The Christmas Angel: Christmas Homecoming by L.A. Witt
August 1939. Roger Miller and Jack O’Brien have been close since childhood. By the time they realize there’s more between them than friendship, Jack is leaving their sleepy Iowa town for college. But they console themselves knowing he’ll be home for Christmas. Right?
It is Christmas before they see each other again, but that Christmas comes six years and a world war later. Aged, beaten, and shaken by combat, they’re not the boys they were back then, but their feelings for each other are stronger than ever.
Neither know the words to say everything they’ve carried since that peacetime summer kiss, though. Even as they stand in the same room, there’s a thousand miles between them.
But maybe that’s some distance the little angel in Roger’s rucksack can cross.
The Christmas Angel series books are standalones and can be read in any order.
I love historical MM stories set during the wartime periods. They are especially poignant and bittersweet usually ending with me blinking back tears.
Christmas Homecoming is part of The Christmas Angel series, where a carved wooden angel worked its magic to bring people together throughout the years. This novella is the only one in the series I’ve read so far.
The story starts in 1939 when Germany was about to invade Poland. Roger and Jack were two childhood friends. Jack was about to leave town for the city. Roger was doesn’t know what to do with his life yet but he is sure that he doesn’t want to be a farmer and marry a girl.
On the day before Jack was about to leave, the two friends decided to take a swim together for the last time. That was when they realized the feelings between the two of them evolved into something else. They shared a kiss. They didn’t see each other again for 6 years.
This is a beautiful love story between two men at a time when such love was not yet accepted. It is full of yearnings and sweet stolen moments made more precious because it’s taboo. I wanted to hug them and give them their safe space.
The war tore the two men apart. L.A. Witt deftly inserted details that portrayed the life of soldiers at war-time and after. It made what would otherwise be a sweet but simplistic fairytale more complex and nuanced. The survivors had to deal with PTSD. Roger and Jack were not spared. They each carry with them complicated memories of bombs and the men who kept them company in the lonely nights. My heart went out to Oskar, the spy and Floyd, the pilot. The story did a good job drawing me to these two secondary characters who existed only in memories. I wanted their stories too.
Admittedly, the middle part did drag a bit but as the story slowly eased its way to the resolution I found myself enjoying it even more. I liked how the author gave Roger a way out of the prescribed path his parents laid out for him. I liked how they found a way to be together. I even found myself interested in the two old codgers who inspired the boys that it’s possible.
Christmas Homecoming is a touching holiday story I recommend. For a book its length, it’s filled with many interesting characters and intense emotions. It captured the small-town atmosphere, the post-war melancholy and the fervent longings of forbidden lovers. It didn’t make me cry but it did warm my heart.
L.A. Witt books here
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits