Book Reviews

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane at Dreamspiner Press

Genre Gay / Contemporary / Students/Teachers/Professors / New Adult / Erotic Romance / Holiday
Reviewed by Christy Duke on 08-December-2018

Book Blurb

Sometimes the best Christmas gift is knowing what you really want.


Rusty Baker is a rich, entitled, oblivious jock, and he might have stayed that way if he hadn’t become friends with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. When Oliver kisses him goodbye before Rusty leaves for college, Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.


But nothing can help Rusty survive a semester at Stanford, and he returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.


Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. But with Oliver’s love and the help of Oliver’s amazing family, Rusty realizes that failing college doesn’t mean he can’t pass real life with flying rainbow colors.



First edition published by Riptide Publishing, December 2013.

Book Review

I originally read this book back in 2013 when it was first released through a different publisher and I loved every single minute of it. My second read of it (and yes, I am equally horrified that it has taken me five years to accomplish that) was no less amazing and full of all things good. ‘Christmas Kitsch’ just makes me remember all the wonderful things about the holiday season, not to mention life, that can happen in a world filled with the people you choose as your family. This is definitely one of my most favorite holiday books and as I said about the original read holds true for this reread - I loved everything about it.

"Now see, I know I'm not that bright. I mean, give me time, and some hints, and an example, and directions carved in rock, and I can power through almost anything." I fell in love with Rusty right there. Only this author can give me everything I need to know and understand about a character in two sentences. It came as no surprise when Rusty didn't do very well on the SATs but, never fear, his dad pulls some strings to get him into Berkeley anyway, because his dad has a plan for Rusty's future, regardless of whether it is realistic. Thank God for Oliver's dad who gives him a job in construction that summer and Rusty excels at that work. Rusty knows it should have been Oliver going to Berkeley instead of junior college. Oliver is the smart one and Rusty still isn't sure how they ended up friends when he met Oliver at the beginning of senior year. As far as Rusty can tell, he and his football friends are all just jock clones in their small, wealthy, conservative Stepford Wives community, and then here comes Oliver having transferred in and he is small and light brown and gay.

Rusty may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but what he lacks in IQ (and, personally, I don't think he really does) he more than makes up for in sweetness and loyalty. " 'I'm sorry,' I said, turning to Oliver. 'I'm sorry I was too stupid to know they were being mean. You've been a real good friend to me. I wouldn't have let anyone be mean.'" It's remarkable how he turned out this way since his parents were pretentious and horrid people. The thing is, though, I don't think Rusty is stupid. He's very naive and gentle and wholesome, I guess is the word I'm looking for. It takes him longer to work his way through things, but he's not stupid. When Oliver kisses him the night before he leaves for college, it is so sweet and kind of, but not really, throws Rusty for a loop. I mean, he really hasn't dated girls, he certainly isn't into the whole "I'm a football player so I've got to score with everyone", and he's had some thoughts about Oliver already, but more in a half-formed manner. Personally, I think any guy who can be so self-aware can't be stupid. Just sayin'.

When Rusty comes home for Thanksgiving break, his mom catches him and Oliver kissing. She gives him the ultimatum and of course, he chooses Oliver, junior college, and working construction over his parents, their money, his car, and Berkeley. "I'm sorry you couldn't love me," I said simply. 'I'm really sorry you couldn't love Oliver. He saved my life when I was gone, but you probably don't give a shit about that either, so I'll see you around." Rusty is so incredibly lucky to have Oliver and his dad because he has a place to stay until he finds his own space and he has a job and people who care about him. Oliver's family—his dad, his aunt, his uncles, and his cousins—save Rusty from falling apart. They give him the same unlimited, unconditional love they gave to Oliver and Rusty soaks that up like a plant in the desert.

I've never met someone who never, ever asks anything for himself but would lie down and die for the ones he loves, until I met Rusty. It's not even that he doesn't ask for anything, he absolutely never expects to be treated decently and compassionately and I was so grateful to Oliver for showing Rusty his own value and how much he deserves to be loved. Watching these two young men together brought tears to my eyes many times as they navigated the rough, and sometimes unfriendly, world of adulthood. This is probably the most beautiful Christmas story I have ever read and it will get reread often. The love in this book, between Oliver and Rusty, is happy and healthy and whole. Just what we all need in our lives. Thank you, Amy, for another beautiful story of family and love.





DISCLAIMER: Books reviewed on this site were usually provided at no cost by the publisher or author. This book has been provided by Dreamspinner Press for the purpose of a review.


Additional Information

Format ebook and print
Length Novel, 200 pages/69652 words
Heat Level
Publication Date 07-December-2018
Price $6.99 ebook, $14.99 paperback, $14.99 bundle
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