This story was such a delightful surprise! It was not at all what I expected, it was so much MORE, so emotional, melancholic and gripping! Reading the blurb, I imagined that it would be a light and sweet Christmas romance, but Holidays in Blue was very far from that. It was a story about grief, about how to survive the aftermath of lifechanging tragedies and about daring to love again after failed relationships.
Cosmin Tessler is a forty-plus semi-famous radio show host. Intellectual and sophisticated, but lonely. Eric Campell is quite the opposite. A ten years younger bisexual actor, whose marriage to a woman failed brutally and whose actor jobs are drying up. When Cosmin’s radio show is cancelled and Eric’s life has hit rock bottom, they both return to their old childhood homes next to each other. When a massive ice storm hits the city, they end up stranded together and unexpectedly back in each other’s lives again, for Christmas. Despite their difference in age, their long-ago crush and undeniable attraction prove too much to resist…
But the romance part is only one sub plot in this book. The other sub plot, and the one I loved most, was Cosmin’s journey into the past when going through the boxes his recently deceased father had left in the house. Some previous tragedies had left Cosmin and his father on different paths, never quite repairing their relationship. But finding his father’s note books, Cosmin discovered how much his father had loved him but failed to tell or show him when he was alive. He could finally understand the situation behind his own adoption from an orphanage in Romania and see the joy he had brought his adoptive parents who’d been plagued by sadness until then.
There were some truly amazing character developments in this book and I really enjoyed the backstory with the adoption of Cosmin and his sister and the way the family tragedy was described. It was also so emotional and sad to learn how Cosmin and his father had lost each other due to bad communication skills in the aftermath of pain and suffering. This book dealt with a lot of heavy issues, such as grief, loss, anorexia, infidelity, alcoholic problems and denial, in a raw and realistic way. But it was nevertheless a hopeful and encouraging story, showing how we can all find new meanings in life and new people to love. It is never too late, if we just put ourselves out there.
The minor complaints I have are that the pacing was a bit slow at times and that the romance didn’t resonate with me as much as I had hoped for. At times, Cosmin came across as quite pretentious and as if he was trying to make others feel dumb. His attraction to the younger, not so intellectual, Eric therefore didn’t feel a hundred percent believable. I never felt any deep emotions from Cosmin that would have made me understand what he saw in Eric other than that he was young and attractive. And for Eric, for most parts of the book, it only felt as if he getting a chance to live out his childhood fantasies about the older boy next door, not as if he was really in love with the Cosmin of today, but rather with the image of Cosmin in his dreams.
But I immediately rooted so for Eric, and if Cosmin was who he wanted, then I do not want to stay in the way… Eric truly was a sweetheart, so kind and messed up and gorgeous he just melted my heart.
So, all in all, this was a gripping, cathartic and bittersweet book dealing with important issues, that I highly recommend. And, even though the story takes place during Christmas, it’s not a typical Christmas read, but deserves to be read any time of the year!
Thank you NetGalley and Harlequin/Carina Press for the ebook copy and the opportunity to read this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review!
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