Don't Plan to Stay

Don't Plan to Stay - Kaje Harper Reviewed for Sinfully.

Donnie isn’t sure of the reaction he is going to get when he stops by his hometown in North Dakota after having done a six year prison term for a car accident that killed a man and injured his best friend and lover Adam, as well as Adam’s older brother. Donnie hasn’t kept in contact with anyone, ignoring all the family’s attempts at contact, and he has now been out of prison for six months. Donnie just needs to know that Adam is okay and then he can continue his journey to California to start his new life.

Reactions to Donnie’s return are mixed, but not necessarily for the reasons he thinks. The one thing that hasn’t changed is Adam’s effect on Donnie. When Adam asks him to stay for a while and help out at the family store, Donnie can’t refuse. Nate, who now runs the store isn’t happy at all about Donnie’s return and makes it very clear. Adam’s father isn’t as disapproving, but things are pretty uncomfortable. A lot has changed, but a lot has remained the same and even though Donnie doesn’t plan to stay, he knows it’s not going to be easy to leave again.

I wasn’t sure how this would go, so I prepared for some major angst. What I got instead was a quiet, but emotional homecoming story. It’s not just Donnie that has to deal with his past and reconcile the person he was with the person he is now. Everyone has gone through changes in the past six years and everyone has their own mistakes to acknowledge. The one thing that hasn’t fundamentally changed is the love between Donnie and Adam and the sense of family between Donnie and the Lindbergs.

Adam realizes that his love hasn’t changed, but that they aren’t the kids they used to be. He knows he needs to let Donnie decide whether he will stay or go and he wants to do his best not to pressure him. I enjoyed Adam and Donnie becoming friends again, getting used to being around each other and sharing some of what the last six years were like. It’s obvious Donnie’s time in prison wasn’t easy and has changed the way he sees himself, but it has only made Adam see him as a stronger person than ever before. As Donnie finds his place in the world again, Adam’s brother Nate and their father also have to do some of their own readjusting.

This holiday story struck a wonderful balance between the emotion of reconciliation (without getting heavily angsty) and the romance of Adam and Donnie finding their way together again. Whether as friends or lovers, their connection comes through beautifully. There were one or two characters that showed up early that I expected to play a bit more in the plot then disappeared, including the sheriff, but other than that, I really enjoyed this second-chance Christmas story and highly recommend it.