Title: Christmastime at Papa Lee’s
Author: N.J. Nielsen
Publisher: MLR Press
Length: 28,000 words
Genre: m/m, Contemporary, Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 3 – Average Story to Sex
Keywords/Tags: Angst, Christmas, Co-Workers, HEA, Homeless, Injured Character, Unrequited
Rating: So So
Reviewed by Nikyta
RSVP by December 20th: You are cordially invited to attend a Christmas celebration at Papa Lee’s.
Casey Chambers isn’t used to kindness; being tossed out onto the street does that to a person. His life takes a turn for the better when he lands a job at Papa Lee’s. Not only does the Lee family give Casey a place to work, they give him a place to call home… And the opportunity to find love with one of their own. But Casey’s burgeoning relationship with Marty Lee is threatened when Marty withdraws after a vicious attack. It’ll take a miracle for Casey to convince Marty they’re meant to be.
Good thing it’s the season for miracles.
Marty Lee lives a rather lonely life. At twenty-eight, he’s still essentially living with his parents, working at the family diner and carries more than a few extra pounds around his waist. According to him, he’s not a catch so who would want him? Casey apparently does, though. At nineteen, Casey’s had a rough life. Thrown out of his home at almost sixteen for being gay, he’s been lucky enough to survive until now. For a year, he’s come into Papa Lee’s to admire Marty until one day when Marty finally gathers the courage to ask Casey out. From there, things become both easier and more complicated for everyone involved.
I really liked that Marty sported some extra dough around his middle. While he thought he wasn’t attractive, he tended to attract a few good looking guys. I liked him as a character because he was nice, sweet and oblivious to certain things. At times I found his actions a bit dramatic and unbelievable, though. Casey was an interesting character. While homeless, he was still able to maintain his goth looks even though he didn’t have a job and only received a small amount of money from his dad. I found this a bit peculiar because knowing how much the goth apparel costs, I didn’t really understand how Casey could maintain it on so little money.
Aside from that, the relationship Casey and Marty have starts off nice but after Casey takes a job at Papa Lee’s, it’s all based off a misunderstanding. I found that slightly annoying only because I firmly believe people should consult all parties before making assumptions on what’s best for someone else. Still, it was entertaining the moment Marty realized how much he’s messed up with trying to keep distance between him and Casey.
The resolution to the conflict felt a bit flat, though. So many different theories were pushed together but the actual reveal of why Marty was beaten up wasn’t as climatic as I was expecting. I felt like there were also multiple little conflicts within the story that made it chaotic and almost too much for this type of story. I struggled at times with this because these additional conflicts didn’t flow smoothly from one problem to the next. I enjoyed the ending but I also felt like it was too convenient and Casey was too forgiving.
Overall, it was an okay read. I wasn’t as invested in it as I was hoping to be. I liked certain parts of it but there were times when the story dragged because of repetitive words or because Marty was over analyzing everything.