I Heard Him Exclaim, by ZA Maxfield

>> Sunday, February 27, 2011

TITLE: I Heard Him Exclaim
AUTHOR: ZA Maxfield

PAGES: 150
PUBLISHER: Carina Press

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: M/M romance novella

REASON FOR READING: Part of the His For The Holidays anthology. The short stories are also sold separately, and I got only this one so far, although I might go back and get some of the others, which also sound good.

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.
No summary from me, as I don't think I could do a better job than whoever it was from Carina Press who wrote the above.

I read I Heard Him Exclaim a bit after Christmas, and it was just the right book to keep the Christmas high going. Yes, it's very sweet, and yes, there's not that much going on, but it still worked perfectly for me. It's sweet but it's not saccharine. I'd say it's more heartwarming than anything else, about people being nice to each other not because they feel an obligation to do so, but because they want to. I find that very in keeping with the spirit of Christmas. Maybe it's unrealistic, but who cares, I loved it. And the slight plot didn't bother me, either. The story is short, so I never got bored and actually read it in one sitting.

It's interesting that this was such a feel-good book, because the premise is actually quite sad. Chandler is not in a good place when he and Steve meet, and no wonder. He's still mourning his brother and sister-in-law, and at the same time, panicking because he just knows he can't do this thing of caring for a little girl. The best thing about the story is that although Steve kind of takes over at one point and gives Chandler a much needed break, when the time came to make the long-term decisions, I didn't feel Chandler got pushed into anything. Rather, I felt that what happened was that Steve made him see that he actually was capable of doing this, and that he could have some help if he wanted it. That makes all the difference.

I also loved the character of Steve and really felt his depression about not being Santa anymore. One of my favourite scenes was when Chandler tells him about something Poppy said that shows him that he hasn't lost his Santa-ness at all. I went all "awwww" inside ;-)



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