Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Arthur Anderson is just plain unhappy. His roommate, best friend with benefits, Paul, has decided to move out, leaving Arthur’s house cold and lonely. Paul wanted more from Arthur after years of living together and casual sex (at least that’s how Arthur looked at it). The town’s mill has closed, albeit temporarily, leaving Arthur without a job and his mother wants Arthur to act as Santa and ride a sleigh for a benefit for the town’s library. And to top it all off, his mother wants to fix him up with the librarian who so clearly despises Arthur. No, Arthur is not a happy man at all.
Shy, lonely, and cut off from the community he serves as the town librarian, Gabriel Higgins isn’t happy either, unless he is seated among children at storytime or busy with all things books. When Arthur is mentioned by Arthur’s mother (and member of the library board) as the benefit Santa, Gabe doesn’t want him, either—as a Santa, as a boyfriend, as anyone at all. But when Arthur’s efforts to wiggle out of the fundraiser lead to getting to know the man behind the storytime idol, he can’t help but be charmed.
One things leads to another and soon the men find themselves happy and sort of involved. But a small town is full of pitfalls as well as positives. Can Arthur and Gabe surmount all obstacles, including the ones they raise themselves, to find a sleigh ride to HEA?
This story absolutely threw me. I started off unsure about the characters, the town, and the unlikeliest of romances but before I knew it, Heidi Cullinan had pulled me into her world of quixotic characters, small town life and a burgeoning love affair between two such dissimilar men and kept me happily there for hours. I ended up loving this story completely and for so many different reasons.
Talk about your odd pairing! That would be short, bearish, red-headed Arthur Anderson, a gruff, handyman with certain needs, and the tall, slightly built, curly haired librarian, Gabriel Higgins. Gabe is eloquent, shy, and literary in his conversation. He too has hidden needs that will surprise all. Even their backgrounds couldn’t be any more different from each other. Arthur’s family is a delight. Gabe’s? Not so much. Arthur is actually hard to like at the beginning, He comes across as rude, boorish, and intractable. Not someone who endears himself to the reader immediately. No, Arthur has to slowly reveal the elements to his personality and the facets that he shows only to those he trusts before the reader starts to first like, and then finally fall deeply in love with him. Gabriel’s true self is hidden under a shell of protection Gabe has erected, so its hard to see at first that he has an inner fire and strength that comes out at the library where he feels safe and secure.
The scenes with the children and the stories at the library as well as the feeling of the library as a small town hub are conveyed realistically here. The authenticity of the setting and the references to childhood stories and graphic novels made this story so believable that I felt I had been there before. Cullinan is able to show the many facets of a librarian’s profession that few see past the person reshelving the books or stamping them out as you leave. It’s a lovely reveal and it makes Gabe’s character so much more interesting, giving him a depth that plays off nicely against the alienation Arthur feels from his past experience with books and reading.
And that pull of opposites is one of the major charms of this story, it’s the joy of watching the men slowly move towards each other and a future together. Loved that, truly I did. Mingled with scenes and relationships of those around them, they are pushed and pulled, tugged and marched towards each other until something gives.
Another highlight here is the relationship between Arthur and his nephew, Thomas, a sensitive child who loves a babydoll named Soupy. Aspects of their relationship, including Gabe’s part in making Thomas feel understood and accepted had me in tears. A book titled William’s Doll, a mesmerized group of children and some childhood companions combine to deliver a powerful message and turn what a mother perceived as an embarrassment into riches. Heartwarming, totally heartwarming. It also shows the ability and power of the written word (or pictures as the case might be) to change a situation as well as perspective. It was an enchanting scene that has continued to stay with me.
Cullinan has packed this story full of such dramatic and moving moments. In addition we have the exploration of two compatible if kinky sexual needs, desires that both men have trouble revealing. That difficult part of Arthur and Gabriel’s relationship is handled with the same sensitivity and thoroughness of other elements in this story while not discounting how sexy and hot it is.
So much joy and discovery, so much love and acceptance. I adored this story and all its well defined and all too human characters. It had been a while since I read Let It Snow, the first Minnesota Christmas story. It was only until I was halfway through Sleigh Ride that I realized I knew Marcus and Frankie already. I don’t think its necessary to read that story before this one. Just consider it a perk and pick it up later. You will enjoy watching Marcus and Frankie get together, while bringing back memories of this story all over again. You really can’t go wrong with either story. So get them both!
I love Heidi Cullinan, her stories always so full of heart and understanding. Sleigh Ride contains all the wonderful Heidi Cullinan trademarks with a great plot and a small town you just might want to put on your next itinerary. Consider this one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words highly recommended reads.
Cover artist: L.C. Chase. Love that cover, just as heartwarming and wonderful as the characters and story within.
Sales Links: Samhain Publishing All Romance eBook (ARe) amazon Sleigh Ride
Expected publication: November 11th 2014 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
seriesMinnesota Christmas #2
Minnesota Christmas series:
Let It Snow (Minnesota Christmas #1)
Sleigh Ride (Minnesota Christmas #2)