The Last Gift by Chrissy Munder

The Last Gift by Chrissy Munder
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Holiday
Length: Short Story (48 pages)
Other: M/M
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

College student Nick Reed works late shift at a convenience store and dreams of graduation, a job he can be proud of, and finding the man of his dreams.

But the man of his dreams is about to find him.

A change in his lab hours forces Nick to swap shifts with a coworker. But no one prepared Nick for Mr. 5:25—Aaron Hampton—a beefy blond who’s Nick’s perfect guy, but professionally and socially out of Nick’s reach. Soon Aaron becomes the highlight of Nick’s workday, and when the overly focused lawyer needs Nick’s help with holiday gifts, Nick is eager to spend time with Aaron.

They become friends, share book recommendations, and are surprised to find themselves at the same charity run. But is that all? When Aaron learns Nick is heading back to his old shift, will he find the courage to ask for one last, very special gift?

Nick knows he is in a rut. With a huge study load at college, crazy shifts at the local convenience store he had no time for anything else in his life. Struggling to find his new routine after changing shifts at work, Nick can’t deny that the dead-sexy, cheery Aaron – Mr 5.25am – who comes in each morning for coffee is quickly becoming the highlight of his day. When Aaron arrives frantic one morning and pleads for Nick’s help, the besotted man is helpless to resist.

I found this to be a fun and interesting short story. I really loved the pacing, finding it perfect for the length of the story. Nick and Aaron move seamlessly from that whole casual “see you daily” type routine into a “crisis occurs so change from acquaintances to friends” then deepens into more of a proper relationship. Despite the short length of the story Nick and Aaron’s evolving relationship didn’t feel rushed or forced to me, neither did I need to suspend disbelief too hard – as one of the critical meetings that helped deepen their relationship was a chance meeting at a large fun-run which seemed completely reasonable and not at all like some random plot device to further the story.

I could understand if Nick’s dry self-depreciation might not be every readers cup of tea. Personally I felt the Nick had a very realistic perspective on his own situation (being broke, an overworked student and only at the very beginning of his “adult” life) but at times I did wonder if the dryness of his self-analysis flirted just a little too close to low self esteem and him putting himself down. While this aspect of the story didn’t bother me exactly, it occurred frequently enough – especially in the first half of the story – that it rang a warning bell in my head and made me stop and think, analyze his behavior and really wonder if he put himself down a little too much. I admit that I decided I was being too picky and over-thinking it a little, but this isn’t a “normal” thing for me to wonder in an M/M romance.

I found this to be a delicious and slow-moving romance short story. Readers should be aware that there’s no sex – but there’s a ton of chemistry and a very Happy For Now style of ending that I found satisfying. Readers looking for a hot or explicit story might be disappointed, but I felt the sparkling chemistry and slow-build of the relationship between Nick and Aaron well worth the read. I thought this was a fun and interesting story which I greatly enjoyed.

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