Marc reviews ‘Family: A Holiday Novella’ (Equals Book 3) by Brigham Vaughn. This book was published by the author on December 18th, 2014 and is about 84 pages long.
RGR received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Check out my review of ‘Equals’ (Equals 1) with audio excerpt read by the author.
Check out my review of ‘Partners’ (Equals 2) with a guest post about series.
Check out my review of ‘Sunburns and Sunsets’
Check out my Interview with Brigham Vaughn
Why I read this book: I love this series. Stephen and Russ feel real and their love feels real, even though they have to deal with complicated issues in their relationship and lives. I knew that I needed to follow their story to the end and was very happy when I had the chance to read the next chapter in their lives.
After too many holidays alone, Russ Bishop and Stephen Parker decide to invite Russ’ family to spend Christmas with them. Russ wants to repair the fractured relationships with his father and sister, and Stephen wants to feel like he’s part of a family. But when Russ’ sister, Addie, brings an unexpected guest, it makes an already challenging situation more complicated. The Christmas Stephen gets may not be as perfect as the one he imagined but perhaps happiness can be found in the flaws.
Peter clapped him on the back. “I’ve known you for a lot of years, Stephen. I saw you with Jeremy and after his accident. I saw you when you believed you’d never fall in love again. This relationship with Russ—it’s made you a new man. You may not see it, but it’s changed you.”
“I know it has,” Stephen acknowledged. Peter left, and Stephen sought Russ again. He was in line at the bar now, and he held up his empty glass, mouthing “be there in a moment”. Eager to go to him, Stephen set down his own empty glass on a deserted table as he crossed the distance between them. Russ, distracted by something the person in front of him said, didn’t notice Stephen’s approach.
Stephen leaned in, whispering in Russ’ ear as he rested his hands lightly on Russ’ hips. “Dance with me?”
Russ turned to look at him, surprised. “Are you sure?”
“Sure I want to put my arms around the man I love? Yes.” The earlier doubt he’d felt was gone. Peter had some valid points, and what Stephen wouldn’t give to feel Russ in his arms right now. Over the years, he’d conditioned himself to expect less than others, simply because he was gay. Straight couples didn’t think twice about dancing with each other during the holiday party. Why should he?
The Cover: Brigham Vaughn does her own book covers. Why they are not as polished as some others I have seen, they are creative and different. We have the main protagonists’ silhouettes on equal footing, showing that they have become true partners an giving readers the chance to imagine their own version of the guys.
The Title: I ‘Partners’ we learned about Stephen’s family and how he grew up and I was really curious about Russ’s family. I’m glad we got to meet them in this holiday novella and given the focus of family and how intrigued readers are about Russ’s family, that seemes to be a very fitting title.
The Story: Holiday-themed stories are a hit or miss for me.
They are usually shorter stories with one big focus. Some stories are explicit gifts authors make for their readers, where favorite characters get it on during the holidays and they can be fun. Some are story-driven and that usually doesn’t work as well for me in a holiday story. It’s all about the holiday and it feels weird reading those on hot summer days. They can be well-written, but I have to be in the right mood, the right season and prepare myself for Sugar Shock level sweetness. Not always my thing.
There are quite a few holiday stories though that really call to me. Stories about family.
Brigham Vaughn’s ‘Equals’ series has always been character-driven. The main protagonists are in the center of the story and deal with many complex problems in a realistic way. That’s the thing I really love about it. No over-the-top drama or sugar shock sweetness. So when I saw info about book three and it was called ‘family’, I was cheering. What could be more complex than a character driven story about family. An estranged family with a sister that was raised by an anti-gay aunt and turned against her gay brother, A father who has been largely absent. A significantly older partner, who also happens to be a guy. And a surprise boyfriend.
There is so much we can learn about our favorite characters in the most stressful time of the year. We love and hate family and whatever happens, it is very difficult to be free of them. If a partner we date does something we don’t approve of, we can move on. But family will always remain family. There is a bond that is hard to break, there is a lifetime full of history, good and bad. The dynamics between the characters are really interesting, the way they react to each other and new situations. The tension, the awkwardness.
Brigham is a master in creating complex situations and letting them play out in realistic and interesting ways. It doesn’t just take a minute until all is forgotten and everyone is full of love and there’S a big group hug. The visit of Russ’ family also doesn’t turn into a gay-bashing. His family is not made up of religious fundamentalists, who only accept his invitation to try to kill him and his male partner to rid the world of fags.
This book has three-dimensional characters, who have made mistakes and are imperfect, but want to try to get closer. There is a lot of polite awkwardness, impolite stumbles, hurt feelings, hard truths, heartfelt reconciluations.
It is about a family that has nerly lost each other taking one significant step in the right direction and the author hits all the right notes for me.
This has turned out to be one of my favorite holiday stories and I can highly recommend it to any fan of this series, regardless of the season. You don’t want to miss this and you will learn so much about Russ and his family. Brilliant!
The Rating: 9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended). Compares to 4.5/5 Stars.
Brigham Vaughn has always been a voracious reader with her own stories to tell. After many years of abandoned plots, something finally clicked. Now she’s eating, sleeping, and breathing writing and is excited to have finally figured out what she wants to be when she grows up. In the little time that isn’t spent writing or reading, she loves cooking, yoga, photography, and remodeling her ninety-year-old home. Brigham lives in Michigan with her four cats and an amazing husband who has always been her biggest champion.