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Sometimes the best thing you can get for Christmas is knowing what you really want.
Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them—just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity—Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not—but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.
But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.
Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.
Rusty would have never guessed that he would become best friends with Oliver Campbell. And it may have taken him forever to clue into the fact that Oliver likes him as more than a friend and that Rusty returns his affections. But, fortunately, Oliver isn’t clueless. He’s not only willing to take the initial step to clue Rusty in but he’s also willing to be patient while Rusty figures it all out.
Rusty goes off to college with his and Oliver’s first kiss fresh on his mind. While there he not only struggles with classes but also with accepting the fact that he DOES love Oliver. Because he knows that no matter how much he loves Oliver, his parents will never approve. But with the help of Oliver’s continued friendship and patience and also the help of an inappropriate yet lovable and understanding roommate (seriously, I want to strangle and hug Roommate Rex) Rusty makes his decision and heads home to spend Thanksgiving with his new boyfriend.
Rusty expected his parents’ disapproval. But not even he was prepared for their reaction. His parents not only kick him out, they try to take everything away from him. EVERYTHING. They pull his college funding, shut off his phone, take away his car and cut off access to his checking account. They refuse to communicate with him and even try to access his personal savings account. Their brutal and swift reaction leaves Rusty reeling but not powerless.
Rusty can be more than a little clueless but that doesn’t mean he’s stupid. He knows enough to head right back to school and work with all his professors to either withdraw from his classes or complete them for credit. He’s smart enough to ask his roommate to hide his stuff from his parents (because they DO try to take the things from his dorm) until he can come back and get them. He’s smart enough to look for a job, an apartment, a car, and open a new checking account. And all though it takes him some time to figure it out he learns a beautiful lesson that I also learned when I moved away from home.
I was lucky. Even though there was tension between me and my mother, my parents never once took away their support when I moved into my own place. They MADE me take the bed and dressers because, as they said, they bought it for me and the set was mine. My mom took me to the local JC Penney Outlet and helped me buy basic things I would need for my kitchen and bathroom. My boyfriend (now my Executive Officer) brought over an old TV and VCR (yeah, that dates me). But my favorite story of all is when I, the Executive Officer and his mom went to an estate sale. They had an old couch that was the perfect size for me apartment. It was hella ugly. Forest green with some sort of tiny white print. They wanted $70 for it. I could afford $45. They wouldn’t haggle so we left. A few days later the Executive Officer calls me to say his mom went back the last day of the estate sale and they were willing to give it to her for the $45 since no one had bought it yet. Score! I had a couch! It was an ugly couch but it was MY couch. For MY home. But the lovely part of this story? I found out later that my mother in law paid the $70 for that damn ugly couch. She never wanted me to know. She just wanted me to have that couch and to make myself a home. It was then that I truly realized how much more “family” I had around me. That family isn’t confined to immediate family and blood relatives. And being an only child? Let me tell you, that was a freakin’ beautiful revelation!
Rusty may not have been as lucky as me when it came to parental support. But much like me, he finds a new family willing to give him all their love and support. That job he got? That is thanks to Oliver’s dad. Rusty worked for him the previous summer. He did a great job. So Mr. Campbell hired him on permanently. The car? Oliver’s uncle swooped in and found him an old but running car that would get him from point A to point B. Oliver’s aunt sits with him and helps him build a budget then finds him a cheap apartment that he can afford. When he moves in and is realizing that he didn’t think about food and toilet paper and blankets? Oliver’s cousins magically show up with groceries and blankets. And I won’t even discuss what Rex brings over, courtesy of his moms. Rusty finds that although his parents may have disowned him, Oliver and Rex’s families are more than willing to share their love and warmth with him.
This review might be slightly spoilery. But only slightly. Because there is one thing that Rusty is insistent that he have in his tiny apartment before Oliver can move in. One little thing that he feels will make his shabby little apartment a home for Oliver. And I’m not going to tell you what that is because it’s important and adorable. And it’s the one thing, other than Oliver, that Rusty holds onto tightly. So you read Christmas Kitsch and let Rusty tell you what that tiny little thing is. Because it’s important and it is maybe the key to him figuring out what really makes a home.
P.S. You should not only buy this because it's a lovely story. You should also purchase this because Riptide Publishing will be donating 20% of all proceeds from this title to the Ali Forney Center. This center is based in New York and it's focus "is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood." To learn more about the Ali Forney Center or to donate to them directly, you can visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org/. Riptide is also applying the same donation to purchases of their Home for the Holidays collection.