Title: ‘Tis the Season
Author: Alex Jane
Narrator: Michael Fell
Run Time: 2 hours and 57 minutes
Category: Contemporary, Holiday
At a Glance: I really enjoyed this narrator and felt he took a bit of a lackluster story and gave it the heart that the author intended for it to have.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Aaron has spent the past 10 months alone. When he meets a sad, yet strangely familiar man on a cold Halloween night, he impulsively invites him home. But the intimate connection they share lasts only until morning. Aaron wakes up alone – wracked with guilt and devastated to have lost his chance. Or so he thinks.
Thanksgiving brings Aaron another shot at happiness, but letting go of an old love and accepting a new one isn’t as easy as everyone keeps telling him. And by the time Christmas Eve rolls around, it becomes clear that Aaron’s not the only one struggling to let himself love again.
Christmas miracles are all well and good, but it’s going to take more than the Holiday Spirit for Aaron to get his happy ever after.
A story of grief, sadness, and letting it go; and finding love when you least expect it.
Review: The Story: Let me begin by getting some possible triggering plot points addressed so that readers are not caught unawares. Though subtle, there is allusion to abuse, both emotional and physical, and the distinct idea that a suicide attempt was foiled in the first few pages of this novel. While none of these things were explicit, exactly, for those who have lived through these traumas, it may indeed be more apparent than to me. Having said that, I will also assure the reader that none of these areas are ever really explored beyond a surface mention, and, quite frankly, that is one of the problems I had with this novella. I really did like both Aaron and Dylan, and that made it all the more frustrating that their story felt so shallow and rushed. But let’s begin with a synopsis and move on to the audio review, which I felt was very strong despite the weak story line.
Aaron had lost his husband eight months ago, and is just now managing to crawl out from the depression and loneliness he was buried under. While he has cut himself off from many of his friends, he is no longer drinking his days away and is working full time again while learning to cope with the memories that still cause him such pain. When he happens upon a stranger perched on the wrong side of the bridge, Aaron reaches out to the man and convinces him to climb back to safety with the promise of a cup of coffee and some conversation. The two have an instant attraction to each other—something which surprises Aaron who had, to this point, never thought he would feel interest in someone again.
Dylan has just been dumped by his abusive boyfriend of two years, and goes to the bridge unsure of whether he will jump or not. When he meets his own modern day “Clarence”, he lets himself be talked off the ledge and into the man’s home. One thing leads to another, and both men begin a slow paced journey together, exploring their attraction and allowing for each other to take the time to adjust to the idea of falling in love again.
This story had all the good bones of one that could have been an incredible tale of healing and love. Both Aaron and Dylan were at a crossroads in their lives—both mourning a lost love, both needing someone to care for them and both afraid to take that next step in opening up their hearts to the possibility of being hurt again. The moments when they were together were brilliant and beautiful. Their feelings for each other felt genuine, and, despite the sudden onslaught, the pacing of their developing relationship was actually quite good.
Unfortunately, it was the lack of history, of a backstory on either man, that really hurt this novella. We catch glimpses of what Aaron’s husband was like, and while Aaron viewed him with rose-colored glasses, there was a hint that the guy wasn’t always that nice, and a definite flirt to boot. Many times I got the inkling that Aaron molded himself around his late husband’s desires, and sublimated his own. But, without more background information, I couldn’t be sure if I was on target or reading too much into the stray comments and memories Aaron offered.
It was much the same deal with Dylan. There were absolute clues that his ex was a real bastard, but just as quickly as he was mentioned, Dylan would shut down and refuse to speak of him. So, you see, it was rather implausible that these two guys took nearly a year to date and get to know one another, but we never got filled in on their past lives or what led them both to be as closed off as they were, especially Dylan.
‘Tis The Season by Alex Jane was a nice Christmas story that fell short of being a really good novella due to a true lack of development of many of it’s major plot points. It left me a bit confused and less than satisfied in the end.
The Audio: In many ways, Michael Fell rescues this story by his matter of fact delivery. He has such ease when it comes to narration. I would go as far as to say that he is a natural born storyteller. His pacing, his variety of intonation and voicing, and his simple yet interesting delivery made this story very enjoyable. I felt that he gave these somewhat shallow characters a lot more depth by infusing them with some much needed humor and pathos. When needed, he gave just the right infusion of hesitancy to Aaron, at times, a sense of sheer horror over just having stuck his foot in his mouth, and then followed that up immediately with this gentle and reassuring tone by Dylan. Through his masterful handling of the text, we got more of a sense of who Dylan was and how much he really liked Aaron, and it was all done with just the right pitch of voice and pausing for emphasis.
I really enjoyed this narrator and felt he took a bit of a lackluster story and gave it the heart that the author intended for it to have. I will definitely look for work by Michael Fell in the future. I think he is one to listen for in the fast growing audio world of m/m fiction.
You can buy ‘Tis the Season here: