Author: Brandon Witt
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 5 stars
Provided by Publisher
Blurb: Other than working the front desk of a gay bathhouse in Denver, Brian McKay is a bit of a recluse. At the best of times, his social life consists of work, role-playing games at a local toy shop, and making YouTube videos with his Teddy Bear hamsters. The arrival of the holidays—with the annoying music, Christmas shopping, and all the reminders of how he disappointed his father—just reinforces his reclusive nature.
When James Olsen, a gorgeous daddy bear who frequents the bathhouse, notices him, Brian is at a loss. He’s not proud of his own bear status or his struggle with weight. The idea that James has interest in him beyond an easy hookup is more than Brian can fathom. But with a little bit of holiday magic, James might help Brian learn to accept Christmas again—and himself.
A story from the Dreamspinner Press 2016 Advent Calendar “Bah Humbug.”
Review: Brian is resigned to accepting what life has given him and, at forty-five, has given up hoping for more. For the most part he’s not unhappy with the life he has. Sure, he’s lonely and he hates the overweight, hairy body that gets him labelled as a bear (and not the hot, muscly kind either) and lusted after by chubby chasers like his co-worker Phillip (Phillip isn’t a bad guy, he just makes Brian feel uncomfortable and a little dirty sometimes with his enthusiasm for the chubby guys who come into the bathhouse where they work). He wants a man who wants him for himself, but being the reserved dorky nerd he is, that’s never going to happen. He doesn’t like Christmas, he especially dislikes the empty gift-giving where the gift-giver gives presents that put expectations on the receiver of who they want them to be and not who they actually are; Christmas for him growing up was not exactly a joyous occasion. It was more one of eternal disappointment on both his and his father’s part. Brian would prefer to just ignore its existence, but the endless Christmas music everywhere makes that pretty much impossible. He neither loves nor hates his job. It’s just a means to an end, giving him enough money to live and do the things he enjoys, and he’s okay with that. He really doesn’t need a job to be anything more. He enjoys meeting with his fellow RPG enthusiasts, has his beloved teddy bear hamsters, and gets pleasure from producing his YouTube show Buffy and Her Teddy Bear Vampire Lovers.
Brian has noticed the gorgeous daddy bear (the hot, sexy kind as opposed to the kind Brian was) before in the bathhouse. James is everything Brian finds irresistible, but it’s not like Brian would be of any interest to someone so clearly out of his league. He accepts James’ ID – fifty-one, over six foot and perfect – expecting him to more or less ignore Brian. But he doesn’t ignore Brian. In fact, he unapologetically flirts with Brian. A confused Brian ushers James into the bathhouse and promptly dismisses the possibility that James could actually be interested in him.
James is confident and thoughtful and knows what he wants. What he wants is a date with Brian and a chance to convince Brian that he is perfect just the way he is.
Teddy Bears is the wonderful story of Brian finding self-acceptance and recognising his worth and that he is deserving of being loved for who he is. Brian is such a relatable character. He’s quirky and funny and really can’t see what he has to offer anyone. I like that it takes James wooing him, and not a sudden moment of enlightenment (because, seriously, how often does that actually happen), before Brian accepts that James sees something about him that makes everything about him attractive to James. James is patient and determined in his winning of Brian’s heart. There is no doubt that he genuinely thinks Brian is wonderful and wants nothing more than for him to be happy. The only thing he ever wants to change about Brian is for him to be confident in himself. I also really liked that Brian doesn’t suddenly find Christmas a miraculous and joyous time of the year. Instead, it’s Brian’s overall perceptions of life that shift, that there is love that is meant just for him and that he is important to someone else.
Teddy Bears is a sweet, beautifully written little story that had me smiling repeatedly while I was reading it and still makes me smile when I think about Brian and James (and Spike and Angel), and what they might be doing.