A gay San Francisco cop in a Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer sweater and an art student who pays his tuition from his earnings as a prostitute meet at a Christmas party and fall in lust. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, right? Fortunately, the two protagonists are strong enough characters that Land’s romance doesn’t turn into a parody of itself.
At age 15, after he came out Christopher Robin left his home in Georgia and came to San Francisco, where he planned to work and become an art student. After being mugged and robbed almost immediately, he became a hooker and then a high-price rent boy to support himself. Now he’s working to pay for art school and is about to graduate.
At a friend’s Christmas party, he hooks up with Kieran Nolan, not knowing that Kieran is a cop just as Kieran doesn’t know Christopher is a hooker. Since Kieran has just admitted to being gay, Christopher is his first lover, and both men become much more embroiled before they learn what the other one does for a living. By that time, they are so smitten that they decide to make their relationship work.
Keeping their angst a little lighter are peripheral characters, an 80-year-old organized crime grandma and a 20-something computer porn star. Grandma wants to find a boyfriend via computer dating, and the porn star wants to find someone who sees him as a person. Both are totally delightful.
At one point in the story the porn star is amazed at how accepting the friend’s family is at the Christmas party and says that if his family had ever seen him dance with a guy, they would have held a gay exorcism. When Christopher asks what a gay exorcism would be, the porn star says, “Oh, you know: the whole lot of them donning mullet wigs, which for a large percentage of them would be redundant, and then playing sport fishing videos while reading from the Sears catalog. That’d drive the gay right out of ya.” That and many other sections made me laugh out loud.
Working out a workable arrangement for Christopher and Kieran isn’t easy, however. Since Christopher was nearly beaten to death a few years before, he can’t eat anything except packaged crackers. Kieran is appalled not only that Christopher was so traumatized, but also that the police refused to investigate the case since Christopher was a prostitute. So coming together means more than sex to Kieran, but also justice for Christopher.
Christopher, for all his problems, does create some of them himself, and that’s where my sympathy faltered. Mostly he said he didn’t want to accept charity, but he was living on a friend’s couch in a previous book. Why then, I wondered, couldn’t he take a job as a waiter at a friend’s restaurant instead of staying with prostitution which he knew was so dangerous?
Kieran, on the other hand, was wonderfully confused as a man admitting his sexual preferences to himself, his family, and his friends, and finally acting on his fantasies. And when he finds out what Christopher does for a living, he doesn’t confuse it with who he knows Christopher is inside. Even in San Francisco, Kieran will have an uphill battle (pun intended), but he’s man enough to pursue his dream.
Fortunately, Land’s sense of humor leavens what could easily be a dirge and makes the story very enjoyable. I wonder if this is the end of the series or if the porn star or Kieran’s war veteran brother are next up and will find their happily ever afters.