Sleigh Ride by Heidi Cullinan

Grade: A
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: Mild
Genre: Contemporary , m/m, BDSM
Series: Minnesota Christmas #2
Published: 11/11/14
Reviewed by Anne
191 pages

Arthur and Gabriel are very different and, despite being single gay men in a small town, they have no interest in each other.  In fact, they each pretty much hate the idea of the other.  That doesn’t stop Arthur’s mom, Corrina from matchmaking, though, and when she gets the idea that Arthur and Gabriel should be together?  Well, she’ll pretty much steamroll over anyone who thinks otherwise, including Arthur and Gabriel.  So, considering Corrina, it’s understandable that even before they’ve met, Arthur has been drafted to play Santa and Gabriel to play Santa’s elf.

Cullinan does such a great job with this book!  The opening scenes where Arthur and Gabriel are meeting each other and mentally categorizing everything they dislike about the other are very believable. Gabriel is a librarian with a passion for small town libraries. Arthur hates libraries.  In fact, he can’t even stand the “nasty book smell” inside the library!  This hit me like a punch to the gut, because I swear that smell brings my blood pressure down and puts a smile on my face every time I walk through my library’s doors! It was easy to see why Gabriel and Arthur had no time for each other, even without meeting.  However, the more time they spend together, the more they realize how much there is to like about each other.  It was such a sweet story to watch unfold!

There is some BDSM in this book and it’s extremely well done and hot!  I’ve got to think that writing Consensual Non-consensual role-playing is challenging, but Cullinan does it very well.  There’s also some really nice emotional development through the sex scenes as the story progresses.  You see their commitment to each other and trust and understanding grow through these scenes.  I enjoy that.

Another aspect of the story that made my heart happy was the storyline addressing Arthur’s nephew (and all little boys’) right to want to play with a doll.  I also soaked up every word devoted to a librarian’s roll in a community and how seriously Gabriel took that responsibility.  The way that Arthur respected Gabriel’s work, despite his personal dislike of libraries made me fall in love with him a little!

Honestly, it’s hard to think of something I didn’t enjoy about the book.

I think this story would stand on its own just fine, but I enjoyed seeing the story of Arthur and Paul’s friendship and how things worked out between them.  So, I probably got more out of this book for having read Let It Snow before this story.

I really enjoyed this well written story!  It’s got a lot of what I love – it’s a Christmas story, it’s characters who initially dislike each other growing to care, and it’s main conflict is internal rather than external.  I’d highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys m/m romance, but it’s a must read if you like holiday stories, too!  How about you?   Do you have a favorite m/m holiday romance to recommend?

Her Holiday Man by Shannon Stacey

Grade: A
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary , small town
Published: 11/3/14
Reviewed by Anne
98 ebook pages

Will is moving back home to help his mom out after his dad dies.  He’s been wandering for a few years.  He left town after his wife and unborn baby were killed in a car accident.  He’s a not excited about all the pity he left behind, but he’s glad to have a purpose helping his mom out.  He’s surprised and a little suspicious to find that a young single mom has moved in across the street and his mom has taken the new neighbor, Christina, and her seven year old son, Nathaniel, under her wing.  Then Christina turns out to be someone Will admires and is attracted to.  Neither of them is looking for a relationship, but some sex would be awfully convenient…

This book was everything I look for in a holiday read.  It was short (about 100 pages) and focused on Will and Christina and their relationship.  Christina was a woman who had her silver platter life yanked away from her, but landed on her feet ready to work hard and figure things out.  She doesn’t want to rely on anyone but herself again, but she’s smart enough to accept help when she needs it.  Will goes from being suspicious of Christina’s motives to admiring her determination quickly.  He’s a natural helper and caregiver, and they’re drawn to each other pretty quickly.

A series of small misunderstandings provides the conflict in this story.  Usually that annoys me, but in this case it really worked.  The author didn’t force the characters to jump through hoops to perpetuate the misunderstandings.  In fact, they’re resolved fairly quickly when the characters talk to each other.  That was refreshing!

I really liked Nathaniel.  He was probably a bit perfect for a seven year old, but it didn’t bother me.  In fact, nothing about this story bothered me.  I read it in pretty much one sitting and took very few notes.  It just sucked me in and made me smile.

It’s not connected to any of Shannon Stacey’s other books, though it has the same small town feel she writes in her Kowalski books.  I really enjoyed it and I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a feel good holiday read!  How about you?  Do you have a favorite holiday romance?

Because I Can by Tamara Morgan

Grade: A-
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Montgomery Manor #3
Published: 10/13/14
Reviewed by Anne
287 ebook pages

“Monty” runs the family hotel business and the family’s charitable giving.  He likes the second more than the first, but he knows he’s expected to do both, and he works hard to live up to his father’s expectations.  That means he’s a little boring and he’s not very good at all at socializing.  He’s a very serious man, and he doesn’t think that’s a bad thing.

Georgia is the handywoman on the Montgomery estate.  She stronger and more capable than Monty and most other men in the world.  She succeeds in a world very few women are part of.  Working for the Montgomerys and others around town leaves her with the money and time to manage the local home building charity.  She’s stubborn and surrounded by three overprotective brothers, but she’s got a crush on Monty.

When Monty wants to break out of his shell a bit, he agrees to help out on Georgia’s latest homebuilding project.  The more they see of each other the more they like each other.  Maybe they have more in common than it first appears?

I can’t sing Georgia’s praises enough.  I think she’s the more unique heroine I’ve read all year and I loved her!  She’s tough and she’s capable and she’s intelligent.  And none of this is ever an issue with Monty.  He’s not put off by her ways or her non-polished looks.  This was so refreshing to read!

There is a lot of humor in this book, too.  It had me grinning throughout the story.  Monty is turned on by Georgia’s boots, Georgia’s brothers are interfering, and Monty practicing dirty talk by recording himself so he can self-critique – you know that doesn’t end well!

The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the book was Monty’s family, especially his sister who swept in and steamrolled Georgia into a makeover – even if it was something Georgia was eventually ok with.  However, that was a small piece of the whole story, and it was totally made up by the strength of every other piece.

I highly recommend this story.  It’s going on my Best of 2014 list!  Do you have any stories with unusual heroines to recommend?