David’s Selfie by Daisy Harris

Grade: B-
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m
Published: 11/18/14
Reviewed by Anne
99 ebook pages

David, single father to his three year old daughter, Maia, has decided to start dating again.  So he creates an online profile, lines up a babysitter, and takes himself to a bar to meet a guy he found online.  He’s enjoying the go-go dancer up on the bar when he sees his “date” across the bar.  The sight of the leather daddy gives David some very cold feet, and he ends up leaving the bar so quickly that he forgets his phone.

Thankfully, it’s picked up by Craig, a really nice guy who just happens to be the go-go dancer.  Looking through David’s phone for some contact information, Craig is happy to find the cock selfie David took for the hookup.  Craig talks with David and agrees to return the phone to him the next morning at a coffee shop.  And it turns out that even though David spent a lot of time looking at that go-go dancer, he apparently didn’t spend much time on the guys face, because he doesn’t recognize Craig.  David does think Craig is really attractive, though, and he’s surprised to find Craig flirting with him.

This is a hot and sweet novella, but I had some issue with it.  On the positive side, I enjoyed how David and Craig’s relationship unfolded.  Both have busy lives, so as much as they’d like to spend every moment getting to know each other, they end up moving somewhat slowly as they try to find time when they can be alone together.  Once they find themselves alone, they’re chemistry is hot and they find that they fit together very well.

Unfortunately I had issues with how David seemed to be rescuing Craig.  Craig has a really scummy landlord/roommate.  Although Craig was happy to sleep with him occaisionally in the past, apparently the landlord/roommate expects is as part of his rent, as well as expecting Craig to leave the apartment when l/r guy wants time to work on his art.  L/r guy acts like a creepy kind of parent to Craig at times.  Thankfully, David is there to step in and help Craig out, but that kind of came across as Craig trading one “daddy” for another.  I would have preferred Craig have more independence before the ending of the book.

Another problem I had with the story was my standard nit picking issue with foster care as used in romance.  *sigh* Because, of course, Craig has baggage from his time in foster care.  And is it because his birth parents lost custody of him before he was in kindergarten?  No.  He has issues because he landed in a foster home where the foster mom was mean and physically abusive.  Now I can buy that there are foster parents that are abusive.  Unfortunately, I know that is true.  I do find it hard to believe that Craig’s foster mom slapped kids in the parking lot of the grocery store, and that it happened often.  When I was a foster parent I felt like I was always under a microscope, and it was made very clear to us that using any kind of physical punishment would mean having all the foster kids pulled from our home, and possibly our biological kids, too.

On the other hand, the flashback and thoughts Craig had being around Maia did seem realistic to me.  Being around a child who was well taken care of triggered him to think more about his own upbringing.

So, that’s a lot of review for a ~100 page story.  Obviously it pushed some buttons for me, but I can recognize those aren’t things that would bother everyone.  Honestly, even with the buttons pushed, I still enjoyed the story, so I’d recommend it for anyone who likes m/m.

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?

Let It Snow by Heidi Cullinan

Grade: B+
Hotness Level: Inferno
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary, m/m
Series: Minnesota Christmas #1
Published: 11/26/13
Reviewed by Anne
155 pages

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Sleigh Ride by Heidi Cullinan through NetGalley.  When I realized it was the second in a series, I decided I wanted to read in order, so I bought Let It Snow for myself.  I’m so glad I did!

In a twist I somehow didn’t pick up from the cover blurb for Let It Snow, there’s a light fairytale twist here on Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Hair stylist Frankie is driving home from his parents’ house and gets way off track and stops at a diner in Logan, MN for a quick bite to eat and some directions to get him back on the road.  He’s a very swishy gay man, and feels self conscious in this small town where he is unsure of his reception because of his generally obvious sexual orientation.  He’s especially put off by the three burly lumberjack looking guys in a booth at the diner, so he’s happy to set off in his car, trying to beat the storm home.

Unfortunately, he quickly finds himself stuck in a ditch.  I grew up in northern Wisconsin, so I really appreciated the smarts he showed in outfitting himself and trekking down the road looking for rescue.  In true Goldilocks fashion, he finds an empty cabin (oatmeal on the stove!) and settles under some blankets inside on the couch.  That’s where the three lumberjacks/bears find him when they get home from the diner.  Now they’re in the middle of big storm, so they offer him shelter.  As he gets to know them, he no longer afraid of Arthur and Paul, but Marcus’ rude and off-putting ways leave Frankie unsure how to take him.

Marcus is having a hard time getting over how similar Frankie is to Marcus’ ex boyfriend. Frankie is just Marcus’ type, but Marcus doesn’t want to acknowledge his attraction, because he’s still heartbroken over his ex.  It leaves Marcus acting like one cranky bear.

It was hard to pictures three friends as comfortable with each other sexually as Marcus, Arthur, and Paul were.  Living together in the small cabin, Marcus always overhears his roomates having sex.  Because Arthur and Paul enjoy BDSM, it’s a little alarming for Frankie to hear and it makes him uncomfortable.  This does provide a reason for Marcus and Frankie to reach out to each other (in a non sexual way) and is the first positive interaction they have.

From there it was all about getting to know each other and deciding if they trusted each other enough to show who they really were.  I loved it!  The scenes where Frankie met Marcus’ mother in the nursing home were incredibly sweet.

It’s probably unbelievable that there’s a set up like Logan, MN in real life, but I’m willing to suspend disbelief, especially for a Christmas story, and especially for Heidi Cullinan.   It was a sweet story that didn’t ignore or brush over the harsh realities of life, but left me sure that having the right person at your side can help you overcome pretty much anything.  That’s why I read romance, and that’s what this story did very well!  I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys m/m romance.