Review originally posted at Sinfully.
The signs were there. In [b:Sleigh Ride|22055733|Sleigh Ride (Minnesota Christmas, #2)|Heidi Cullinan|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1399597736s/22055733.jpg|41383859] Gabriel tells Arthur that one of the kinks he was most interested in when he looked at porn was orgies. Arthur telling Gabe that when he felt safe with his main partner he would be more likely to want to try it in real life, though Arthur wasn’t sure he could share Gabriel. What appeared to be a throwaway comment in [b:Winter Wonderland|25537817|Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas, #3)|Heidi Cullinan|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1431619912s/25537817.jpg|45328363] about Gabriel’s apparent interest in Dale and whether he and Arthur would invite Dale for some fun, now appears to have been a seed planted for this book. This is definitely going to be a polarizing book for fans of the series. If you are not a fan of bringing someone new into an already established relationship, you are going to want to think twice about this story.
Santa Baby picks up right where Winter Wonderland ends. I would suggest having at least read Sleigh Ride prior to this one so you understand the relationship between Gabriel and Arthur, but Dale is pretty new to the series so you could jump in here. Dale is polyamorous and is taken by Gabriel after working with him for weeks on the Logan development project. He is running from a bad situation with a co-worker and plans to spend a lot of time in Logan. When Arthur invites him for a little fun with him and Gabriel after noticing the sparks between the two of them, Dale wants nothing more. When the time comes though, things don’t go as planned and Arthur realizes that for him it’s a bit of kink, but for Gabriel it’s so much more.
In Sleigh Ride, Gabriel had for the first time accepted who he is and what he wants, Arthur guiding him through it all. Here, with Dale, Gabriel is continuing that journey and once again, it is Arthur guiding him. Arthur wants nothing more than for Gabriel to be happy and if Dale makes Gabriel happy, then Arthur will do everything he can to make that happen.
If you follow my reviews at all you know I love ménage books, but this was a uniquely written relationship from anything I’ve read before. This wasn’t a story of a couple bringing in a third for fun and games then accidentally falling for him. Gabriel and Dale are polyamorous, but Arthur is not. While Arthur doesn’t mind playing with others, he only wants one romantic partner. But Arthur’s outlook on sex and relationships is open and he isn’t going to deny Gabriel what he needs, even if Gabriel doesn’t understand that he needs it quite yet. They both craft their own relationship with Dale. For Gabriel it’s another romantic partner to love and share his life with. For Arthur it’s a sub and a friend. For both, Dale’s a part of their life that fills a void they knew was there, but weren’t sure how to fill. Dale is a wonderful addition to the family these men in Logan have created and to Gabriel and Arthur’s relationship.
I liked the way the men were open and communicative with each other; obviously the only way any of this would work. The sex was there, of course, but it wasn’t the focus of the story. I do have to say though, that the scenes with the men ranged from tender to dirty and were different depending on who was involved. Arthur and Dale have a D/s relationship that has a set schedule of scenes, while for Gabriel and Dale it’s a full-blown romance. There are also times set aside for the three to be together and connect. I loved to see that Arthur was firm in his mindset, that he is not poly, he does not consider Dale to be his romantic partner such as Gabriel is, but he has a D/s relationship with Dale that is separate from everything else. He is not magically converted, rather the three work out something unique to them.
There was a bit of insta-love between Gabriel and Dale and I would have liked a little more time spent on the start of that relationship. There are some time jumps that took away from the initial bonding for me, but as the story went on it was clear that there was something very real. What Gabriel and Dale had was very different from what developed between Dale and Arthur, but at the heart of it is still Arthur and Gabriel’s relationship. It really is the anchor for everything else that happens and Arthur has cemented himself as my favorite in this series. I did want to be in Gabriel’s head a little more instead of feeling like he was just riding the waves. It’s in his nature to allow Arthur to lead and fix things, but I wanted to really know what was going on outside of those times where he voiced his feelings or he was having a moment of crisis.
There is a sub-plot regarding the abusive co-worker Dale had been with before leaving for Logan and the continuing development project. Dale was put through a horrifying ordeal that haunts him throughout the story. As Heidi Cullinan tends to do, there are serious issues brought up and on occasion the narrative tends to get a bit preachy in spots, but not enough that it impacted the overall story for me.
All the couples from the first three books are back and their engagements finally come to fruition, but only one ceremony had me with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. So while there were things I loved, and things I felt weren’t given as much time as I’d have liked, overall I really enjoyed this exploration of sexuality and love. These three men did what was right for them, regardless of what society and the small town gossip mill would say. They kept true to themselves and nurtured what was important to them and in the end found something that works and enriches their lives. In keeping in true Heidi Cullinan fashion, there is a HEA for everyone involved in the series.