For years they have kept the Yuletide Gay Club going with like minded friends until this year grim providence decides to stick in his ugly snout. But just as everything starts to fall apart, the son of the owner turns up and the real fun begins.
Tired with awkward family Christmases, Trevor McTavish and his best friend have planned a getaway each year for twelve close gay friends to enjoy the festive season together in remote country locations around Britain. Far from the maddening crowds. Beautiful Stratham Lodge in Scotland, hugging the shores of Loch Arkaig, is set to be this year’s rental destination.
Except this year, one by one, friends have dropped out. Against their better judgement, they decide to bite the bullet and forge ahead with a much reduced, and somewhat contentious party, which includes Trevor’s formerly gay ex-husband and his new girlfriend.
On the second day, Trevor realises this year’s break is going to be a disaster. But then the son of the lodge owner, Rudy Mortimer, appears and saves the day.
Reader advisory: This book contains mention of homophobia, domestic abuse and sexual assault.
Trevor McTavish loved traditions.
Or, more to the point, new traditions built on old ones. After all, wasn’t that what most of them were, a blend of old and new, built layer upon layer over time? They provided a foundation, something people could rely on, even when everything else around them broke down, or changed unexpectedly, or disappeared entirely from their lives—which seemed to happen to him all too often of late.
Traditions ensured continuity, and even with the few hiccups this year had brought, Trevor loved the Christmas tradition he and Cheryl had created for their friends.
As the sullen driver of the prepaid cab steered in silence through the early morning streets of London, Trevor rested his head against the ice-cold window. Gentle vibrations from the hybrid engine massaged his skull. Already the sky had begun transitioning from purest black as the night shift packed up and daylight took over. Fully alert despite the early hour, he looked for homes with their Christmas lights still burning and gardens or roofs decorated with seasonal figures. A part of him instinctively knew he would get along with the person who had gone to all the effort to put them up, most likely done to make other people smile.
Nothing could shake Trevor’s upbeat mood as the cab turned into the familiar road where the Madison family lived. Since he’d packed last night, the sense of anticipation and excitement at the promise of a road trip with best friends had kept him pumped up and grinning like an inflatable snowman.
Six in the morning on that pre-dawn Friday in December, he climbed out of the overheated car and crunched down onto a pavement of overnight frost. After collecting his luggage from the boot, he pulled out a five-pound note from his wallet and tapped a fingernail on the driver’s window. With a smile, he held up the banknote, ready to wish the man a heartfelt season’s greetings. After all, if the poor guy had to drive a cab at this early hour, he obviously needed the money.
Without even bothering to acknowledge Trevor, the driver pulled away.
Left standing alone in the road, Trevor shrugged and put the fiver back. Perhaps the man had somewhere better to be. Not everyone shared his passion for all things festive.
Humming to himself, he manoeuvred his wheelie luggage up the broken-tiled garden path and prodded the front doorbell. Bing-bongs chimed from somewhere inside. Cheryl Madison’s mother opened the door in her furry-hooded olive parka and mismatching navy Wellington boots. Further at odds with the ensemble, her pink floral nightie peeked out from beneath the jacket.
Trevor almost let out a giggle.
Until he saw the expression on her face.
After a furtive glance at the staircase behind her, Mrs M nodded sharply towards the Volvo out front while handing him a small but deceptively heavy cardboard box. Hauling a larger one from the floor, she strode past him and he trailed after her, the wheels of his luggage clunking arrhythmically on the broken pavement. Only as she unlocked the hatchback and placed her carton inside did she reveal the predicament.
“Hannah’s not coming. She broke up with Cheryl last night. Met someone at their Christmas office party on Tuesday night. Supposedly.”
The way she articulated that final word said everything. Trevor dropped onto the tailgate—causing the car to bounce—and placed his container next to hers. Mrs M stood there studying him, arms folded, appearing to wait for his response. Instinctively, he mirrored her body language and sighed. Of all their friends, he understood only too well the devastating effects of being dumped. Right before their long-anticipated Christmas trip, too. Hannah had always possessed a selfish streak, an immunity to the sensibilities of others. She had often manipulated Cheryl but he’d never thought she would stoop so low.
“Shit. Poor Cheryl. How’s she coping?”
“You’ll see in a minute. Putting on a brave front. I tried to sound surprised when she told me, but something’s not been right for months. The important thing, Trevor, is that we’re down by one more guest.”
“Double shit,” he said, staring down at the road between his legs.
“I’ll let you think about that before I bring out any more boxes, and while I go and put the kettle on,” she said, before heading back to the house.
So much for the Yuletide Gay Club.
I loved the premise of this story. A group of people, LGBTQ+, taking an annual trip over the Christmas holiday as a way to be with people they care about, rather than the required time with family that often won’t go well, and makes you regret every life decision. And for the most part, this book provided that.
Trevor, recently divorced is determined to take this trip, despite all the drop-outs. His best friend goes, despite a recent breakup herself, her mother, who recently lost her long-time lover. Unfortunately, those that were unwanted also went, because Trevor was a bit of a pushover and wouldn’t say no. Trevor’s ex-husband, now straight-ish, with a pregnant wife, who was honestly not a nice person at all. And you couldn’t blame all that on hormones. Trevor’s ex got what he deserved there, to be honest, as no matter how he tried to spin it, he was a jerk.
Rudy, sweet and quick to laugh, but his own sadness from a breakup, was pretty much everything you envision from a man in the highlands…rides up on his trusty steed, shirtless, saving the day. This brought in some definite sexiness. It got hot and heavy at times once Trevor and Rudy took it to the next level.
There were a lot of characters in the book, which made it difficult sometimes to keep track of who was where. However, it felt like with so many characters there should have been a lot more dialogue, a lot more showing rather than telling. This book had a lot of long drawn out descriptions, leaving me skipping entire paragraphs, causing the book to drag in places.
3.5 pieces of eye candy
Brian Lancaster is an author of gay romantic fiction in multiple genres, including contemporary romance, paranormal, fantasy, crime, mystery, and anything else that tickles his muse’s fancy. Born in the sleepy South of England where most of his stories are set, he moved to Southeast Asia in 1998, where he now shares a home with his husband and two of the laziest cats on the planet.
Find out more about Brian at his website – https://brianlancasterauthor.com/