Title: Unwrapping the Present (2011 Advent Calendar)
Author: Evan Gilbert
Cover Artist: Catt Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Unwrapping the Present
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance / Holiday / Inter-racial
Length: 84 pages
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: This story had a nicely developed theme of dealing with the past and hope for the future, but the main characters involved were less interesting to me.
Blurb: While home for Christmas with Ted and Edna, his foster parents, college student Austin Greenfield is surprised to meet Seth Barton, the son Edna gave up for adoption at birth. With his adoptive parents now dead, Seth desperately wants to meet his birth mother—who doesn’t want to know him. When Austin and Seth begin to fall in love, Austin finds himself torn: will he be forced to choose between his foster parents and his fledgling start at a life with Seth?
The title of this novella, Unwrapping the Present is a nice play on words that reveals the storie’s main focus of interest – how the past affects the present and possibly the future. Austin’s opening scenes with an apologetic previously homophobic neighbour sets the retrospective theme. This starts the idea of change and reconciliation, but also felt a little forced as nothing further came from the characters concerned. However the introduction of Seth as Austin’s foster mother’s unrecognised biological son really opens out the subject.
The completely domestic, suburban family orientated plot is dealt with a believable and thoughtful touch. These are ordinary people dealing with past events and the confusions and complications of everyday life. The details of Austin’s life as the black foster son in a white community are well described as is his early sexuality. It is in these descriptive and scene setting areas that I thought the novella worked nicely.
However I never really got interested in the relationship between Austin and Seth. I connected more with Austin, while Seth felt a little more remote- filling the role of lost son rather than lover. At nineteen Austin seemed too young to be declaring love within a week’s relationship, and that instant intensity felt slightly out of place with the novella’s more reflective atmosphere. Contrarily for me- in this case I rather prefered the plot to the characters’ relationship; including the romance and sex between them.
The Dreamspinner holiday collection title of I’ll be Home for Christmas gave the story a quiet poignancy. The relationship between Austin and Seth is actually given more symbolic importance in the way it provides the extra push to provide a tentative family welcome for Seth. This gives promise for the future; an appropriate gift or present.