Title: Christmas Cookies
Author: CL Mustafic
Publisher: NineStar Press
Length: 159 Pages
Category: Holiday, Contemporary
At a Glance: I loved Christmas Cookies so much in the beginning, and was sad that it didn’t hold up all the way through. So, what didn’t work? Well, it pretty much boils down to the fact that I couldn’t stand Amos.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: After losing his husband, David, to a tragic accident the previous year, Russ doesn’t feel much like celebrating the upcoming holidays. When his daughter unexpectedly asks for one of David’s cookie recipes, Russ makes a decision that lands him in a baking class. After a few mishaps with an inept partner, Russ is ready to give up, but then the teacher, Amos, offers private lessons to help him recreate David’s smorgasbord of holiday treats. Somewhere along the way, Russ develops an attraction to the younger man, but is he ready to move on and let Amos in?
Review: This was such a strange reading experience. If I had to rate the first third of the book, I would have given it at least 4 stars. I was completely charmed by it in the beginning; I was loving it. But, things started to get a little shaky in the middle, and then totally fell apart for me by the end. I actually considered quitting the book at ninety-four percent. Ninety-four percent!! Torn between my utter apathy at whether the two guys were going to work things out or not, and strongly hoping that they did not end up together. I’ve had experiences where a book started out strong but had a weak finish, or sort of jumped the shark. We all have. But this was like a total Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation. The book I started had the beginnings of a great holiday story, but the book I finished had me wondering what the hell happened.
What worked…First, I was drawn in by the premise. Russ was still very much grieving over the loss of his husband eighteen months ago, and he and his kids obviously still miss him so much. The initial flashback scenes with Russ and David were so heartwarming, and vividly showed the love they had for each other. When Russ’s daughter asked Russ for David’s cookie recipe, and Russ was too upset to even open David’s recipe box, it tugged at my heart big time. I also appreciated the family dynamics in the story. I loved Russ’s relationship with his ex-wife. They were clearly still great friends, and so fond of each other. And, he had a good relationship with his teenage kids as well.
Also, I adore second chance love stories. I felt a connection to Russ, and was all about rooting for him. I wanted him to find happiness and once again be able to enjoy the holidays that David had been such a huge part of making so special, without only feeling sadness and loss, and without feeling guilty for moving on. And, finally, the story had excellent bi rep. Russ was bisexual, and there were several scenes in the book where he openly discussed his bisexuality and some of the common unfair misconceptions and problems with erasure. I was so pleased with how well the author represented Russ’s sexuality.
So, what didn’t work? Well, it pretty much boils down to the fact that I couldn’t stand Amos. When we first meet him—it’s sort of a meet-cute, with Amos as the instructor in a baking class Russ signs up for—I thought ‘Awww…this is gonna be good!’ But, Amos is so OTT, and, in my opinion, just such a massive brat that I couldn’t get on board with him at all. Nor could I see Russ, who seemed so nice and level-headed, working so hard chasing after a guy he barely knew and who treated him like shit. Every misunderstanding they had stemmed from Amos overreacting and then refusing to even listen to Russ. They got so ridiculous with their communication that I honestly didn’t care if they got together or not. On top of which I didn’t feel like they had any chemistry at all.
I don’t want to start nitpicking, so I’m going to quickly wrap up. I’m simply feeling bitter because I loved Christmas Cookies so much in the beginning, and was sad that it didn’t hold up all the way through. Maybe others won’t find Amos as exasperating as I did, and can enjoy it a bit more.
You can buy Christmas Cookies here: