Heart of the Holidays

Everyone hopes his road to happily ever after will be carefree and smooth, but too often hair-pin turns and detours seem to get in the way.

Having thought he was on the road to forever before, former Silicon Valley programmer Dan Lassiter is leery about pedaling down it again. His elderly companion Charlie urges him to get to know Rick Reardon whose bakery is across the street from Dan’s bicycle shop.

Under the watchful eye of Charlie, Dan and Rick take tentative steps toward each other, all the while trying to avoid potholes such as exes, homophobes, and family problems.

As summer turns to fall and then winter, they hope that the road will be smooth going from their first date and first kiss to having what Rick’s sister euphemistically calls their “sleep overs”. At each step, though, they are tripped up and wonder why there seem to be so many bumps in their road.

Maybe Dan and Rick should heed some of Charlie’s sage advice or maybe they should listen to their hearts instead of the ghosts from their pasts.


The kids and their mom arrived after lunch, right about the time Charlie usually turned in for a nap. He gave them the once over as they got out of the car, nodded to me with raised eyebrows, and ambled back toward the house. I guess he figured he’d meet them sometime, probably sooner rather than later, so he didn’t have to knock himself out now. It was the siesta part of his day.

After the kids tumbled from the car and jumped on Rick, he pointed at my open garage and waved at me. I waved back, and they galloped across the street.

“Hi, I’m McKinsey! You can call me Mack.” The red-haired boy danced in front of me. His hair blazed in the sun and was as bright as his green eyes and freckles. He didn’t look anything like his uncle. “So these are all the bikes I can ride? Can I try them out first?”

“Yeah, but don’t go very far. I’ve got an app keeping an eye on them.”

“Cool. Bye.”


He didn’t wait for me to explain further, but ran toward the racks so fast that I thought he would barrel into them. A small hand on my arm stopped me from chasing after him.

“Don’t worry. He’s careful. He won’t hurt the bikes. We won’t go far because of mom.” Since I wasn’t worried about the bicycles, I looked down into brown eyes, a solemn face, and curly sable hair. “I’m Leslie. Everyone calls me Lee. My brother throws himself into his activities. I don’t. Can we choose any of the bicycles?”

I glanced up at their uncle who shrugged at me. The small hand let go of my arm, so I looked down at Lee again.

“Yes. You have three choices. One, you can select a bike and ride it the entire time you’re here. Two, you could come back to the garage and pick another one to ride for the day, the half-day, the hour, or however long you want it. That means if you wanted, you could ride every bike in this place in one day. Or your third choice, you could stay at the bakery and not go bike riding at all.” I winked at her. “I would choose the bakery except then I’d look like a human lead balloon if I did.”

She giggled and put her hand on my arm again.

“I like you, Mr. Dan. I think we’ll get along fine.” She nodded and gave me a long assessing once over. “Don’t worry. You don’t look like a balloon at all. Not at all.”

If she’d been in her teens, I would have thought she was flirting. But Lee seemed as if she was merely making an observation.

I liked both kids and their approaches to life. I’d be willing to bet Charlie would like them too when he got up from his nap and met them.

Unlike her brother, Lee sauntered over to the bikes, many of which were now askew thanks to Mack’s unsorting process. She carefully started to right those tossed aside. She stopped at a turquoise bicycle, hopped on, and waved to me and her uncle as she sped away. Her brother was long gone. The bike rack still needed straightening which would give me something to do while Charlie snoozed.

I started toward it. Rick had surged across the street and was striding up to me.

“Here. I’ll help.” He stood staring down at the mishmash of bikes. “If you show me how to untangle them without making things worse.”

I nodded.

“I don’t get it. Aren’t you afraid people will just take off with your bikes and you’ll never see them again?”

I watched him bend over to pick up one on the ground. My groin tightened at the sight. We were going out to dinner. Together. Soon. My heart and dick lifted as my mind piled up image after image of dinner and afterward. It was about time for me to get back in the saddle as it were.


Reviews:Cheryl on Cajun's Cabinet for Reviews wrote:

Dan packs him and his older house mate up moving to a small town looking for different environments, settled in a ghost town of a city until new a neighbor opened a bakery across the street. Rick was looking for a new start but never dreamed he would be looking while his sister and her two kids lived with him. Rick and Dan start off with just getting to know you but what happens for their first date could blow everything up. A cute little get to know them type of friends to lover to maybe more? Can the town of sidetrack handle all the cuteness this book brings.

Valerie on LoveBytes wrote:

Because of the unhurried progression of their relationship, the book lacks a sense of urgency. Dan and Rick’s relationship proceeds at the speed of snail. It’s slow, but not slow–burn since it’s lacking much passion. Conversely, there’s no insta-love, which pleases me greatly. Pat Henshaw’s approach to her characters falling in love is neither good or bad – it’s a matter of personal taste whether this more leisurely pace is to your liking. She has created a quiet holiday story, sometimes humorous, sometimes heart warming, and overall, very enjoyable. Happy endings are provided for everyone, not just the leading men, and it wraps up neatly into a nice holiday package.

Sharonica on Sharonica's Logical Reviews wrote:

5 Sugar and Spice Stars!

I adore Pat Henshaw’s novies because they pack so much heart, charm, and happiness between their covers (yes, THOSE covers too) you cannot help falling in love with every single character in the story.

“Heart of the Holidays,” begins right before the holiday season in October when local baker Rick and bicycle shop owner Dan are pushed together because of Rick’s niece and nephew who often make use of Rick’s bike rentals.

As the guys become friends the friendship evolves into something more with the season’s progression into the New Year. Soon Holidays are passing by and botched Family get togethers turn into found family reunions. This is the perfect Holiday afternoon read by a warm fire or Christmas tree lights.

on Book Gemz:

What I Liked…
This is was my first Pat Henshaw book. I really enjoyed the story. It was a fast-paced novella that will not lose your attention! The author embedded a number of obstacles in the way of the two main characters uniting. Crazy ex-lovers, homophobia, small town challenges, family, family, and of course family.

The main characters were well developed, each with their flaws, pasts, and anxieties. Both of them looking for a past to start over, happen to end up opening businesses across the street from each other. After a period of admiring from afar, one finally takes the chance of asking for a date. There was some unsuccessful woo-ing involved, but don’t worry, it does end up being a happily ever after story.

A Forewarning…
There is a surprise ending to the novella. I am a little torn on that surprise ending….as it explains a few little things in the book that I read and thought “that was a little odd way to say that”, but then others in the book that made me call into question. With all that said….it was a cute ending & surprise.

The Bottomline…
I know this is a shorter review than my normal ones, but the story is good (IMHO) and packed with lots of things, I am trying real hard not to give too much away!

Linda on Queeromance Ink wrote:

Putting the past where it belongs and taking a chance on a new beginning is what Heart of the Holidays is all about, and the surprise ending is worth the wait.

Anne on Drops of Ink wrote:

I enjoyed this sweet romance about two men getting to know, and falling for, each other in a small town. Although I figured out who exactly Charlie was early on in the story, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment. I loved how his presence was a constant throughout, and the effect he had on everyone he met.


I thought the ending was very sweet and totally the HEA these guys deserve.

Rache Reed on Rachel Reed Reviews wrote:

This was a sweet contemporary, opposites attract Holiday Romance.

I loved how the author portrayed a sweet slowburn burn friends to lovers romance between Dan and Rick.

This book gave me all the feels with a splash of holiday cheer.

The storyline was engaging and the characters were likeable, relatable and well fleshed out.

If you like an adorable, slowburn, friends to lovers romance laced with a little holiday magic, be sure to give this one a go.

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