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Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas) by Heidi…
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Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas)

by Heidi Cullinan

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811,035,133 (3.25)1

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Some of the best romance novels I've ever read were by Heidi Cullinan, and I have a particular love for the Minnesota Christmas series, of which this is a part. So I'm particularly saddened that I didn't love the socks off this book. But I didn't.

The premise is that Gabriel, who we know from the other three books, and who got his happy ending in book two with Arthur, realizes (with Arthur's help) that he's polyamorous and that he's falling in love with Dale. This was my first difficulty with the story. I've read lots of stories about polyamory, and it's not a thing that bugs me at all, but I had a terrible time getting over this feeling that this plot "overrode" the HEA of book two, even though Gabriel and Arthur are still together and happy. I told myself to just go with it, as it felt like a me problem rather than a book problem, but I never quite managed to. In addition to that nagging feeling, I felt like Gabriel and Arthur didn't quite read like themselves, like maybe Cullinan altered their characters a bit to tell this story. And sure, people change, and there's no reason why that can't be represented in a romance series. But it didn't feel earned, somehow. Furthermore (and this is my biggest complaint about the book), the idea here is that Gabriel is poly and Arthur is "open-minded," willing (and happy) to be in a relationship with a man who falls in love with multiple people and will have more than one relationship at once. But Arthur's not meant to be poly: he's supposed to be fond of Dale, to be coming to love him, but the primary love story here is meant to be between Gabriel and Dale, the *falling in love* is supposed to be between them. But, having finished the story, I have no idea what Dale and Gabriel see in each other, no idea what made them fall in love with each other, but I know *exactly* how Arthur and Dale have fallen in love. Their relationship was on the page; Gabriel and Dale's wasn't (much). I also never felt like I knew Dale in the way that I knew all of the other characters from this series of books. I always say that Cullinan's books should be just a little longer, but this one could have used another hundred pages, honestly. We had three pov characters, one of whom is completely new to us, and the book just didn't have room to handle all those povs fully along with all of the emotional arcs and plot points.

Whew. Okay, that's a lot of points against. Now for the points for. This book *feels* right, that is, it feels like a Minnesota Christmas book, and that erases a lot of my unhappiness with it otherwise all by itself. Because I love this series so much. Also, Cullinan absolutely nails (as usual) the male friendships among all the characters we've come to know over the course of the series. And finally, there are a few scenes in the book (two or three) that are full-on, shivers down the spine, read them three times in a row AMAZEPANTS. (They all involve Arthur; it kind of becomes his book in a lot of ways.) Cullinan writes the high emotion scenes (Gabriel discovering new things about himself; some dark, abuse-related stuff with Dale) like nobody's business. These save the book for me, honestly. I just wish the whole thing could have hung together better, or--maybe--that she had told *this* story with a different set of characters. ( )
  lycomayflower | Dec 31, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0996120386, Paperback)

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 fiancE, 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 08 Dec 2016 14:45:06 -0500)

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