“’You don’t have to make up your mind right now,’ I told her. ‘Just… I just wanted to give you options. Although you have parents, they don’t seem to have you.’”
In a word: Read the thing. This is a fairly short Christmas fluff story about a reunion between a pair of siblings. It’s a story that’s both sweet and sad in parts, along with some parts that will make you angry. Although two of the three main characters are romantically involved, this is not a romance story. It’s strictly a story about two siblings, Jacob and Pru, reuniting after about 10 years and beginning to build an actual relationship with each other. It’s a simple story, though it isn’t really long enough to have everything fleshed out as much as I’d like, and the ending seems to just happen abruptly, it’s still a good read.
THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS
The Trigger Warning: This book contains homophobic language.
The Series: This story is part of Dreamspinner Press’ 2014 Advent Calendar, in which a short story or novella is delivered daily during the month of December (in this story’s case it was December of 2014) to anyone who’s signed up to receive them. The stories are all written by different authors and are unrelated from each other.
The Couple: This story isn’t focused on romance at all. Our narrator, Jacob Moore, has been in a stable romantic relationship with Errol Jermyn for the past seven years. There’s a bit of a flashback to how the two of them met and got together. It was entertaining, even if it popped up completely out of nowhere. Jacob was born and raised in America, but moved to England after college and decided to stay for good when he fell in love with Errol. His mother is dead and his father disowned him when he came out. Jacob never really knew his half-sister, but he’s been working on changing that and is excited about finally getting to be a real big brother. Errol is mostly a side character here, since the focus is more on Jacob and his sister’s relationship, but we see enough of him that we know that he’s a good guy. He’s lived in England all his life and has had to raise his younger brother and sister after the death of his parents when he was a teenager.
The Sister: Jacob’s sister is 15-year-old Prudence, Pru for short. Pru is the daughter of Jacob’s father and his third wife. She was five years old the last time she saw Jacob, but he’s still the one she turned to in her hour of need. Pru seems to have been abandoned by both her parents for the holidays, left on her own in a boarding school that’s actually closing for the holidays while they’re both on vacations with their significant others. Pru is nervous and shy when she turns up at Jacob and Errol’s, and Jacob assumes that she’s been having a hard time both at home and at school. We don’t get a lot of information about Pru; which makes sense considering Jacob is the narrator and this is the first time he’s seen his half-sister in over 10 years. She’s a bit of a wreck when she first turns up, which is understandable, but she manages to flourish a bit in the short time she’s been with Jacob and Errol. Enough that she’s able to threaten to start shit when agents from the American Embassy turn up.
The Family: Jacob and Pru have the same father. I don’t remember if we get a name for him. Jacob’s mother was the father’s first or second wife, Pru’s mother was the third wife. Their father is now on wife number six, who is apparently younger than Jacob (who’s 31). Jacob’s father is a complete twat. From context clues I gather that he’s some sort of rich public figure, demanding perfection from everything and everyone. He disowned Jacob when he came out in college, but really, they hadn’t spoken at all since Jacob’s mother divorced him. We don’t hear much about Pru’s mother, but she’s pretty much as horrible a parent as the father. When the two of them divorced, Pru stayed with her father and it’s implied that her mother didn’t even bother fighting it. Frankly she’s better off without either of them since they seem to delight in using Pru as a pawn to try to one up each other. Apparently, this latest stunt of leaving Pru on her own at boarding school over the winter holidays was a test to see which parent she would run to (joke’s on them, she chose her brother). Neither of them are anywhere close to winning parent of the year. They apparently weren’t even aware that their minor daughter had left the continent until Jacob contacted their father, who then waited a whole day before contacting the authorities.
The Sex: No sex here. There are mentions of the sex Jacob and Errol have had or are having, but there is absolutely no detail.
The Writing: Wasn’t a huge fan of the writing. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get into it. It was told in first person point of view, which didn’t help. I wasn’t crazy about the dialogue either, especially the more exposition-y parts. I also felt that it ended rather abruptly. Nothing was completely resolved by the end and it felt like there could’ve been a lot more story than what we got. The relationship background between Jacob and Pru was a bit confusing, but I enjoyed their present interactions and I believed them as siblings embarking on a new relationship.
[What Father Christmas Left was published December 1, 2014, and is available only in ebook format]