Malcolm Rowland’s nearly year-old relationship ends just before Christmas when he learns his boyfriend has been cheating on him. Unfortunately, the breakup leaves Malcolm with no place to live and no job.
His best friend, Dustin Jones, who has stood by him for years, takes him in and is determined to show Malcolm not only a great Christmas, but that love between the two of them can be the best gift of all.
Malcolm and Dusty have been friends for years, since high school. It’s obvious to Dusty that Malcolm’s relationship with his boyfriend Jordan is not the greatest. Jordan Castillo is a controlling and abusive jerk and he doesn’t deserve someone like Malcolm. Too bad Malcolm can’t see this.
Dusty is there for Malcolm when he finds out that Jordan is cheating on him. He takes him in and is determined to help Malcolm get through the pain of break-up and back on his feet. Dusty’s not prepared to fully admit to himself that his feelings for Malcolm extend beyond friendship, even though it’s apparent to most of the people around him, except perhaps to Malcolm. For his part, Malcolm is grateful for having a friend like Dusty. When Dusty comes home with a Christmas tree and decorations all ready to begin Christmas celebrations, Malcolm realizes that his long-buried feelings for Dusty never really went away.
The Best Gift by Shawn Lane is a sweet story told from the perspectives of both Malcolm and Dusty. Of the two characters I felt that Dusty’s was best developed overall and my favorite scenes in this story are those in which Dusty figures prominently. Having said this, the author does a good job in subtly portraying the impacts on Malcolm of being in an abusive relationship. Malcolm worries about Jordan’s reactions and is concerned with pleasing him by trying to be perfect and recoils at Jordan’s constant disapproval and recriminations. In this sense, I did wonder whether Malcolm would have had the confidence to leave Jordan had Dusty not been by his side.
There is no question that Jordan is a controlling, manipulative and abusive man. However, while I felt that the author’s writing of Malcolm’s reactions to Jordan’s abusiveness was well nuanced, there was an absence of subtlety in the characterization of Jordan whereby even as the villain in this story he came across as somewhat one-dimensional.
Despite what I felt were some shortcomings, The Best Gift by Shawn Lane is a romantic and sweet short story that I enjoyed reading and do believe that others will as well.
The Best Gift by Shawn Lane is available at Amber Quill Press (Amber Allure).
NOTE: This review was originally published online by Rainbow Reviews.