Title: Don’t Plan to Stay
Author: Kaje Harper
Release Date: December 9, 2017
Genre(s): Contemporary, Christmas
Page Count: 152 pages
Reviewed by: Kristin
Heat Level: 2 flames out of 5
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
At eighteen, Donnie Kagan’s plans for graduation, and maybe even college, were derailed by a beer, a stoplight, and a fatal crash. Now he’s twenty-four, out of prison, and bitterly determined to start over. But with the holidays approaching, he can’t resist a quick trip home to Tallbridge, North Dakota, and the man he left behind. Just a fast look, to make sure Adam’s doing all right, before Donnie starts his new life. He doesn’t plan to stay.
Adam Lindberg’s been waiting six years to get closure with Donnie. He missed that chance after the accident, fighting for his life in a hospital bed as Donnie pled guilty and disappeared into the justice system. Without so much as a letter back from Donnie in all this time, Adam’s tried to move on. And yet, he never found another guy he cared about the same way. So when Donnie shows up in Tallbridge, Adam’s ready to fight for more than three words of goodbye. Of course, Adam’s brother and dad don’t want Donnie to stick around, but it’s the busy Christmas season at the family store. If Adam asks for Donnie’s help, maybe he’ll stay long enough to finally talk about the future, and the past.
I’ll be upfront, I’m a bit biassed when it comes to Kaje Harper’s books. Her characters, plots and writing style just work for me and Don’t Plant to Stay was no exception. I enjoyed this book. I liked the characters, it has a rescue dog, and there’s emotions galore!
The chapters alternate between Donnie and Adam’s viewpoint. Donnie, just released from six years in prosion for a fatal DUI makes a stop at his hometown. He’s not entirely sure why, because there’s nothing but grief for him here: a broken home, a rough childhood, a grudge held by the local sheriff, lost years and the accident that took everything all away. Yet, Donnie’s not back hardly a day and he manages to rescue an abused dog. Awww….
After six years apart, Adam’s love for Donnie hasn’t diminished and when Donnie walks back into the store on that cold night with a dog in tow, hope blooms again. But Adam and his family are facing the first Christmas without their Mom and Adam’s Dad is struggling with depression, his brother Nate is trying to hold down the family store, and Adam’s home from grad school to help.
This short story flows so seamlessly, as most of Harper’s books do. I can just sit back and let the plot unfold and be entertained. Her books seem to avoid a lot of m/m romance tropes such as The Big Misunderstanding, excessive tears (a quirky peeve of mine), and the Tell All Bestie. Her characters come across as real people, with believable emotions and issues that I can empathize with.
Not to say there are some quirks in this one: I struggled with the Donnie and Nate dynamic and I would have liked to have seen that aspect of the book fleshed out and explored a bit more (purposely not saying what or why to avoid spoilers). While I like how Adam understood Donnie was not the same person as he was six years ago, he came across as a bit to accepting. The business between Leon and Donnie, then Donnie and Adam’s father and Nate was almost a note of discord in the whole book and felt unresolved when all was said and done – again, a longer book might have been helpful here.
But hey, it’s a feel good, HEA Christmas story. I can live with some quirks.