Jesse harbored a crush on his TV series costar, Kaye, for more than eight years, but when the show was canceled and he realized those years of playing gay hadn't convinced Kaye to leave the straight and narrow, Jesse turned his back on acting for good. Ten years later, Kaye is back in Jesse's life, on Christmas Eve - and the eve of his third divorce. Jesse's not sure his heart can take another beating, but Kaye has a few tricks up his sleeve - and a few truths from his own heart - that might just convince Jesse that the gifts of love and happiness are not just for Christmas.
A novella from the Dreamspinner Press 2011 Advent Calendar package "I'll Be Home for Christmas".
©2011 Zahra Owens (P)2014 Dreamspinner Press
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"Just didn't work for me."
Yes I would. I have read Owens books before and enjoyed them, and I love Stellman's narration skills.
Energy and enthusiasm.
It has been a decade since Jesse saw his best friend and former costar Kaye. But the unrequited love Jesse feels for Kaye is still just as intense as it has been for the last eighteen years, since they first started playing the onscreen gay couple on a then hit television show. Neither man has had a successful relationship probably ever. Jesse is recently single from his long term boyfriend and Kaye is on divorce number three. And Jesse has to wonder why now? Why is Kaye on his doorstep after so many years? Will this Christmas be the one where he finally gets his wish?
I tried very hard to like this story. The narration was great, in fact, that is why the book is getting 3 stars instead of 2, Stellman knocked it out of the park as usual. My issue was majorly with Kaye. I kind of liked him at the start of the story but the more he talked and the more his story unfolded, I liked him less and less. Owens tried to save face for the character by the end, but it was just too little, too late for me. My heart broke for Jesse, I just felt like the way I interpreted the character of Kaye that Jesse was not getting the pick of the liter.
So, story wise and character wise this was a 2 star for me. There was some good writing in there; I just couldn’t even get a feel for Kaye. Narration was fantastic though.
"Good but short."
This was sort of what like it would be like if the actors who played Brian and Justin from QAF ended up together years after the show ended since there were similarities between the show Jesse and Kaye were in and QAF. Even their names reminded me of Gale and Randy, one is a single syllable, uncommon (for a guy) name and the other has two syllables ending with the "ee" sound. Randy = Jesse, openly gay when the show was still on. Gale = Kaye, straight dude playing a promiscuous gay character.
If have made it longer with scenes from when they first met and their interactions while filming the show. But this was originally part of the Advent Calendar so it was always meant to be short...
I like his voice. It's very pleasant to listen to and did a fairly good job narrating the story.
There were parts where the volume fluctuated a bit, becoming louder in some parts. It wasn't too big of a deal, but was a bit jarring when I had the volume turned up on my headphones.
(Contains spoilers- be warned.)
Jesse is an ex-TV star who now runs a travel agency. He is surprised when Kaye, his ex-costar, suddenly turns up on his doorstep after divorce number three. Jesse had a huge crush on Kaye back in the day, especially since they were on on-air gay couple, but Kaye was “straight” and therefore off limits. After the show ended the two never had ANY contact until now, ten years later.
Kaye is depressed. His marriages fail. His most current ex won’t let him see their adopted daughter and he hasn’t actually had sex in 14 years.
What?! 14 years? Yes, that’s what I said.
We find out Kaye’s mother is a psychiatrist who “cures” the gay out of a person and really did a number on Kaye’s sexual identity. Now, he wants to “experiment” to find his true sexuality. With Jesse. Jesse agrees. They embark on some hot make-out sessions and it seems pretty clear that Kaye is in fact, gay.
Then, suddenly, Kaye is packing to go back to LA. He accepted a part out there and has to leave. Does he discuss this with Jesse? Nope. Just begins packing.
Jesse is pissed and rightfully so. He throws Kaye out and cries himself to sleep.
But Kaye doesn’t actually leave. He misses his plane and returns to Jesse, heart in hand, asking to start a don’t-ask-don’t-tell relationship with him and Jesse agrees.
This entire story made me so frustrated!
The beginning was a slow lead up to what was looking like a GFY/OFY. I figured that Kaye was deluding himself for some reason, and when it was revealed what his mom did for a living I thought that was a nice, unique twist. I appreciated the slow build up and was excited when the couple started talking and “experimenting”.
Then, when Kaye left I was mad, but hey, he came back. But then he makes this ridiculous proposal of “we’ll be a couple but won’t tell anyone” and Jesse agrees even though he’s said over and over that he won’t go back in the closet… and they live on opposite coasts… and really? Fourteen years with nothing physical?? Kaye obviously has a bunch of issues he needs to work through.
I thought it was ridiculous. Jesse was way too easy on Kaye and I was left thinking there is no way this couple makes it. Kaye is far from actually accepting who he is and Jesse is not doing anything to protect himself. I never got to the point where I actually liked Kaye and as a result, I didn’t feel good about Jesse and his door-mat acceptance of Kaye’s crap.
Sure, we can interpret that this is the beginning of the story, and hope the boys figure things out. However, I was not left feeling that this was a reliable HEA or even HFN. Therefore, the name “Happiness for Beginners” feels like a misnomer because nobody seemed very happy to me, even at the end.
I give the story a 2 of 5 stars because the writing was fine and the story had potential.
Michael did a nice job with the narration. There wasn’t a lot of “acting” but the sound quality was good and his voice allows you to be absorbed in the story. I give the narration a 4 of 5 stars.
Overall… well I wouldn’t recommend either the audio version or the book version but I’d give it a 3 of 5 just because it did stir up my emotions and that is saying something.
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