Review: ‘The Christmas Fling’ by Heidi Cullinan

36960440Published December 12th 2017
207 pages

Eccentric, reclusive, socially awkward project designer Evan Myles doesn’t date. Paying for sex with professionals is so much more efficient and suits his needs well enough. But when he’s on assignment in rural Logan, Minnesota, for the Christmas Town project and a handsome stranger at the bar catches his attention, Evan decides it’s time to break his rule. It doesn’t matter that he’s never so much as flirted before. It can’t be that hard, can it?

Davidson Incorporated lead architect Terry Reid hasn’t been hit on so clumsily in his life. Terry’s the first to admit he’s a neurotic Prince Charming, and he’s kissed his share of frogs of both genders, but he’s never met anyone quite like Evan Myles. Evan calls Terry by the wrong name, mistakes Terry for a simple construction worker, and picks apart his work as an architect. Despite this rough start, Terry is lured by the brilliance of Evan’s ideas, his quirky personality, and once they’re alone in Evan’s cabin, the man’s mad skills in bed. Yet Terry knows it takes more than a single night of passion to make a relationship work, and after so many failures, he’s just not ready to try again.

Evan and Terry’s path is strewn with stones neither of them can dislodge. Fortunately, they’re not alone on the road to romance. They’re in Christmas Town, home to matchmakers, meddlers, and more “fairy godfathers” than they could possibly know what to do with.

I have too many feels about this one to include it in my ‘My Week In Holiday Romances’ series, so it’s getting a post of its own for me to talk about it! I’ve tried not to go too far with the spoilers, but I have too many feelings to keep everything a secret…

I lost my mind when I saw this was coming out, I was beyond excited. I hadn’t realised it was even in the works, it was a total Christmas surprise for me, so I grabbed myself an ARC and dove right in. The town and people of Logan mean a lot to me. I adored the Minnesota Christmas series, and the last book in that series, ‘Santa Baby’, was actually quite the life-changer for me. I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s the truth. I’ll talk about that properly another time. But yes, the prospect of diving back into that world again was everything to me.

We arrive back in Logan right in the thick of the construction of Christmas Town. The old gang are all there, Dale front and centre, and it’s like we never left, even though this story is told from the perspective of characters we’ve never met before. Evan is a project designer, and he’s one of those crazy geniuses. Very eccentric, blunt, literal, with no filter. He essentially has no idea how to communicate with other human beings. He’s totally fascinating. Terry is lead architect on the project, and appears to be Mr Average Joe.

Until a meeting in a bar and a case of mistaken identity has them stumbling into bed together and Terry finds that Evan can give him everything he needs. To let go, to submit, to be humiliated. And hot damn was it deliciously, wonderfully kinky. For someone who struggles to interact with people in everyday life, Evan has very safe hands in the bedroom, and reads Terry’s desires like a book. He pushes his limits and opens him up, then wakes up the next morning to find him gone.

Turns out Terry isn’t as Average Joe as he seemed. He’s struggling through his own issues, and he’s more like Evan than he realises. They’ve got some lovely people in their lives that help to manage them, some subtly and some not so much. Charlotte and Levi are superstars, Evan and Terry would seriously get nowhere without those two; and Dale is there with his heart so huge, he has to make sure everyone is doing as well as they can be. He seriously is like Santa.

It should have been absurd that Evan didn’t realise who Terry was when they met again, but given the way Evan’s brain works it does make perfect sense. It’s agonisingly frustrating in the best way to watch him almost connect the dots but not quite get there time and time again. I was torn between desperately wanting someone to tell him, and willing him to work it out on his own, because you know that’s the best way for him to come to terms with it. So what does Dale do? Send Evan and Terry off on an impromptu work trip to live together! Sneaky, sneaky Dale. Bloody genius.

Evan and Terry living together are like little kids without parental supervision. They’re childlike and adorable, especially Evan, but they work so well together. Their brains are so in sync. And Evan feels like he’s falling for someone new, so torn between the other man he thinks he loves and this new one that he’s pretty sure he loves too. He was so hopelessly endearing about it, I just wanted to give him a big squishy hug.

I loved seeing all the old Logan gang turn up, not just as a fleeting glimpse, but as an integral part of the story. They become this lovely support system for Evan, the first real friends he’s ever made, and he gets to build a network of people who care about him without needing to manage him. And through it all we get to see how all the other couples from the Minnesota Christmas series are getting on. And the peeks we get, at Dale and Gabriel especially, totally warm my heart. As does Evan’s friendship with Linda Kay, that was just pure gold.

When Evan and Terry finally make it back into the bedroom, we get to see that glorious chemistry back in full force. They are this perfect fit. They both thrive on boundaries and instruction, and their needs coincide so well that they end up having the best sex they have ever, and could ever, have. I seriously couldn’t get over how incredibly Evan handled Terry. He provided him with this safe space that he really needed, pacing things so well. It’s outside of the sex that things don’t go quite as smoothly.

When Evan finally works everything out, when he has that lightbulb moment, I was scared it would all be too much for him, but the way he handled it was amazing. I was so proud. But at the same time we get to see just how much stress and pain and shame that Terry has been carrying on his shoulders, weighing him down, feeling like he can’t ever get free of it. Terry is living with some horribly serious anxiety, and I related to him so hard. I had to frequently pause and hug my Kindle. I felt all the things.

My heart broke for Terry, seeing how determined he was to work through his problems because of how much he loves Evan. Watching him battle his anxiety, getting help and therapy and medication, was so important. Inspiring. He was owning his problems, breaking down the walls his demons had caged him in. It was so powerful. It’s a seriously hard fought happily ever after and I need the next book in this series, like now, so I can see that these two are still going strong.

The whole book demonstrates and embraces the struggles of mental disorders and illnesses, providing understanding and hope, whilst embodying the magic of the festive season. It was absolutely gorgeous.

5/5 stars

One thought on “Review: ‘The Christmas Fling’ by Heidi Cullinan

  1. Pingback: My Week in Holiday Romances! (#3) | cdawgz reads

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