Short Story – 16k words
Dreamspinner Press 2016 Advent Calendar
Other than working the front desk of a gay bathhouse in Denver, Brian McKay is a bit of a recluse. At the best of times, his social life consists of work, role-playing games at a local toyshop, and making YouTube videos with his Teddy Bear hamsters. The arrival of the holidays—with the annoying music, Christmas shopping, and all the reminders of how he disappointed his father—just reinforces his reclusive nature.
When James Olsen, a gorgeous daddy bear who frequents the bathhouse, notices him, Brian is at a loss. He’s not proud of his own bear status or his struggle with weight. The idea that James has interest in him beyond an easy hookup is more than Brian can fathom. But with a little bit of holiday magic, James might help Brian learn to accept Christmas again—and himself.
‘Teddy Bears’ is the most adorable bah-humbug to the-joys-of-Christmas holiday story. It is quite impossible not to feel for Brian McKay. He’s such a nerdy dork he both made me smile and broke my heart. To say this man has body issues would be a gross understatement. He doesn’t like the way he looks and can’t believe anybody could possibly find him attractive. In fact, he is so certain he’s destined to be alone he’s even given up on dreaming about a happy ending. His dislike of Christmas runs very deep and is rooted in bad childhood memories, and as the day comes closer, Brian gets ever more grumpy.
Enter James Olsen who is everything Brian desires and admires in a man and therefore completely out of Brian’s reach—right? Wrong! When James looks at Brian he doesn’t see an overweight and unattractive nobody, he sees a man he wants to spend time with. All he needs to do is convince Brian that he is really interested and not just feeling sorry for him.
The story of Brian’s slow realisation that not only is James really attracted to him but he also deserves that interest is wonderful and very well written. Rather than through a blinding moment of insight it is James’s wooing of Brian through an interest in his hobbies, an obvious attraction, and a genuine date, that Brian comes to accept his own worth.
I loved how this book was both very sexy and almost innocent at the same time. The contrast between the free-for-all nature of the bathhouse and Brian’s almost prudish self-consciousness was both poignant and very clever.
Brian being willing to settle for the memory of one good night with James all but broke my heart. His subsequent journey put it back together again in the best possible way. Brian’s belief in Christmas miracles came through James, for me it came through Brian’s courage and Brandon Witt’s wonderful writing.
Between Brian finding his happy ending and Spike and Angel (read the book if you want to know who they are) this story was nothing short of adorable. As Christmas stories go, this one is a keeper!
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