Today I have the pleasure of hosting day 2 of the Men Under the Mistletoe mini-blog tour.
Many people go home for the holidays. Some with anticipation, others with a sense of trepidation, and some have reasons all their own. But whatever the reason, there’s often a pull toward home when the holidays approach. Perhaps some of that pull is grounded in the classic image of a family around the table for a holiday dinner or gathered around the tree on Christmas morning. Symbols of togetherness with loved ones. And really, that’s at the core of the holiday season– spending time with those you love.
There’s also a giveaway today! Just leave a comment on this post or email me at ava(at)avamarch(dot)com to enter, and I’ll pick a commentor/ emailer at random to win an exclusive print edition of the Men Under the Mistletoe anthology, signed by yours truly. If you’d like, you can share your thoughts on Home for the Holidays, or you can just wave and say hi to everyone. Contest ends December 9th at 11:59 EST, and please don’t forget to include your email address (if it isn’t already in your blogger profile) so I can contact the winner.
Now I’ll turn it over to Josh Lanyon, Harper Fox and KA Mitchell to discuss what Home for the Holidays means to their characters in the anthology, and I'll chime in at the end.
Lone Star begins with Mitchell Evans returning home to Texas following the death of his father. Not exactly a happy homecoming or a terrific way to spend the holidays, but it’s even worse because Mitchell didn’t love his father. Didn’t love him, didn’t understand him -- and he believes the feeling was mutual.
But I guess one of the themes of this story is that home is where the heart is.
A lone star blazed in the midnight blue sky.
It looked like the Christmas star, which was appropriate seeing that it was four days till the holiday, but with Mitch’s luck it was more likely a crashing jet plane headed straight for him.
Yeah, that would be about right. On the bright side, it would spare him driving any more miles down this long, dull stretch of memory lane. Texas looked only minimally better at night than it did in the day. Nothing but rugged, ragged landscape. Igneous hills of limestone and red rock as far as the eye could see—which wasn’t far, given the darkness beyond the sweep of the rental car headlights.
Mitch rubbed his bleary eyes. This was more driving than he’d done in years. He didn’t even own a car anymore. New York had decent public transportation, and when Mitch wasn’t working he was—well, he was always working, so problem solved.
Prickly pear, yucca, and juniper bushes cast tortured shadows across the faded ribbon of highway. A mighty lonesome stretch of country, as they’d say out here. Cemeteries were more plentiful than towns. He wasn’t entirely alone, though. Outside of Fredericksburg a pair of headlights had fallen in behind him and they continued to meander lazily along a few miles back. Some cowboy moseying on home, though not in any hurry to get there.
That made two of them.
It had been six months since Mitch had got the word his old man had keeled over, and he’d have happily waited another six months—or six years—before dealing with what his father’s lawyer euphemistically called “the estate.” But after the blowup with Innis, Mitch had desperately needed time and space. And one thing Texas had in plenty was space.
Part of what’s been hurting Gavin so much, making him incapable of loving Piers the way Piers deserves, are the shadows still falling into his life from his bigoted, aggressive father. Now, Gavin has come a long way from home, made himself very intellectually independent, and until the events of the story break him down, he’s been incapable of admitting there’s even a problem. Here’s how he finally explains it to Piers:-
“I hate him. He’s a racist and a homophobe and every kind of bigot you can think of, but when Mam left he was all I had. I love him. I never want to see him again and I’d do anything to make the bastard proud, and short of learning to weld ships together I can’t. I’d die of joy if he picked up one of my books. I want to kill him."
Gavin knows that the one thing he should have done was go and confront the old man. Sometimes we have to go home at the holidays for very non-festive reasons, and Piers has always been there, ready and willing to help him when he finally made the decision. This is what happened when they got there:-
A car pulled up over the road and my eldest brother got out. The sinking in my stomach turned out not to be necessary. For once he was pleased to see me. I put him into perspective, he said, looking Piers up and down. He too had thought the New Year a good time to try for a visit and an introduction, and I didn’t understand what he meant until his beautiful black girlfriend got out of the car and stood smiling nervously on the pavement beside him.
Of course it was all a waste of time. The four of us sat in the dingy little living room and listened for a while to the old man’s bitter, corrosive outpourings, then Piers, who had held my hand without concealment since we had arrived, got up and quietly led me away. My brother and his girlfriend followed. She was crying and so, to my astonishment, was he. I gave them both a hug. Piers, with his usual grave kindness, invited them for lunch at our flat. I felt no grief. I was dizzy with release from my ancient bonds, from chains I hadn’t realised were there. The old man didn’t matter. The morning sunshine did, and the smile on my lover’s face as he drove us away, and that was about it.
It's funny that Ava is doing this topic, because when The Christmas Proposition begins, Mel is hard at work longing to be anywhere but home for Christmas. He feels trapped by his home, but at the same time is afraid to leave it. His best friend's destination wedding in St. Thomas provides the escape he's longing for, and then he's trapped again—and forced to host the wedding at his family's tree farm by the end of the chapter.
Home means something different to the other characters, too. Mel's sister is home from rehab. Mel's brother who left home as soon as he could has come home to help Mel enjoy a vacation. And Bryce usually has his home on the road, a trailer that is half-office, half-bedroom. His home is where his work is. I hope by the end of the story, Mel and Bryce find out that home for the holidays means being in each other’s bed—er, arms.
In My True Love Gave to Me, Thomas returns to England after living in New York for four years. He goes home for the holidays. But he doesn’t return home out of a need to spend the season with a family he hasn’t seen in years—a family that hasn't bothered to contact him in years—or to share in the holiday festivities with friends. Home is where the heart is, and in Thomas’s case, his heart has always been with Alexander (Sasha), his first and only love.
He did not need to hear the creak of the floorboards to know Sasha was approaching. He somehow felt the man’s presence coming closer. That sense of warmth, of home, that only belonged to Sasha.
Since Alexander’s in London, that is where Thomas goes, and he does so with hope in his heart...and a definite bit of trepidation and determination.
“I had it stuck in my head that I couldn’t allow another holiday to pass without seeing you. I was well aware of the distinct possibility that you would turn me away, but I had to try.”
Here’s the schedule for the mini-blog tour:
12/5 - Josh Lanyon on Christmas Kisses
12/6 - Ava March on Home for the Holidays
12/7 - KA Mitchell on Scene and Setting
12/7 - Carina Press on Next Christmas and holiday cookie recipes
12/8 - Harper Fox on Dark to Light
12/9 – Josh Lanyon wraps it up
Happy Holidays! And don’t forget to comment/email to enter to win a print copy of Men Under the Mistletoe.