Review: Heidi Cullinan – Christmas Fling (Christmas Town #1)

Author: Heidi Cullinan
Reviewer: Natalie
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: MM Holiday

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Summary: Sometimes it takes a village to fall in love.

Eccentric, reclusive, socially awkward project designer Evan Myles doesn’t date. Paying for sex with professionals is so much more efficient and suits his needs well enough. But when he’s on assignment in rural Logan, Minnesota, for the Christmas Town project and a handsome stranger at the bar catches his attention, Evan decides it’s time to break his rule. It doesn’t matter that he’s never so much as flirted before. It can’t be that hard, can it?

Davidson Incorporated lead architect Terry Reid hasn’t been hit on so clumsily in his life. Terry’s the first to admit he’s a neurotic Prince Charming, and he’s kissed his share of frogs of both genders, but he’s never met anyone quite like Evan Myles. Evan calls Terry by the wrong name, mistakes Terry for a simple construction worker, and picks apart his work as an architect. Despite this rough start, Terry is lured by the brilliance of Evan’s ideas, his quirky personality, and once they’re alone in Evan’s cabin, the man’s mad skills in bed. Yet Terry knows it takes more than a single night of passion to make a relationship work, and after so many failures, he’s just not ready to try again.

Evan and Terry’s path is strewn with stones neither of them can dislodge. Fortunately, they’re not alone on the road to romance. They’re in Christmas Town, home to matchmakers, meddlers, and more “fairy godfathers” than they could possibly know what to do with.

Most importantly, in Logan, Minnesota, happy ever after is guaranteed.

Review: I really dislike giving a less than stellar review to an author I usually enjoy reading. Unfortunately, this particular story just didn’t work for me on too many levels. It seemed to start out well, with a promising mistaken identity trope. Evan was a wonderful character, on the autism spectrum, but highly functional, quirky, eccentric and often lacking in interpersonal skills. I enjoyed his dynamic with Charlotte and Dale, who also helped him manage his life. Terry was quite likable too, having his own rather anomalous characteristics, depending on his best friend Levi for guidance and advice, not that he always listened. The major sex scene early in the book gets quite hot and kinky, but made me a little uncomfortable too. Not the kink itself, but the way Evan seemed to push Terry too hard. Even though Terry consented to Evan’s suggestions, he was not very verbal about it, and there was no safe word discussed. During it, Terry’s own thoughts led me to anticipate some type of a negative reaction after the fact.

The mistaken identity scenario could have been fun, but became annoying because from 20% through 65%, Evan still never realizes Kevin is Terry, or Terry is Kevin. Terry does sort of try to tell him but allows Evan to stop him the few times he tried. Dale throws them together, living and working side by side, but nothing physical happens between them again other than work. It’s all about the town, the building, the other characters and then some dialogue between the two. After the truth comes out, things do move forward slowly, yet still without much romance being shown. I couldn’t feel much romantic connection at all. The little there was seemed to get lost in the separate, and frequent, internal dialogues and discussions with all the other characters. When it finally reaches a second sex scene, it becomes telling, not showing, only describing what Evan does to Terry, and sets up a crisis point. I know it was intentional on the author’s part but the cause of Terry’s issues was left undisclosed until near the end of the story. I couldn’t recognize the problem and knowing might have let me enjoy some scenes, or at least not been so annoyed. The ending was a grand gesture sort of thing but I wish we’d seen them as a real couple for a while beyond that.

The Minnesota Christmas men and their families did become friends to both guys, as they’re all working to transform the town into a holiday-themed tourist destination. Dale is quite present, and he tends to coddle Evan quite a lot and Terry as well. I’m ambivalent about Dale because his story wasn’t a favorite either. I did like the first three Minnesota Christmas stories a great deal. There’s going to be a difference of opinion between my view and other reviewers who will find this story delightful, but no two people will ever read the same book in quite the same way.

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