Monday, December 19, 2016

Santa Baby by Heidi Cullinan

Trimming the tree is more fun with three.

Twin Cities developer Dale Davidson has come to Logan, Minnesota, to turn it into Christmas Town, not to give in to Arthur Anderson’s offer to join him and his fiancé, Gabriel Higgins, for a Christmas Eve threesome. Dale is polyamorous, but it’s clear Arthur is offering a night of fun and nothing more. Maybe one night with the couple he admires so much won’t hurt…

Together the three of them light a fire hot enough to boil Lake Superior in January, and one night of fun becomes an extended engagement as Dale puts down some tentative roots in his new hometown. Everyone loves Dale, Logan’s own Santa Claus, and somehow no one knows what wild times are happening right underneath their noses. No one knows, either, the complicated ways they’re falling in love with one another.

But a shadow from Dale’s past emerges, an abuser threatening him with violence and shame. Ronny doesn’t want a happy ever after for Dale, only to draw him back into a consuming darkness. It will take the love of not only Gabriel and Arthur but all of Logan to convince their Santa he has nothing to be ashamed of—and that he will always have a home in their hearts.

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Book 4
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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Heidi Cullinan is a very special writer. She may be the only author I know who can write filthy, wickedly satisfying smut that makes me go all tingly, while also making me stop and question sexual politics and relationship norms.

The best way I can describe the Minnesota Christmas books is as a series of erotic Gilmore Girls Christmas Specials. The picturesque town, the colourful characters, and the witty banter are all here – the author just adds a healthy helping of kinky gay sex to each story.

Gabriel and Arthur will be familiar from Sleigh Ride, the second book in the series. Dale is the bearish events planner from the Cities, who is working to develop Logan into a Christmas tourist destination. I really loved all three of these men. Gabriel and Arthur feel older in this book and I enjoyed them more as an established couple. It is Arthur who steps up as matchmaker between Gabriel and Dale and I loved how his dominant tendencies allowed all of the relationships in this story to work. I also love that this was a story about polyamory and not just another ménage. These men are hot, the sex is kinky, and the relationships are built on strong friendships, open minds, and trust.

While some of the author’s earlier books have included elements of polyamory (think of the relationships in the Special Delivery series), this is the first book which fully names and explores the concept of loving more than one person at once. There were some incredibly thought provoking scenes between all three men and I loved the maturity in their relationships. Some of the ideas around polyamory were oversimplified – this was almost a dummy’s guide to polyamory in parts – but I’m glad a mainstream romance writer braved the topic. This is still a romance novel and non-monogamous readers may struggle with the need for easy happily ever afters, weddings, and commitment ceremonies. In turn, this may stretch the minds of traditional romance readers who still need the satisfaction of a happily ever after.

I really loved this story – there are a couple of D/s scenes that pretty much blew my mind and some of the hottest ménage scenes I can remember reading. More than that, I loved all three of these men and I’m completely addicted to the town of Logan, Minnesota.

Avid Reader☆☆☆
M/M/M Poly relationships
Triggers: Click HERE to see Avid Reader’s review on Goodreads for trigger warnings.

This was my second book in this series and while it was good, I just couldn't really get into the flow. I felt that the previous book was faster paced – didn't stall in places and had more intrigue to offer.

While I appreciate that Cullinan offered the reader a very comprehensive polyamory description, I felt that it was almost too overdone.

The relationship between Gabriel and Arthur is blossoming – they are headed towards marriage and a family. They have careers that they enjoy, friends who share similar interests, and a town that they love and who love them back. Watching the relationship between Arthur and Gabriel morph was actually very interesting. I think that it was fairly organic, and even when Gabriel needed a push, Arthur was calm and patient.

Then you add in Dale and the dynamic between Gabriel and Arthur changes, such that Arthur can dominate both of the other two, but Gabriel also lets Dale top to some extent.

When you throw in the bully/abuser of Dale, things become more complicated. However, it seemed to almost be a back-burner issue even after it was brought up. It was resolved, but again, almost an afterthought with the resolution.

Overall, the secondary characters helped me enjoy the story more, but it just wasn't for me.

This is the fourth book in the series – and I would certainly recommend that you read at least Sleigh Ride before this one, although they are all good reads, and the characters in each are in this story.

Logan is a town which is considering going all out in its plan to be Christmas all year around, and rather than rely on the local efforts, they bring in an expert, Dale. He soon finds that there is a small but growing gay community who welcome him into their midst. He is very happy to be away from a difficult ex back in the city. He is also strongly attracted to Arthur's fiancé, Gabriel, and is not sure how to deal with Arthur's offer of a night of fun. He's not sure fun is enough.

As these three men work out just what this change in situation means for all of them, negotiate the issues of being quiet and discreet, and get to know each other better, Dale's past comes to haunt him. Now there is even more at stake, and more people getting involved in their business. The way that the intensity develops is very clever, as the danger to the mental wellbeing of these men is significant. I thought it worked really well. I enjoy reading about how people deal with the unexpected, and choose to shape their lives to in accordance with what is best for them, rather than convention. There are some very passionate and steamy scenes between the three men, as well as some very relaxed and comfortable ones.

I hope that there are more episodes to come, because even though there is a very satisfying ending, these is surely more to happen as Logan goes forward with its plans.

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi on her website.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas #4) by Heidi Cullinan to read and review.

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