Texas: Home for Christmas – R.J. Scott
Can Connor show River a real family Christmas?
When Connor finds River on the roof of the campus admin building, he doesn’t know what to do. His friend is drunk, and shouting into a snowstorm, a bottle of vodka in his hand. The easy part is getting River down; the hard part is insisting River comes home with Connor for Christmas.
River doesn’t have a family, or any place outside of college that he calls home. Not that it matters to him; he’s happy being alone for Christmas in his budget motel, watching reruns of Elf. Only, Connor keeps telling wildly improbable stories of the perfect family celebrations at his parents’ ranch in Texas, and it’s wearing River down. He didn’t ask to be kidnapped. He didn’t want to fall in love with the entire Campbell-Hayes family. But he does.
From one Christmas to the next. This is Connor’s year to rescue River, and himself, for them both to mess things up, make things right, fall in lust and finally, for Connor to show the man he loves what being part of a family can mean.
Home for Christmas is Connor and River’s story of friendship-turned-love. The two young men couldn’t be more different. Connor came from money. He had a sunny disposition, a glass half-full kind of person, a do-gooder who loves to fix things. River is a talented gymnast and diver. He had bounced from foster home to foster home and struggles with his black moods, his epilepsy and anxieties. He doesn’t want to be ‘fixed’.
The story showed Connor and River spending the holidays at the ranch and how their feelings for each evolved. It started with Connor finding River on the roof, drunk and attempting to balance on his hands. Afraid that of what River might do to himself, Connor very persistently did not leave him alone and all but forced him to come with him to his family ranch for Christmas. Right off the bat, Connor’s tendency to help and fix things were obvious. Said tendencies also misfired at the latter point, a mistake that almost cost him River.
River’s conflict and loneliness tugged at the heart. He was envious of a perfect family, wished he was part of it and also did not want the Campbell-Hayes to see his ugly side. The book tackled, among many things, mental issues like fear of abandonment. I liked how it was handled. There were no miracle cures. Instead, there were people, like Connor, who were willing to be a constant in River’s life.
We meet different members of the sprawling Campbell-Hayes family, starting with Jack and Riley all the way to the aunts and cousins and by extension, the Legacy family. As a person who don’t do the holiday socializing thing, I sympathized with River and Jack, Connor’s Pappa. I liked that the author understood that anxious feeling of being in a crowd and gave the introverts their own quiet moments.
This is my first Texas book and my first time meeting the Campbell-Hayes family. Like River, I was both overwhelmed and delighted by this warm, loving, larger-than-life family. Now I have to read book one just to see how everything started. Even though I started at book 9, it can be read as a standalone. There were enough backgrounders via improbable family stories to help you sort through the dynamics of the clan.
I am a bit torn with the narration. Sean Crisden did a stellar job portraying the different characters and all the emotions really came through, especially River’s and Connor’s. However, I found his reading a little too fast. There were some moments where I thought a slightly longer pause would have been needed. I almost missed some parts where the characters did something because the sentences ran together. Slowing down the audiobook to 0.5X made it sound weird. I’m not sure if the reading speed is how Crisden typically narrates. I have listened to two of his audiobooks by Megan Derr and Riley Hart and I enjoyed how he read them.
Still, Home for Christmas is a great holiday novella. It’s full of love and family with characters you couldn’t help but be drawn to. It’s a well-done hurt/comfort story with just the right balance of angst and sweetness. Recommended if you are in the mood for a Christmas story about opening your heart to love, hope and future possibilities.
Thank you to Signal Boost Promotions and Audible for providing a copy of the audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
3.5 Stars – that place between like and love