christmas flingRating: 4 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

Evan Myles is eccentric and quite socially awkward and he typically reserves his sex for paid encounters that don’t require the social interaction normally needed to find partners. But after spending time in rural Logan, Minnesota, where there aren’t escorts to be had, Evan finally works up the nerve to pick up an attractive guy in a bar and take him home for the night. The guys have a crazy hot encounter and Evan hopes there could be something more there, but the guy bails at the end of the night.

Terry Reid is the lead architect for Logan’s new Christmas Town project and is out at the bar with a friend. When the men meet, at first Evan has no idea that Terry is the architect on the project, thinking him just a construction worker. No matter how much Terry tries, he can’t seem to get the situation clarified, especially when the guys have a hot hookup that thrills Terry, but also leaves him panicked. He has no idea how he is going to face Evan again when the two have to work closely together as architect and designer on Christmas Town.

Both of the men enjoyed their evening together, but both also have some major emotional hurdles getting in the way of it being something more. Terry knows what he wants in bed, but he is so full of anxiety about his desires he finds himself running away time and again. And Evan has his own issues with social interaction, and he can easily be thrown into a total spiral when he gets out of sorts. As Terry and Evan work together on the project, they begin to grow closer and both would love things to turn into something more. But overcoming their issues and figuring out how to face a relationship may get in the way of their happiness.

The Christmas Fling is the first book in Heidi Cullinan’s new Christmas Town series. The series is a spinoff of her fabulous Minnesota Christmas series, and those books lead very directly into this one. All of the main characters from that series appear here, some in significant roles, and Christmas Town gets its start in that series. So while this is officially the start of something new, I really think that having that background will be a big help in understanding the set up here, as well as being familiar with the side characters that show up. In fact, even having read that entire series, I did wish for a bit more background on the Christmas Town project, just to get me back up to speed. So I definitely think reading those will be useful here, but they are fabulous and that is definitely no hardship!

I actually quite loved how the two series tie together and enjoyed the expansion of the Christmas Town storyline. It is a nice way to catch us up on the folks (and the town) we know and love, while at the same time taking things in a somewhat new direction. With the guys as the project’s head architect and designer, as well as both working for Dale (who stars in Santa Baby), we get kind of a behind-the-scenes feel as we see them developing the designs and planning how the town will look. Most of this story takes place in Logan, and I am really interested to see how future books will develop and what new directions Cullinan will take the series.

While Christmas Town is the foundation of the book, this story rests largely on these two very unique characters. I don’t want to get into too much detail about these men, because a lot of it is revealed as the story develops. I’ll just say they are both unique, they both face some significant social challenges, and they each have things to work through over the course of the book. They face a very significant miscommunication early on that substantially affects the rest of the story, as well as impacting the side characters involved. It seemed a bit far fetched at first, but much less so as I got to know more about these guys. I’ll say that despite the fact that Terry does make some effort to clear things up at times, I found myself frustrated by him (and others complicit in what is by then a deception) for not just coming out with it. It seemed almost absurd how long it drags on given how close the guys are growing.

Now over the course of the book, as we come to know Terry better, it does make some sense why this is so hard for him. But we learn about his issues quite late in the book, and by then I had spent the whole time not quite getting him. In fact, I think this was kind of a low level issue for me throughout the book. These guys are fascinating, and I love that Cullinan doesn’t shy away from creating characters that have issues and challenges and are often far outside the traditional romance mold, mentally or physically. But in this case, I felt like we learn about these men so far along in the story that I had some trouble connecting with them or really understanding them for a lot of the book, which left me with an occasional disconnect.

I also found it hard to understand just how intense Evan’s feelings are for Terry after one night. He talks about how he has fallen for him, when while they admittedly have some crazy hot sex, they barely have a conversation outside of that. This issue plays into the larger conflict, and so it felt a bit contrived to make the conflict work.

Overall, however, I am really excited about this series. I’ll admit it is at least partly due to my love of the original series and my enthusiasm for being back in this world. But I also think that there is a lot of potential here for this one and I really looking forward to seeing how it develops. So if you are looking for a sweet (and at times kinky) holiday story featuring two very nontraditional men, The Christmas Fling is definitely worth checking out.

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