Cullen Patrick just inherited Treeline, a slightly-crumbling boutique hotel outside Aspen, from his estranged grandfather. Apparently, there had been a long search for Cullen. If he hadn’t been found within this final week, the hotel’s ownership would have fallen to Matt Nathanson, the hotel’s long-time manager, and the person who’d nursed Cullen’s grandfather for the last several years of his life. Even if Matt isn’t the owner, he’s not able to be fired, based on the provisions of the estate. That doesn’t mean he wants to stay.
Matt’s bitter about this new situation. He’d worked hard for Cullen’s grandfather, loved him as a mentor, and cared for him like family. He’s disgusted that Cullen—who has never even known his grandfather—gets the Treeline. Matt has been helping to refurbish it using estate funds for the past year, assuming he’d get it outright, and now he’s just another employee. Thing is, Cullen is really nice. He’s a professional snowboarder, but thinking that he’s getting too old to maintain his competition schedule on the X-Games tour. Treeline may be an historic hotel, but it’s got prime land that could be groomed into a training center for snowboarders. Cullen loves that Matt’s so competent, and attractive. He wants to keep Matt at Treeline, as a manager and friend, even if being lovers is off the table.
But, it isn’t. Matt appreciates Cullen’s free-spirit, and how Cullen backs him up. As time goes on, they build a partnership, Matt sharing his experiences with his grandfather, and Cullen taking a real interest in improving the hotel’s services and amenities. They gain mutual appreciation and affection, but it might all crumble if they can’t trust one another to stay put. Matt’s got job offers and Cullen’s must make appearances on the pro circuit.
This is a pretty low-conflict romance. It felt like this book was staged to be an enemies-to-lovers story, but neither guy had that strong of feelings. Cullen is mostly happy, with a bit of embarrassment over the situation. Matt’s frustrated and hurt, but he’s a total professional, and he does his best at all times to make Treeline a fantastic place. They actually talk out their initial difficulties and acknowledge their attraction. It’s kind of cute, because Matt’s pretty uptight and doesn’t have a lot of experience with sexual relations. It seems, though, that the more time passes, the more vulnerable each man seems to feel about the situation.
I had a little trouble with the timeline of this book, in truth. It seemed to take place over the course of a few months, but some of the plot points, including the grounds renovations, were unlikely to occur in such a short period. And, if this partnership had been forged over the, perhaps, eighteen months that could have reasonably accommodated all the plot points, then the likelihood that these guys had bona fide insecurities over the state of their relationship seems vanishingly low. There’s also a jealous ex plot twist that seems to come out of nowhere, to inject a bit of conflict at the very end. It felt too manufactured, for me.
That said, I liked the characters very much. I liked how they built a loving relationship and a strong partnership. They were a good influence for each other, with Matt learning to relax and Cullen abandoning his vagabond ways. This is a feel-good type of story that had some fun sporty elements—I got a tutorial in snowboarding and crunchy lingo.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.