Mr. Frosty Pants follows Casey who, when he left for college four years ago, ghosted his best friend, Joel. Casey had just come out to his parents which didn’t go all that well, and he decided not to go through the same thing with Joel. It’s also worth mentioning that he was and still is very much in love with Joel and didn’t want to risk Joel finding that out.
Now as for Joel, he’s curmudgeonly, ill-tempered and unapproachable, so much so that his employee at the hardware store that Joel owns has nicknamed him “Mr. Frosty Pants.” Joel initially comes across as a wholly unlikable character. But given that the story is told from alternating POVs, we learn the reason for Joel’s standoffishness: he’s been severely hurt in the past by his despicable and abusive father, leading to an overall feeling of unworthiness on his part as he struggles merely to survive day by day.
We also learn that he’s also not quite as straight as Casey believes and that he’s also been in love with and pining for Casey for years.
Still, when Casey shows up at Joel’s store with the intention of renewing their friendship, Joel wants nothing to do with him gives him more than a frosty reception. He certainly has no intention of telling Casey about how he feels about him and does his best to drive the man off. Joel thinks that Casey has no place in his life now, especially given that they come from two different classes; Casey from new money and Joel struggling to afford his next meal (Casey’s snobbish parents also do not approve of Joel and their son’s friendship with him). Joel believes that it would be easier on his heart if he kept Casey at a distance.
But Casey is not so easily rebuffed, especially once he learns from a mutual friend that Joel may have romantic feelings for him as well.
What follows is a sweet, slow-burn romance with two very complicated characters as Casey is determined to win Joel’s trust whereas Joel is determined to keep the gate protecting his heart firmly closed. Add to that class differences, homophobic parents and elitism, we quickly see that it’s not going to be an easy road for our main characters. Though this is a holiday romance, it’s not a typical one in that we see a little more angst in this story than one usually sees in Christmas romances but the overall result is worth it, and we end up with an intense, hard-hitting tale with plenty of heart.
I typically enjoy the friends to lovers trope and this novel was no exception. I loved seeing the relationship slowly bloom between Casey and Joel as barriers are torn down and trust earned. It’s a lovely story about opening one’s heart and taking a chance on love. There are several tropes in this book that work together wonderfully: childhood friends-to-lovers, second chances, ex-best friends, unrequited love, lovers reunited and rich boy vs. poor boy all of which, combined with the atmosphere of Christmas, add to the richness and depth of this tale.
Mr. Frosty Pants ended up being a story of redemption, acceptance and second changes that was heartbreaking in places and joyful in others. It’s not a fluffy or cheesy story but rather a hopeful, deep and fulfilling one about two characters discovering themselves. Their relationship felt authentic to me and their character traits believable and realistic, which wasn’t surprising given how complicated and multi-faceted each of them was. The intimate scenes are also tastefully done and in perfect proportion to the rest of the story.
All in all, a beautiful, heartfelt M/M Christmas story. Recommended!