“I love Christmas. A time to slow down and enjoy life and be with my family and friends. In busy years, it keeps me sane. In bad years, it makes me feel whole again.”– Mary Jo Putney
You can’t go wrong with Amy Lane. No matter what the season or reason, she seems to always get it right, in my humble opinion. Most Christmas stories are short stories or maybe novella length. Amy Lane had the guts and talent to write a full-length novel out of her Christmas story. And it is excellent.
Russell (Rusty) Baker is a poor little rich boy. Blonde and beautiful, he is a star football player in high school and seems to have it all. He has an air of entitlement and is oblivious to anything that isn’t in his immediate surroundings. Until Oliver Campbell comes to class. Oliver is out and proud. He is the opposite of everything Rusty is. Oliver is smart, confident and knows what he wants.
Rusty strikes up a friendship with Oliver, which he believes is a pity relationship. But Oliver proves himself to be essential to Rusty getting the grades and test scores his parents insist on for him to go to the college they have chosen for him and to have the future that they have planned for him. When Oliver kisses Rusty goodbye when he is leaving for college, the feelings that are awakened in Rusty won’t go away. They make him wonder about everything he has ever believed about himself and his future.
Oliver has known all along that he and Rusty belong together. During his first semester at Berkeley, Rusty realizes that he can’t cut it. He isn’t the student his parents think he is and he misses Oliver so much he aches for him. The only good thing to happen is that he forms a deep friendship with his roommate, Rex.
When Rusty comes home for Thanksgiving, all hell breaks loose and he finds himself homeless the day before the holiday. While Oliver’s family may not have much in the way of material things, they have one important thing Rusty’s has always lacked; love. Rusty finds himself taken in and helped in ways he never imagined family would help a relative, let alone a relative stranger.
What follows is a story of Christmas spirit. The spirit of unconditional love and acceptance and family bonds that can’t be broken, regardless of the circumstances. The title Christmas Kitsch is great. The meaning is clear and sweet when you read the book. The characters were good guys. Proud and strong in their love for each other. Rusty’s pride pissed me off a few times, but he’s a guy; you have to expect the pride to be an issue. The supporting cast was wonderful. I can’t tell you how much I loved Rex. Rusty’s sister was a source of strength and found herself welcomed into the Campbell clan along with Rusty. Oliver’s family is large and defies description, other than loving and supportive.
I loved this book. In my mind, it is Amy Lane Lite. There was minimal angst. Ms. Lane proudly bears the tag line: Angst & Pain, Amy Lane. But the angst level here was low; it wasn’t the kind usually produced by Ms. Lane, which requires a jumbo box of tissues. This was sweet and innocent first love which Rusty’s family tried to turn into something dirty and shameful. Rusty and Oliver, with a huge helping hand from Oliver’s family, overcame all the obstacles put in place when Rusty’s parents kicked him out. Ms. Lane showed us what love is capable of. All kinds of love, not just romantic love. It is a reminder of what the Christmas season is all about; love, family and being together.