Arthur Anderson is not thrilled to find out his mother has signed him up to play Santa and drive the sleigh for the library fundraiser. Especially since he knows it is all a ploy to set him up with the geeky town librarian, Gabriel Higgins. Arthur doesn’t like that prissy, nerdy librarian and has no interest in spending time with him, and certainly not in dating him. Arthur may be lonely since his two best friends moved out, but he is not that desperate.
Gabriel isn’t particularly thrilled to find himself thrown together with the gruff Arthur either, finding him boorish and unappealing. Being forced to play an elf alongside Arthur’s Santa is the stuff of Gabriel’s nightmares, but getting out of it is proving impossible.
The two men want nothing to do with one another until one night tempers explode, and the angry hate turns into some crazy hot sex. Gabriel has never been able to let his fantasies out in the open, but somehow Arthur pushes all the right buttons to help Gabriel really let go and the two men have an explosive night together. Neither man is quite sure they want things to continue, but as they spend more time together, Arthur and Gabriel’s dislike for one another slowly fades and is replaced by attraction and a growing closeness.
Both Gabriel and Arthur are lonely, but neither one has ever really expected to find a relationship. Arthur pretty much just sleeps around, and Gabriel hasn’t dated at all in years, and definitely not since becoming the small town librarian. Being with Arthur gives Gabriel a chance to really explore his sexual passions, but it still scares him. He worries about what people will think of him and how he will fit in. As Gabriel stirs things up at the library, working to bring more diversity and openness to the educational programs, not everyone is happy to see the quiet librarian taking a stand, let alone openly dating Arthur. And Gabriel still worries about his sexual interests and whether it is ok to ask for what he wants. Both Gabriel and Arthur are finally finding happiness with one another, but they must be brave enough seize the opportunity to be together the way they want, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Sleigh Ride is the second book in Heidi Cullinan’s Minnesota Christmas series and it picks up about a year after the first book, Let it Snow. At this point, Marcus has moved out to live with Frankie and things have pretty much fallen apart with Arthur and Paul. They had been best friends and fuck buddies for years, but Paul finally got fed up with the fact that he would never be anything more to Arthur and moved out as well. Now Arthur is missing his friend and realizing how much he hates being alone. He doesn’t believe he is capable of, or even deserves, a relationship, but he is still at loose ends finding himself without his best friends in his lonely cabin.
Gabriel is also lonely, mostly because he has totally isolated himself since coming into town. Part of Gabriel wants so much to be a part of a family, to fit in and have people who care for him. But he is also shy and terrified and has so far been unwilling to break out and really interact with people. So this is really a story of two very different, yet equally lonely, people finding happiness together. It is sweet to see these guys who so shouldn’t fit together on the surface find their way to one another. Despite his outward appearance as a boorish bear, Arthur is really sweet and sensitive and so doting on Gabriel. I love that he is a total softie underneath and watching him care for Gabriel is so sweet. Gabriel too longs for companionship and it is so rewarding to see him find not only happiness with Arthur, but also to find his place in the town and within Arthur’s family.
I love a good enemies to lovers story and for me the best part is seeing these guys go from hate to love. Let me tell you, the scene where the guys go from fighting to fucking is sexy and incredibly intense and really sets the stage for the rest of their interaction. Cullinan is so good at exploring these different sexual dynamics, of portraying these characters who struggle with accepting what they want and who they are. We watch Gabriel fight to bury his feelings and his sexual needs, but at the same time see his joy and relief when he finally is able to let them out. This book is so sexy and sometimes a bit dirty and I just loved the dynamic between these two men.
Aside from the relationship between Arthur and Gabriel, this is also the story about the power of libraries, especially in small communities. We see what a difference Gabriel makes in the lives of people in the town, bringing them not just books and movies, but a window into the larger world. He lovingly provides story time the children, reading them books with diverse characters and about things bigger than themselves. These lessons will help them if they stay in Logan, or as they prepare to go out into the larger world. Cullinan does such a beautiful job making a case for the importance of these small town libraries. The scene where Gabriel talks to the children about how it is ok for boys to want want dolls is so moving and perfectly done, you can feel the difference Gabriel is making in all of their lives. It is a beautiful love letter to libraries and the power they have to really change people’s lives.
So overall I just loved this one. It is a perfect blend of holiday sweetness with some really sexy intensity. I just loved the way Cullinan portrays Gabriel’s awakening, of how he finally lets himself go and claims what he wants and needs without worrying about what other people think. She showcases how sweet and caring these men are, at the same times as we see them hard and sexy. All of it is framed in a lovely holiday story about small towns and the power of community. Just loved it!