Title: You Can’t Choose Your Family
Author: Zahra Owens
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary Romance/Holiday
Length: Novella (64 PDF pages)
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: A sweet holiday read with themes of family, love, acceptance and hope.
Jay and Fran have been a couple for twenty years. They have a great relationship with only one minor bone of contention: while Fran is very much a member of Jay’s extended family, to Fran’s family, Jay is just “his business partner.” It’s not that Fran doesn’t want to come out to his family; it’s more that they don’t want to hear it.
When Fran’s father, an evangelical minister, dies, Fran hopes the rest of his family will be more accepting. This hope is nipped in the bud by his very conservative older brother, so Jay’s mother steps in and invites Fran’s mother over for Christmas… but will joining Fran’s happy-go-lucky in-laws be too much for Fran’s mother, or will they help her see the truth of just how much Jay means to Fran?
The story opens with Fran and his partner of twenty years, Jay, heading to the funeral of Fran’s evangelical, hell-and-brimstone pastor father. Although Fran was welcomed completely into Jay’s family, he has been on the outskirts of his own as his father refused to accept either his orientation or Jay. All he has ever wanted was their approval, and now Fran wonders how the bittersweet passing will change his relationship with the rest of his family — if at all. His brother acts pretty much as expected, but he hopes that his mother, Eleanor, may have had a change of heart. While the day doesn’t go exactly as he had hoped, he reconnects with his sister and makes some progress with his mother. As the holidays grow closer, Jay’s mother, Libby, intervenes and asks Eleanor to Christmas, which promises to be an eye opener for the conservative woman. Can Fran make his mother see that what he and Jay have is a blessing?
You Can’t Choose Your Family is the first book by this author that I’ve read. I really liked this short story of family, love, acceptance and hope. I thought the characters were all fully-fleshed and realistic, and I especially loved Jay’s mother, Libby, a woman with a great sense of humor and enough love to go around to include Fran. Fran and Jay’s longtime and comfortable relationship was evident from the beginning, and it was a pleasure to watch. I loved how supportive Jay’s family is of Fran and his relationship with their son, which they never questioned. I also liked that it wasn’t an easy given that Fran’s mother would have some big turn-around in her feelings about Fran, and that he needed to gently, but firmly stand up to her.
I think the title, though correct on one level, actually is proven untrue here as Fan does choose a family who has loved and supported him and Jay over his blood relations who have wanted little to do with and did not accept him.
A nice, sweet story recommended to readers of the genre.