Yet another wonderful Christmas story from Josh Lanyon -- and this time about a couple we've already met before. This is a perfect treat -- at any time of the year.
I've always felt that Mark and Stephen might be one of the most not-so-obvious couples of Lanyon's. Their backgrounds are so different from each other, the way they think, the way they react to the problems. Still, they love each other so much -- and that is enough, nothing else matters in the end.
I Spy Something Bloody (I Spy #1) was the second Josh Lanyon book I ever read and the one that officially got me hooked on his writing -- hook, line, and sinker. And I still find Mark and Stephen irresistible. Maybe the fact that they have such a long history together has something to do with their charm? They have been romantically involved with each other before the series begins, the fact that we know through some flashbacks in the earlier books.
Mark's and Stephen's chemistry is intriguing because it shifts throughout their story. In I Spy Something Christmas we meet again Mark and his stark feeling of inadequacy and on the other hand Stephen, who is very unselfish, very down-to-earth. The strong, impulsive, adventurous, mysterious one ends up being the weaker, more insecure one when the relationship stuff is concerned. And the more ordinary one ends up being the stronger one in so many ways. I find Stephen's calm way to take things as they come very reassuring. It's definitely a feature of his character, but I can't help thinking that the way he sees things might also have something to do with their age difference. Him being older and wiser and all...
One thing that keeps reader on her toes is the fact that Mark is still in this third story of theirs unable to read Stephen clearly. And that he keeps making the bad situations worse. I can't even count the times I've stand with Mark in Stephen's study heart in my throat while everything is going to hell. And every single time I've been sure that "This is it. Stephen is going to throw Mark out for sure. No Happily Ever After for these two." And WHY does Mark always laugh when he really should not? That is a great detail in his character and tells us so much about his people skills (and specifically about the lack of them).
I think that the best thing about I Spy Something Christmas is the fact that it shows us how much both men try to make their relationship work by making some sacrifices. Although Mark gives it his best shot a little later than Stephen, he really tries to change for Stephen. And it feels to me that sometime along the way Stephen has realized that he can't make Mark change and that he's just going to adjust to the fact and love Mark anyway. After all, we can't really order someone to change for us, all we can do is change ourselves for that someone. Right?
Josh Lanyon always manages to surprise me by making me feel so strongly. For example I found it very touching when Mark went to see Stephen's ex, Bryce, and while he watched Bryce's Christmas decorations and him being busy baking with his spatula and reindeer-patterned apron, Mark thought how well Stephen would have fitted in the picture:
"There must be times--times like last night--when Stephen wished for something less complicated. More snicker doodles. Fewer bullets."
Those lines are so funny, they made me laugh out loud, but at the same time they are so heart-rending. So sad. And no doubt, they are at least partly true. I can easily imagine Stephen wishing something like that -- even though that doesn't mean he would ever leave Mark for Bryce.
I'd like to think that in the end of this Christmas story Mark was finally in peace with himself and that he'd realized he doesn't need to be perfect to succeed in a relationship. As long as there is love, everything else can be inadequate.
Don't miss this little gem. Do yourself a favor and read it -- you won't be disappointed.