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.

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?

One in a Million by Jill Shalvis

Grade: A-
Hotness Level: Blaze
Kink Level: No Kink
Genre: Contemporary
Series: Lucky Harbor #12
Published: 10/14/14
Reviewed by Kate
368 pages

Tanner is the last of the Lucky Harbor Charters trio to pair up.  He’s happy being a loner, taking care of everyone in his life but not risking his heart.  Callie has been sent to Lucky Harbor, where she grew up, to determine if her grandma, Lucille, is crazy or not.  She’s was left at the alter years ago and is not willing to put her heart on the line again.  A very casual relationship between Tanner and Callie seems to be just what they both need.  Until they both start to want more.

Tanner is my new favorite Shalvis hero, although Anne would tell you that I say that about every Shalvis hero I read.  But seriously, when you read about the sucker valentine from high school you’ll completely understand why I melted for a fictional hero.  I think Tanner’s going to be my new book boyfriend (shh…don’t tell my husband).  Callie is such a wonderful, quirky character.  Her grandmother is Lucille, so can we expect anything else?  But behind her funny and klutzy exterior there’s such a genuine fragileness that you can’t help but root for her as she struggles to get over the pains and disappointments of her past.

We’ve reached the final Lucky Harbor book and I have to admit to being a little sad at seeing it come to an end.  However, Shalvis did such a marvelous job of finishing the series strong and I’m looking forward to seeing what she writes for us next.  If you haven’t read a Lucky Harbor book yet, you’re missing out on a funny and heartwarming small-town series.  Pick up any book in this series and you’ll find yourself going back to read the rest.  But I think this one’s my favorite of the bunch.