Secret Santa – Jay Northcote
Keeping secrets is never a good way to start a relationship…
Theo hardly has time to date. Between work and caring for his four-year-old son there aren’t many hours left over. He’s lonely though, so he joins a hook-up app and starts chatting to a guy called Luke. Luke seems friendly and they arrange to meet. Theo doesn’t mention that he has a child. It’s early days and he’s worried about putting Luke off before they get to know each other.
Luke is currently working as Santa at the local shopping mall. He figures Theo never has to know. Christmas will be over soon and Luke will move on to a new, less embarrassing job. He’s surprised when Theo and a little boy visit Santa one afternoon. Theo doesn’t recognise Luke, and Luke realises he’s not the only one with a secret.
Despite misgivings on both sides, they start dating, and the chemistry is amazing. But as Christmas approaches their secrets pile up like colourful packages under the tree. If they’re not careful, they’ll lose the best gift of all—each other.
Secret Santa reminded me of the things I hate about dating. Namely, the awkward getting to know you questions, the contrived atmosphere and most of all, the false advertisements. My approach is to exchange a list of worst attributes right off the bat, see if the other person can or can’t live with those and take it from there. That way, nobody wastes time on false hopes. Obviously, this is not how normal human interactions happen. Which is why my dealings with other people are usually stilted and awkward.
Anyway, Luke and Theo went with the more conventional approach, that is, good ole Grindr.
Luke is currently temping as the Santa for M&S since he is in between jobs. He’s kind of grumpy but has a nice sense of humor. He’s fed up with hookups. He only started chatting with Theo because he’s cute and doesn’t seem the like typical horny douche he usually sees on Grindr. They hit it off remarkably well on that first chat. And they continue to hit it off through out the whole story.
Theo is geeky and sweet. He works at the Apple store as a technician. He’s a wonderful dad. He co-parents with his friend (sorry forget her name), who is the mother of his son, Archie. He’s completely devoted to Archie but having a kid in the equation puts off a lot of guys he tried to date. So when he found Luke, who he really liked, he kept that teeny tiny fact a secret.
Normally I don’t pay attention to children characters but Archie is great. He felt like a real kid. He’s only 4 years old and quite well-spoken but not in an overly mature, smarter than the adults way that is so often the case in fiction. He loves dinosaurs and Luke’s Santa presents.
I didn’t enjoy Luke’s and Theo’s avoidances, omissions and blatant lies. Hell, Luke even gave Theo major openings to fess up multiple times but nooo, the man stuck to his story. I’m also dinging Luke for not telling Theo he knew about Archie. Seriously, they could have just talked!
However, the blurb was definitely not lying about their chemistry. It was indeed amazing! This really shone through everything and I enjoyed it so much that I kept reading. It was like, the way I felt about the book mirrored the way these two characters felt about each other and their situation. Yes, there were niggles but I knew deep down, Luke and Theo were worth sticking around for.
Patience paid off big time because when everything came out in the open, the story became more rewarding. Luke and Theo’s relationship felt fresher and stronger now that they were 100% honest with each other. I loved how Archie effortlessly included Luke in their little family. And Luke won major points for coming up with a brilliant idea to have Santa visit their house.
This novella is narrated by Hamish Long. I haven’t listened to a lot of his audiobooks but now that has to change because I really liked his Theo voice. My favorite part was his portrayal of Archie because he really sounded like an articulate small child. Luke sounded good too. Overall, his narration was another factor that made the book more fun. His style is a great match to Jay Northcote‘s writing. If I remember correctly, he was also the one who performed Harper Fox‘s Brothers of the Wild North Sea and he did exceptionally well there too.
Even with the major lack of communication, Secret Santa is a warm, cozy, low-angst and very sweet story. It’s full of holiday cheers and feel-good vibes. It’s short but felt complete. All in all, it’s 3 hours 44 minutes well spent and a good book to keep you company while waiting for Santa.
Thank you to Signal Boost Promotions and Audible for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love
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