Author: Heidi Cullinan
Length: 227 Pages
Category: Holiday Romance, M/M/M, Contemporary
At a Glance: Onward and upward…I’m sure I’ll love the next one. This was definitely a very rare miss.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: 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 fiancé, 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.
Review: I’m a major Heidi Cullinan fan. Anyone who follows my reviews knows this. She consistently makes my Book-of-the-Month or Year-End Best lists. And, I’m a HUGE fan of her Minnesota Christmas series. Arthur and Gabriel, two of the MCs in Santa Baby, were the MCs in Sleigh Ride, the second book in the series, and I fell hard for them in that book. I love Logan, Minnesota, and all its residents. When it finally becomes Christmas Town, I’ll definitely be moving there. Heh. That’s how much I love this series! Here comes the BUT… Unfortunately, Santa Baby largely didn’t work for me.
Dale is in Logan to help the town realize its vision of becoming a large Christmas tourist attraction. Everyone in the town loves him—they even call him Santa—and he genuinely seems like a great guy. On top of being likeable, he’s also a long, tall drink of water whose bearded yumminess is not lost on Arthur or Gabriel. They’re caught ogling Dale at the Winter Wonderland celebration, and the flirting leads to an invitation for a threesome. I really, really like Dale. I respected so much how he handled his attraction to Gabriel, and how he respected Arthur and Gabriel’s relationship. It was so cute how he tried to hide how into Gabriel he really was from Arthur.
What was intended to be just a fun, kinky threesome, though, turns into a much bigger issue when Arthur realizes that Gabriel is struggling hard with the situation, and deduces that Gabriel has deeper feelings for Dale. This is where the story started to lose me. We never get to see anything develop between Gabriel and Dale. It went immediately from ‘Hey, let’s have him over for some kink’ to Gabriel being in love with Dale, too. It truly felt that quick. We were shown nothing to support Gabriel having such deep feelings for Dale that he freaked out before the threesome, and Arthur so easily being able to see what was going on.
I didn’t get any real sense that this was what Gabriel wanted. It felt like we were just told that it was what he wanted. Gabriel was just sort of ‘maneuvered’ through everything…we didn’t see him speaking up much, but rather, it seemed like everything was decided for him. Like, he wanted this relationship but couldn’t figure out how to get it for himself, or something; so, he let Arthur sort everything out. I feel like Gabriel got lost in this book. He wasn’t the Gabriel I fell in love with in Sleigh Ride.
The arrangement they came up with was hard to wrap my head around, too. I didn’t get the living part time with one, and part time with the other. I know Arthur is near perfect—but, I think even he would have a tough time with this. At least long term. It’s just so difficult to see how this would work if all parties weren’t poly. And, that could absolutely be simply a limitation of mine—the not being able to understand it. Arthur and Dale had a special bond of their own, and they did schedule in time for all three of them to be together as well, so perhaps that’s enough to keep everyone happy.
Here’s the thing…I don’t think I would have had as big of an issue with it if it didn’t seem to come out of left field. Arthur and Gabriel were an established couple who, aside from a few kinks, didn’t exhibit signs of anything like where they wind up. I’m all for loving poly relationships; this one just didn’t ever feel natural to me. Dale so deserved to find someone, and to get away from that motherfucker, Ronny (who I wanted to help Arthur kill). I just wish it would have happened more organically—and having it be with two new characters, instead, may have helped it feel less forced.
At the end of the day, I did adore Dale, Arthur is still the bee’s knees, Logan still rocks, and it was great to see the gang from the previous books, as well as some fun cameos…but, I just couldn’t buy the relationship between Dale, Arthur and Gabriel. Oh, and full disclosure, I guess…I was so disappointed with the cover. Whyyyyyyyy didn’t it get a gorgeous cover more similar to those of the other books? *sigh* I’ll quit nitpicking now. Onward and upward…I’m sure I’ll love the next one. This was definitely a very rare miss.
You can buy Santa Baby here: