Title: The Backpack
Author: Sue Brown
Publisher: Self Published
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: short story (37 PDF pages)
Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5
Review Summary: An OK Christmas romance but too much information was missing, leaving me with a feeling of being on the outside looking in on Patrick’s life.
There’s only ever been one man for Patrick. Paul was the six-year-old boy who kissed him after Patrick helped find his mom in a mall full of Christmas shoppers, the teenager who showed him kindness at Christmas when Patrick needed it most, and the lover who has shared his life after a chance meeting, three Christmases ago.
When Paul holds out the faded scrap of paper, Patrick feels his carefully constructed world crumble around him. Will Paul still love him even knowing the secrets he has kept hidden? In the glow of the Christmas lights, Patrick has to face his innermost fears with the man who has always been his whole world.
Patrick remembered the scared six year old boy he had found when he was ten, hiding behind a trash can in the mall, and he had helped him reunite with his Mom. The boy, Paul, had kissed him and swore that he would marry him one day, and before he left he gave him a piece of paper with his phone number which Patrick treasured, although he never used it. Three years later his life changed when his parents were killed by a drunk driver and he thought it was because he was gay. His aunt who gave him a home reinforced his thoughts that he was a sinner and it was because of him that his parents had died. 4 years later he was homeless. His life was abysmal as no one wanted to hire a bum or rent him a room, so he lived on the streets and hid in the mall where George Allan worked as a security guard because George was kind and let him stay indoors during the day, away from the cold which aggravated his asthma. At night he either had to go to the shelter or sleep on the streets. One night Paul was volunteering at the shelter and he didn’t seem concerned that Patrick was not another volunteer but a homeless bum like so many others. He even invited Patrick to his house to watch movies.
When Patrick was 22 and Paul was 18 they met again at the shelter where Paul was volunteering once more at Christmas. After resolving their initial misunderstandings Patrick went home with Paul and stayed in his guest bedroom, but the urge to flee was still there and on New Year’s Eve he left for good. Three years ago they met again when Patrick and his daughter Karen were visiting the arts and crafts stall that Paul was manning in between acting jobs, and Patrick was happy that he didn’t recognize him.
On this Christmas Eve Karen, Paul and Patrick were in the mall at the craft stand and Paul saw a lost young child whom he directed to the mall security. Patrick was scared when he realized that the guard was George, his old pal. Would George recognize him and divulge his secret? His carefully built world would crumble and his life with Paul would be over. Then George looked at him and he knew that he recognized the kid he helped many years ago but he never let on. That night they opened presents before Karen had to go home to her mother and Patrick gave Paul a ring and asked for his hand in marriage. The next morning, Christmas day, Paul was not in bed with him when Patrick woke up and when he found him in the kitchen he showed him something he never thought Paul knew about, his backpack. What will happen now that his secret was out?
I enjoyed this story for what it was, an OK Christmas romance, but a huge chunk of Patrick’s life was left out. His marriage. There was no information about what happened, why he got married, to whom, and why he was divorced – all I knew was that the marriage produced a daughter, Karen, whom he loved. Also, readers are expected to believe that Patrick really thought Paul would not recognize him even though they had last met at 18 and 22, and Patrick had stayed at Paul’s house for a week. How much can someone change during the intervening years? Therefore The Backpack, while it was well written, was ultimately a disappointment – too many improbables and holes in the story. While Paul and Patrick were in love with each other and I enjoyed their romance, the story ultimately fell flat.
If you enjoy Christmas redemption stories that seem more like fairy tales you will probably enjoy The Backpack.