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Winter Wonderland by Heidi Cullinan
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Winter Wonderland

by Heidi Cullinan

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3.5 ( )
  CressK | Feb 28, 2018 |
A reread of a Minnesota Christmas book I first read last year. I didn't intend to reread this this year, but well. I just enjoy the characters in this one so very, very much, especially Paul. ~December 2016

Thirty-eight-year-old Paul Jansen wants love, and a relationship, and a happily every after. But he doesn't want to leave his small Minnesota hometown, and all the other gay men nearby are already in a relationship or don't want one. Twenty-five- year-old Kyle Parks has had a crush on Paul since he was thirteen, and now he's starting to think they might actually make a good couple. But he can't get Paul (or anyone else in town) to see him as anything but a kid. With a little help from Paul's friends, Kyle sets out to show Paul what he's really like.

I enjoyed this story a lot, despite its feeling uneven in places. The characters are all wonderful, and I kind of want to move to a small town in Minnesota after reading this book. Paul hauls a lot of emotional baggage around with him (his family is the actual worst), and Cullinan does an excellent job making his pain real and affecting. Kyle's twin sister has Down's Syndrome, and the characterization of her is just lovely. (Are you waiting for me to say something about diversity and my bells? Well, there ya go.) The cozy holiday-ness of the story hits just the right notes without being saccharine. Cullinan illuminates and busts up some sterotypes (Paul looks like a bear but is a subby bottom, and Kyle looks and acts like a twink but is a dommy top, and Paul almost puts the kibosh on the relationship before it even starts because he can't wrap his head around the idea that the "twink" kid will be compatible with him in bed), and I love that.

Despite all that good stuff to love (and it is a nice pile of good stuff), I felt like I kept waiting for threads to get probably woven in that didn't quite. The book feels like it's going to be about stereotyping in the beginning, and while it is, that theme drops off a bit once Paul and Kyle get together. The sex scenes in the first half of the book get a lot of space on the page, but in the back half (while they don't feel rushed or anything) they get much less. Paul makes an important connection with his niece, but there's no further reference to her when he (apparently) splits with his family entirely in the end. The end of the book feels rushed--though I think it was meant to mimic cheesy holiday romance movies (which Paul loves), which I gather--my new love of romances novels hasn't extended to watching any cheesy holiday romance movies--end quickly with miraculous HEAs, and I give props to Cullinan for that idea for structure, even if I did feel a bit "Ein Minuten, bitte, it's over?" when I got to the last page.

On the whole, the wonderful outweighed the uneven. I just wish the book had been, I dunno, twenty pages longer, with those twenty pages just fleshing out the story that was already there. In any case, that will not be keeping me from going back and reading the first two books in this series of holiday romances. The only question is whether I will be making myself save them for next year. ~December 2015 ( )
  lycomayflower | Dec 13, 2015 |
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Paul Jansen was the only one of his friends who wanted a relationship. Naturally, he's the last single man standing. No gay man within a fifty-mile radius wants more than casual sex. No one, that is, except too-young, too-twinky Kyle Parks, who sends him suggestive texts and leaves X-rated snow sculptures on his front porch. Kyle is tired of being the town's resident Peter Pan. He's twenty-five, not ten, and despite his effeminate appearance, he's nothing but the boss in bed. He's loved Paul since forever, and this Christmas, since they're both working on the Winter Wonderland festival, he might finally get his chance for a holiday romance. But Paul comes with baggage. His ultra-conservative family wants him paired up with a woman, not a man with Logan's rainbow connection. When their anti-LGBT crusade spills beyond managing Paul's love life and threatens the holiday festival, Kyle and Paul must fight for everyone's happily ever after, including their own.… (more)

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