REVIEW: The Geek Who Saved Christmas by Annabeth Albert
His grumpy neighbor needs some holiday sunshine…
Gideon Holiday is the perfect neighbor. Need a cup of sugar? Spare folding chair? Extra batteries? He’s always ready to help. And he’s waited years for his hot, grumpy, silver fox neighbor, Paul, to need him. For anything. But this December, Gideon would be happy if he could just get the Scrooge-like Paul on board with the neighborhood holiday lights fundraiser.
Paul Frost has no intention of decking his halls or blazing any Yule logs. Even if his spunky bowtie-clad neighbor does look perfect for unwrapping, Paul would prefer to hide away until December is done. But when his beloved younger brother announces an unexpected visit, Paul needs all the trimmings for a festive homecoming—and fast.
Luckily, Gideon is there with a color-coded plan to save Christmas. Soon Paul’s hanging lights, trimming trees, and rolling out cookies. And steaming up his new flannel sheets with Gideon. How did that happen?
It’ll take some winter magic to preserve their happiness and keep these rival neighbors together longer than one holiday season.
The Geek Who Saved Christmas is a low-angst m/m holiday romance with a guaranteed happy ending. This grumpy/sunshine, neighbors-to-lovers, found family tale features two heroes in their forties figuring out that maybe their sexily-ever-after was right next door the whole time. It stands alone and is not connected to any of the author’s other universes. However, it does contain a heaping helping of the same emotions and steamy moments readers have come to expect!
Dear Ms. Albert,
While scanning lists of holiday themed books, I came across this one with 1) a cute title, 2) a cute cover, and 3) it’s a standalone. Well, alrighty then.
Gideon Holiday and Paul Frost are neighbors in the mid century modern suburb outside of Philadelphia where they take their neighborhood app seriously (!!) and their winter holidays decorating even more so. After Paul rebuffs several of Gideon’s offers to not only work out a lighting schematic for his house but also hang all the lights for him, something happens that changes Paul’s plans. Now he needs a fast infusion of not only holiday decorations but also furniture and indoor knickknacks. Paul has finished renovating his house but has never gone further than that. There is a reason that this particular holiday depresses him but now he needs the house (and halls) to be perfectly bedecked. With no idea where to start, he turns to bubbly Gideon.
Gideon is the type to haunt after holiday sales snagging things just because someday he knows he’ll use them. He has a wrapping closet full of gift paper (and no doubt boxes, ribbons, and bows). Extension cords? He’s got ’em. Lighting app he can program through his phone? But of course. He’s also got an eye for his so far routinely grumpy neighbor. When Paul agrees to Gideon taking over the outdoor lighting and then mutters that he needs help with, well, everything else, Gideon is in hog heaven. To say the man lives to do this and can get slightly bossy about it is a massive understatement. There’s a reason why he does so – actually several reasons – but Gideon keeps those to himself.
When the holiday is over, will these two finally really communicate? The sex (both are tested and condoms used) has been scorching but is there more to their relationship beyond setting the sheets on fire and just lending a helping hand picking out guest towels and matching little soaps?
A ton of tropes fill this angst-lite holiday story. Gideon and Paul are attracted to each other physically but both think there are obstacles in their path. Professional Gideon works in IT at the local (almost Ivy league) university while blue collar Paul has worked hard to build his contracting business from the ground up while taking adult education business classes. Gideon is giddy and geeky while Paul is taciturn and grumpy. They have, however, several things in common. Both care for the groups they’ve adopted as in place of family. Paul works hard to ensure that his employee crew have paychecks during this slow business period while Gideon volunteers in community projects. But with few and/or distant (either geographically or emotionally) relatives, they also sometimes feel (even if some of these relatives love them and they love the relatives) that they are “on the periphery” of friends and family and not quite in “the core.” It’s fun, though, how many strangers they encounter immediately view them as a couple.
I loved that the issues that drive the conflict are there all along. Both Paul and Gideon are slightly older (both in their forties) so I would expect there to be some emotional baggage. Before we even get deep into the issues in the book, we learn about things that they faced as gay men twenty years ago. Now neither man can initially understand the other’s attitude to and take on decorating for Christmas. But this isn’t just tossed into the plot to set them at odds and get the book going. Each is given a reason for his actions and thoughts which is gently inserted in the action but then (thank goodness) not harped on endlessly in every chapter. Instead things slowly become clear to Gideon and Paul (and also to the reader) as things move along. “Oh, right,” (I thought a few times) – “that’s why Gideon needs light displays to make him happy plus spreadsheets and lists to feel in control” or “yep, it makes total sense that Paul would feel that way about this time of the year or need to make things special for someone he devoted so much of his life to.”
The final conflict is naturally derived from things that have shaped each man to be who he is. If this has always led to that then it makes sense that you’d default to what you expect based on what has usually happened. There were no “out of the blue, where did this reaction come from” moments. That was such a relief. And yay for hidden depths for both MCs. Gideon isn’t always Mr. Cheerful while Paul’s pricklyness hides deep feelings for those he loves. Paul sees that Gideon hides some insecurities while Gideon will fight for Paul’s right to be sentimental. When they begin to change – just a bit – it’s not only for the other man but for themselves as well. Oh and there’s a darling Bernese Mountain dog named Jim and a cat named Butterscotch who isn’t all that people think he is. And… and …Paul can make the most romantic gestures using only thermal coveralls and work boots. This one just made me feel all happy inside. A-