Book Title: A Gift-Wrapped Holiday
Author and Publisher: Amy Aislin
Cover Artist: LC Chase
Release Date: November 22, 2022
Genre: Contemporary M/M romance
Tropes: single dad, age gap (10 years), small town, found family
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 69 000 words / 272 pages
It is a standalone story and does not end on a cliffhanger.
@Archaeolibrary, @gaybookpromo, @amyaislin,
Mal's first priority is giving his six-year-old son the best Christmas ever, a goal made trickier by a recent move to New England after losing his job. As a single dad, he's not looking for romance—especially not with a blond California boy ten years his junior. After being ridiculed at the family business, Luca sets out to prove himself by opening an eco-friendly gift-wrapping store in a small town with a hard-on for Christmas that’s about as far from LA as he can get. Out of his comfort zone in snowy Maine, love is the last thing on his mind. But the magic of the season has other ideas. As Mal and Luca collide on wintery streets, will they let their first Christmas in Lighthouse Bay lead to happily ever after?
Content warning: stillbirth. Although it took place off-page and in the past, it is discussed on-page.
Mal slowed at the bottom of a driveway and nodded at the house. “This is me.”
“I was wondering who lived here,” Luca said, taking in the house’s boxy structure.
“Why? Because it’s hideous?”
That startled a laugh out of Luca. “Well . . . yes. It doesn’t match the rest of the houses.” The area just west of Christmas Lane housed Lighthouse Bay’s historic homes, but this modern construction was decidedly not historic. Luca had passed it a couple of times on his evening gift deliveries and wondered what the owner had been thinking. “Why’d you buy it if you don’t like it?”
“I’m not. I’m leasing.”
Even so, Mal had gone all out with the decorations. Icicle lights hanging from the roof, flashing multicolored lights framed around each window, static white lights around a nine-foot-tall pine tree, and a lit-up reindeer family. He even had some sort of spotlights buried somewhere in the yard that swirled red and green snowflakes on the house in an unidentifiable pattern.
“Which is probably another reason I haven’t unpacked,” Mal continued. “I hate this place.”
“Why lease it, then?”
Mal blew out a breath that ghosted the air in front of him. “The short version is that I was in a rush.”
“And the long version?”
“The long version is something I’ll have to give you another time.”
Luca glanced at Otis. “I think he’s asleep.”
“Bet he gets a second wind as soon as I walk in the door.” Mal’s voice was a disgruntled grumble that Luca shouldn’t have found as charming as he did. “Thanks for walking us home.”
“Thanks for letting me. I like talking to you.”
Mal’s smile went lopsided. “I like talking to you too. Still want to do it again sometime? I promise not to feed you ice cream while it’s below freezing outside. Real food only. Scout’s honor.”
Luca’s armpits went damp despite the winter weather, and butterflies took flight in his belly. He dug his toe into the sidewalk. “You must really want to date me if you’ve asked me out twice in one week.”
“Or I just want an adult to talk to for once,” Mal said, a teasing tilt to his smile.
Luca stuck his tongue in his cheek and backed down the driveway, keeping his gaze on Mal’s. “Or maybe you like me.”
“Damn. And here I thought I wasn’t being obvious at all.”
The butterflies floated into Luca’s throat. “Text me?”
“I will.” The darkness enveloped Mal as he moved away from the sidewalk and into the shadow of the house, but Luca could still see the quirk to his lips. “Good night, Luca.”
Luca watched Mal and Otis head inside, waved at Mal through the glass-fronted door, then turned toward his own home only a couple blocks away, an extra bounce to his steps.
5 out of 5 (exceptional)
A GIFT-WRAPPED HOLIDAY is a brilliant book for the Christmas season. It will give you the warm fuzzies, even though serious topics are covered.
Luca and Mal are the perfect pair even if they don't act on it immediately. I loved that about the book though. They don't play games and mess around but they also don't rush into a relationship where a child is involved without thought.
There is little-to-no angst in here but it didn't need it. The characters move the story along brilliantly by themselves. The pacing is wonderful and it shows the connection between Luca and Mal, giving it time to deepen before there is any steam. I loved the world of Lighthouse Bay and now I want to read the other books. I don't feel that it impacted me negatively at all that I hadn't read them before this one.
One thing I have to add is I LOVED all the research that went into Luca's shop. It was a brilliant idea that worked perfectly. I just wish there was a store like that near me!
This is the second book by this author I have read (the other being On The Ice) and both books have been 5-star reads. Absolutely brilliant and highly recommended by me.
** same worded review will appear elsewhere **
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
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Amy’s lived with her head in the clouds since she first picked up a book as a child, and being fluent in two languages means she’s read a lot of books! She first picked up a pen on a rainy day in fourth grade when her class had to stay inside for recess. Tales of treasure hunts with her classmates eventually morphed into love stories between men, and she’s been writing ever since. She writes evenings and weekends—or whenever she isn’t at her full-time day job saving the planet at Canada’s largest environmental non-profit.
An unapologetic introvert, Amy reads too much and socializes too little, with no regrets. She loves connecting with readers. Join her Facebook Group to stay up-to-date on upcoming releases and for access to early teasers, find her on Instagram, or sign up for her infrequent newsletter.
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