Title: Kai for Christmas
Author: E.T. Malinowski
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Characters: Kai, Cade
Sub-Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Kai O’Donnell hates Christmas. It’s not the blaring commercialism or the too-perky people. Being an interior designer, Kai can handle most people. But during Christmas, he has to deal with a man who gets under his skin like no other: Cade. Handsome—hand-me-a-towel-because-I’m-drooling-sexy—sarcastic Cade.
Cade Randall has been in love with Kai O’Donnell since setting eyes on the auburn-haired Native American. Falling back on his teenage habits, Cade picks on Kai every time they’re together. He wants Kai under his Christmas tree in nothing but a big red bow, his to keep forever, but Cade’s shenanigans may ruin something beautiful in the making.
This is a frenemies-to-lovers story. Kai, a red-haired Native American, belongs to the Irish O’Donnell family. His Native American mother is dead, but he loves his stepmother, Caitlin. The bane of his existence is Cade, Kai’s brother’s best friend. Kai and Cade have been at odds forever, verbally assaulting in a merry environment. Kai is gay but he hates Cade, yet thinks he’s hot. Cade is gay too and he’s only ever wanted Kai, whom he thinks is straight, so like a child he provokes Kai into fights so at least the guy feels something for him. Ah, kids…. Then comes along the Christmas when secrets come out.
Right from the start, we’re told about the cynical witticisms and snappy comebacks between Kai and Cade—but we’re given only a few delicious barbs. I had hoped for more repartee and humor. But that’s just my preference and expectation based on the blurb.
Kai is a very serious person. Losing a mother and gaining a new one, he has deep-rooted insecurities about what his family will think if they find out he’s gay, especially Caitlin who he feels might never forgive him for it. Being attracted to smart-mouth Cade who acts awfully childishly doesn’t exactly help. But Cade has his own family issues, getting emotionally cut off from them when they discovered he was gay. So the characterization is done well, with realistic issues and flawed people, as evidenced by the scene at the gay night club, the following fallout, and later the kitchen scene. The two men are believable, and the O’Donnell family is warm, boisterous and fun. Very amiable, perfect for a Christmas story.
The writing works, as does the pace, the sprinkling of background information, and sensual tension all over the novella. So, overall, a great little story about frenemies who learn the truth about each other and begin to see one another in a different light. The light of love. Recommended.
Reviewed By: Susan