Happiness for Beginners Audiobook by Zahra Owens Narrated by Michael Stallman

Dreamspinner Presents: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2604




Jesse harbored a crush on his TV series costar, Kaye, for more than eight years, but when the show was canceled and he realized those years of playing gay hadn’t convinced Kaye to leave the straight and narrow, Jesse turned his back on acting for good. Ten years later, Kaye is back in Jesse’s life, on Christmas Eve – and the eve of his third divorce. Jesse’s not sure his heart can take another beating, but Kaye has a few tricks up his sleeve – and a few truths from his own heart – that might just convince Jesse that the gifts of love and happiness are not just for Christmas.

A novella from the Dreamspinner Press 2011 Advent Calendar package “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”.

 Morgan’s Review

 (Contains spoilers- be warned)

Jesse is an ex-TV star who now runs a travel agency. He is surprised when Kaye, his ex-costar, suddenly turns up on his doorstep after divorce number three. Jesse had a huge crush on Kaye back in the day, especially since they were on on-air gay couple, but Kaye was “straight” and therefore off limits. After the show ended the two never had ANY contact until now, ten years later.

Kaye is depressed. His marriages fail. His most current ex won’t let him see their adopted daughter and he hasn’t actually had sex in 14 years.

What?! 14 years? Yes, that’s what I said.

We find out Kaye’s mother is a psychiatrist who “cures” the gay out of a person and really did a number on Kaye’s sexual identity. Now, he wants to “experiment” to find his true sexuality. With Jesse. Jesse agrees. They embark on some hot make-out sessions and it seems pretty clear that Kaye is in fact, gay.

Then, suddenly, Kaye is packing to go back to LA. He accepted a part out there and has to leave. Does he discuss this with Jesse? Nope. Just begins packing.

Jesse is pissed and rightfully so. He throws Kaye out and cries himself to sleep.

But Kaye doesn’t actually leave. He misses his plane and returns to Jesse, heart in hand, asking to start a don’t-ask-don’t-tell relationship with him and Jesse agrees.

The End.


This entire story made me so frustrated!

The beginning was a slow lead up to what was looking like a GFY/OFY. I figured that Kaye was deluding himself for some reason, and when it was revealed what his mom did for a living I thought that was a nice, unique twist. I appreciated the slow build up and was excited when the couple started talking and “experimenting”.

Then, when Kaye left I was mad, but hey, he came back. But then he makes this ridiculous proposal of “we’ll be a couple but won’t tell anyone” and Jesse agrees even though he’s said over and over that he won’t go back in the closet… and they live on opposite coasts… and really? Fourteen years with no sex?? Kaye obviously has a bunch of issues he needs to work through.

I thought it was ridiculous. Jesse was way too easy on Kaye and I was left thinking there is no way this couple makes it. Kaye is far from actually accepting who he is and Jesse is not doing anything to protect himself. I never got to the point where I actually liked Kaye and as a result, I didn’t feel good about Jesse and his door-mat acceptance of Kaye’s crap.

Sure, we can interpret that this is the beginning of the story, and hope the boys figure things out. However, I was not left feeling that this was a reliable HEA or even HFN. Therefore, the name “Happiness for Beginners” feels like a misnomer because nobody seemed very happy to me, even at the end.

I give the story a 2 of 5 hearts because the writing was fine and the story had potential.


Michael did a nice job with the narration. There wasn’t a lot of “acting” but the sound quality was good and his voice allows you to be absorbed in the story. I give the narration a 4 of 5 hearts.

Overall… well I wouldn’t recommend either the audio version or the book version but I’d give it a 3 of 5 just because it did stir up my emotions and that is saying something.