Zachary Weston was abused by his father and banished from his home for no other reason than being gay. Abandoned by the family that was supposed to love and care for him, Zachary has been trying to survive on the streets. After going as far as what little money he had in his pocket would take him, Zach finds himself stranded in a small town and huddled on a bench in the churchyard on Christmas Eve.
Ben Hamilton is the rookie on his little town's police force. When he responded to a call about a possible vagrant lurking around the church, he found Zach asleep on the bench, nearly frozen. One look at Zach and all Ben wants to do is protect him from whoever left the bruises on his face. Rather then arresting Zach, Ben decides to take the frightened young man to his mother's home. There he and his family come together to show Zach the true spirit of Christmas through the kindness of strangers.
From the moment I first read the synopsis and excerpt of The Christmas Throwaway, I was drawn into the story and wanted to know more. I was almost positive I would enjoy it, even though at the time I had never read a male/male romance, and I have to say it did not disappoint. The Christmas Throwaway is the heartwarming holiday tale of a young rookie cop and his mom who willingly take in a teenage throwaway who he found half-frozen, sleeping on a bench in the churchyard on Christmas Eve. Is this a story that would likely happen in real life? Probably not, or at least not often, but it certainly is the type of story that we should, in my opinion, hear about all the time. In this day and age, taking in a stranger can be an understandably frightening prospect (even Ben's brother initially thought that Zach might be a drug addict or in some way dangerous to his family), but The Christmas Throwaway gently challenges the reader to look beneath the surface and see the individual. It is also the truest expression of the Christmas spirit, yet at the same time heartbreaking, because I know that there are teens out there who are experiencing the same kind of rejection that Zach did. If there were more people like Ben and his mom in this world, it would certainly be a much better place.
Zach was a sweet young man who was extremely polite and kind. He was wary of Ben and his mom at first, but still treated them with the utmost respect and was very grateful for everything they did for him. He had been a straight-A student who had never been in trouble for anything. The only thing he did "wrong" in the eyes of his family was being gay, and as punishment for this "transgression" he was denied the school he enjoyed, was no longer allowed to associate with his friends, was regularly beaten by his father, and ultimately, thrown out of the house at gunpoint when he refused to enlist in the military. As a result, he ended up on the streets in the dead of winter, cold, hungry and nearly freezing. What Zach's family did to him was utterly sad and appalling, but it allowed Ben and his mom to show Zach the true meaning of Christmas not just at Christmastime but all year round. Zach's wonder over spending Christmas with these strangers who treated him like he was one of the family was deeply heartfelt, and yet I could still sense his fear. It was like all his dreams were coming true, but he dare not believe it.
Ben was an extremely well-brought-up young man whose mother has always loved and accepted him for who he is. He obviously adores his mom, and even though he has his own house, he can't resist coming home frequently to visit and get some of his mom's good cooking. He also loves his small hometown and serves them faithfully as an officer of the law, cheerfully doing all that was asked of him as the rookie, including working the holidays. I thought it was great that Ben had chosen to specialize his training by learning more about teens in trouble, especially throwaways. I loved the way that Ben felt so protective of Zach right from the moment he met him, and it was readily apparent that looking out for Zach meant more to him than just a job. All he wanted to do was keep him safe and ease his pain, both physical and emotional in whatever way he could. I also liked that even though Ben was strongly attracted to Zach, he acted in a very professional and adult way by not allowing things to go any further between them than a hug or a tender kiss until Zach was of age and had time to sort through some of his problems.
Overall, The Christmas Throwaway was a lovely story of redemption and new beginnings. My only complaint and the only reason I didn't give it the full five stars is that it wasn't quite long enough to suit me. The bulk of the narrative takes place over about a week's time, but toward the end, the author quickly advanced the plot by about six months and then again by about a year. I realize that Ms. Scott did this to allow time for Zach to age and work through some of the emotional turmoil from all he'd been through before he and Ben gave into their feelings for one another, and I truly respect her for that. However, I couldn't help wondering what Zach and Ben had been doing during those big time jumps. Obviously, they were falling love, but we don't really get to see much of that. I would have loved to have a few more romantic interactions building up to the consummation. I also would have liked to see more of Zach's metamorphosis. As is, he goes from being a frightened teenager just trying to survive to a more confident young man in charge of his life in a matter of a few short chapters. Otherwise, The Christmas Throwaway was a well-written story that I very much enjoyed. It really tugged at my heartstrings. This was my first book by R. J. Scott, but definitely won't be my last. I look forward to checking out some of her backlist titles soon.
Note: This book contains scenes of explicit sensuality between two men which may offend some readers.
The Hope Chest Reviews on Facebook