey, who’s just inherited guardianship of his five-year-old niece. Overwhelmed, Chandler’s on his way to deliver Poppy to his parents. But fate has other plans and, after car trouble, Chandler and Poppy accept a ride home with Steve. Though the heat between the two men is obvious, they put it on simmer while they band together to make Poppy’s Christmas as perfect as possible.
Steve soon comes to believe that while Chandler is the right person to look after Poppy, someone needs to look after Chandler. Fortunately, Steve knows just the man for the job.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I Heard Him Exclaim is ZA Maxfield’s contribution to His for the Holidays anthology. This is a very sweet, very festive story about a Christmas challenged Santa that meets a new dad for the holidays. There are numerous analogies drawn in the story that I didn’t quite follow. I could see the comparison and the story is very blatant and obvious but didn’t really agree. Nonetheless the story is romantic and sweet and will definitely appeal to those Christmas fans that enjoy over the top, outrageous details.
Chandler Tracey is dealing with being a new parent at the holidays. His brother and sister in law were recently killed, leaving Chandler as the guardian of his five year old niece. Overwhelmed and scared Chandler is heading to his parents’ house for the holidays. Car trouble puts him on a path to meet Steve, a recently trimmed down Santa that has lost the holiday spirit. Perhaps helping Chandler is just what Steve needs to put him in the Christmas way and Steve may be the boost of confidence Chandler desperately needs.
The story is charming but it’s a little long and a little too perfect. The set up requires some coincidences that aren’t the most realistic and depends on the readers going with it anyway. Steve is supposed to be Santa with his cherry red classic sports car and a love of all things jolly. Since heart surgery, he’s slimmed down and apparently not being overweight has made him a depressed Santa at Christmastime. This is a bit of a stretch since the story tries hard to portray Steve as Santa. He’s not really, he just dresses up as one and delivers presents. Since the story spends so much time trying to force Steve in the role as Santa, there is a lot of wasted character development.
He’s comes across as too good to be true and at the same time, kind of shallow. He immediately takes Chandler and his niece into his home and family and no one blinks at all. This is kind of strange and the two immediately connect and start talking like they’ve been together forever. Chandler comes across as way too neurotic and insecure, to the point that he’s sometimes annoying and over the top. The two men feel more like caricatures than actual genuine, honest men. Their dialogue feels forced and a little too romantic. The entire story feels like it’s trying too hard. Steve’s family is totally over the top and while there is a lot of inherent humor in the set up, it again feels too forced and manipulated to be really entertaining.
Overall this is a decent story but it never quite delivered that romantic satisfaction that I know to expect from Maxfield. She can write some fantastic characters with great tension but a lot of that missing from this offering and it’s not one I particularly enjoyed. It’s not bad and definitely offers some of the more overt holiday setting and the story is light, easy, and warm.