Review: Let it Snow by Heidi Cullinan

The weather outside is frightful, but this Minnesota northwoods cabin is getting pretty hot. Stylist Frankie Blackburn never meant to get lost in Logan, Minnesota, but his malfunctioning GPS felt otherwise, and a record-breaking snowfall ensures he won’t be heading back to Minneapolis anytime soon. Being rescued by three sexy lumberjacks is fine as a fantasy, but in reality the biggest of the bears is awfully cranky and seems ready to gobble Frankie right up. Marcus Gardner wasn’t always a lumberjack—once a high-powered Minneapolis lawyer, he’s come home to Logan to lick his wounds, not play with a sassy city twink who might as well have stepped directly out of his past. But as the northwinds blow and guards come down, Frankie and Marcus find they have a lot more in common than they don’t. Could the man who won’t live in the country and the man who won’t go back to the city truly find a home together? Because the longer it snows, the deeper they fall in love, and all they want for Christmas is each other. Warning: Contains power outages, excessive snowfall, and incredibly sexy bears.

So, I didn’t pop my MM cherry on a Heidi Cullinan book, but damn if it wasn’t one of hers that cemented my love for them. So, when I found out the blog was going to be a stop on the Let It Snow book tour I bronco kicked a few fellow unicorns out of the way and dove on this one.
Actually I may have just whined and said, “memememememememe – pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease”.
Yeah, I won.

When you read the blurb it seems like you are going to be reading a sweet Christmas story about a bear a twink and more bears. One thing you will always get from this author’s books is real depth in the characters. They aren’t even characters to me and definitely are not the stereotypical ones you expect. They are fully fleshed out people and so they will always surprise and impress more than you think. I always get completely invested in all the feelings and this was no exception.

Frankie Blackburn is a directionally impaired stylist who is on his way home from his parent’s new home when he takes at least a few wrong turns and ends up in the back end of Nowhere, Minnesota and there is a blizzard bearing down on him. He’s nervous about stopping for directions. He defines himself as “swishy” and he knows how residents of a backwoods small town will perceive him, it scares him and saddens him at the same time. He grew up in a small town and couldn’t wait to get out. He moved to the city and really just traded one type of loneliness for another. Frankie can be himself in the city, but he doesn’t get the connection and acceptance he longs for. His ideal would be to live in a small town, one where he doesn’t have to hide who he is, and where he can love and be loved. He’s sure it’s just a pipedream so he hides in plain sight in the city.

Marcus Gardner is a lumberjack, former lawyer who became disillusioned with his career and after an ugly breakup, flees the city to go back home to Logan, MN. About the same time his big city life is falling apart his mother has to move into a nursing home as she is suffering from Alzheimer’s and her disease is progressing. With his mother’s illness, moving back home is a pretty easy decision. So, there he is, former hotshot lawyer, now sleeping on his friend Arthur’s couch in a cabin almost, but not quite, off the grid. Marcus works, visits his mother, spends time with Arthur and Paul, his best friends growing up and sleeps. The next day he repeats the process. He’s pretty much resigned himself to this existence because, in his words, “He’d be fine. Lonely, but fine.”

As Frankie tries to get himself coordinated and on the road, he has an accident and ends up with his car in a ditch and the blizzard fast approaching. He quickly grabs his things and hits the road looking for the nearest shelter to wait out the storm. He finds a small cabin and while no one is home, the door is unlocked and he lets himself in. Fate being what it is, the cabin just happens to be Arthur’s and it isn’t long before Arthur, Paul and Marcus arrive back home. The storm that is coming promises to shut down all travel until further notice and since Frankie is without a car now anyway, the three lumberjack bears take him in and they all hunker down to ride out the storm.

The story of the dynamics of these four was in turn, fun, heartbreaking, tense and sexy as hell. Marcus and Frankie are sooooo attracted to one another, but each has their reasons for holding back and this is where the story became more than just a Christmas time romance. There is a recurring theme of perceptions and illusions here that I thought were incredibly interesting.

Both Frankie and Marcus have a set perception in their mind about what the other is like and how they think based on what they expect their stereotype to be. Marcus is a big strong bear of a man, he should always be in control and take care of everything and everyone. Frankie is sweet, flamboyant and effeminate, he needs to be taken care of and he should always look pretty. What they each find out as they get to know one another is that their expectations are just illusions and they are subconsciously perpetuating the same stereotypes that they each rail against.

On a bigger scale both Frankie and Marcus are applying stereotypical bindings to their homes. It’s easier that way. It’s much easier to believe that all small towns are the same, riddled with homophobia and small mindedness, than to take a chance and be proven wrong. It’s much easier to believe that the big city is safer because there are more people, it’s easier to blend in, it’s easier to hide. Both think the potential to be hurt is too great to look beyond the illusion of what they expect and it takes some outside forces and strong words from a good friend to give each of them they kick in the ass they need to open their eyes to the reality and not just see the illusions they’ve created.

So, while this is an incredibly sweet and wonderful Christmas love story, it’s also a reminder that everyone can, and should be, a princess at some time. And they shouldn’t be surprised if their knight shows up in a bright red ski coat and perfectly styled hair instead of armor to save them and give them a happily ever after.

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