Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan
Sam Keller knows he’ll never find the excitement he craves in Middleton, Iowa—not while he’s busting his ass in nursing school and paying rent by slaving away in a pharmacy stockroom. But before his mother died, he promised her he’d grow up to be a good man, so he needs a stable career and a good husband, not a dead-end job and empty sex.
Then Sam meets Mitch Tedsoe, an independent trucker who makes a delivery to a shop across the alley. Innocent flirting quickly leads to an affair, and when Mitch offers to take Sam on a road trip west, Sam jumps at the chance for adventure with his fantasy man… but Mitch also comes with a past. A threesome with the other man in Mitch’s life would have been just another kinky ride, but somewhere between the Mississippi River and the Colorado Rockies, Sam falls in love.
But can a relationship born out of escape and indulgence become something that lasts? Will a fantasy man be willing to settle down into reality, or is the adventure and excitement Sam finds with Mitch just another stop on a delivery man’s journey? For better or for worse, eventually Sam is going to discover the answer, because no matter how far away he travels, eventually all roads lead home.
[The cover is pretty and good with the truck. However this is what gave me the impression it would be a 2 men fall in love on the road story, which it isn’t. While this is a pretty cover, I don’t think it does the story justice which is why this particular story may surprise shallow readers like me that see a pretty cover and grab the book.]
Special Delivery isn’t anything like I expected. I thought perhaps this would be a boy meets boy, goes on the road, and falls in love romance but Special Delivery is a lot more complicated than that. At the heart, this story is about the sexual awakening of young, immature Sam. This makes for a rather different focus as there is romance, kinky sex, light BDSM, threesomes, emotional turmoil, classic evil women, and a whole lot of other issues – but the core of the book is about Sam understanding and embracing his sexual needs and desires. Thus the book is very erotic and filled with numerous sex scenes, but each of these is designed to show Sam growing more comfortable with his sexuality as he experiments and understands his needs in a safe environment.
The book begins with a look at Sam’s unhappy life. He lives with a stale, wooden, classically evil aunt who abhors gays and treats Sam like the poor relative he is. He lives on their suffrage in the basement as an orphan, working for pennies with not enough food. This beginning is a little over the top but not in an eye rolling way, just lacks something unique and catching since it goes too far to show how wretched Sam’s life is. Sam has managed to be innocent, immature, and cowed after a few years with the boring and stereotypically evil aunt/uncle and the female, conniving best friend who uses and manipulates Sam for her own uses but loves him in a way too. He’s experimenting sexually but with those who humiliate and degrade him, which on the one hand is part of his kink, yet fails to really satisfy him. So right away the reader knows how miserable Sam’s life is yet he’s a good, innocent soul with kinky desires.
This is an exaggerated beginning but Sam has a lot of charm and his youthful exuberance – such as dancing to Kylie – and natural charisma will win readers over almost immediately so the choppy start almost doesn’t matter. From there the story picks up with the introduction of Mitch, a trucker who happens to have a matching kink and offers Sam a way out of his sad life. Now the story starts Sam on his sexual journey as he learns what he wants, what he needs, and the boundaries that he does or doesn’t want to cross. The emotional connection with Mitch provides Sam a safe environment to explore threesomes or spanking or bondage or sex toys. The exploration is not total, endless erotica with sex scene after scene similar to James Leer, who’s referenced in one of Sam’s internal monologues about his fantasies. Instead, the sexual journey is mental, emotional, and physical with stops, starts, and missteps. There is a considerable amount of erotica but not gratuitous. The writing pulls this off pretty well, although tends to be slightly repetitive with Sam’s constant berating of himself as a whore and stupid and Mitch’s self flagellation of being a horrible person for reasons unknown.
The characters are decent but not fully developed partly due to how complex the story is. Sam is the central figure and third person narrator but often feels too uneven. His childhood with a handicapped, but incredibly supportive mother likely would have matured Sam early yet he is still manages to be at once innocent and immature after everything that’s gone on in his life. His deep well of shame for his sexual desires seems at odds with his background, the super supportive nature of his mother, yet he instead seems to dwell on the rants of his aunt. Sam makes a lot of mistakes but this is part of his journey and self awareness. The scenes are sometimes too overt and spells out Sam’s growth instead of allowing the subtly of the scenes to shine. This is especially evident in a later scene when the book spells out exactly what Sam is in every possible way in case the reader missed it along the way. The point of the scene is Sam’s acceptance of all the facets of his life and person, yet felt like the story was pounding the reader over the head with the point. Given the subtly in other parts of the book, this is surprising but not a fatal flaw.
Mitch as the object of Sam’s desire and love is a mystery figure. He spends too much of the book lamenting on his unknown, horrible past that links to his BDSM desires. While understandable that he wouldn’t blurt out all his flaws and failings immediately, Mitch prevaricates way too much and stumbles through his explanations, which don’t explain anything. Thus the tension hanging over the couple from the very beginning – this painful past with Mitch’s old lover Randy – never really materializes in any concrete way. The most Sam or the reader know about this past is usually from other observers as even Randy delivers his answers with confusing and untrue statements. This entire affect to keep the BDSM portion enigmatic, ultimately questions why this is included. The story would have been stronger if instead of some hidden, life changing act that is never fully explained that the characters have a strong and purposeful reason for their actions.
However the strength of the story is really in the character driven plot. Sam is charming and charismatic even as he and Mitch struggle with their growing emotional bond and reconciling that with what they both want sexually. There are a lot of great scenes between the two, even when they fight, that shows their hesitation, fear, and complicated desires. Neither man is an easy personality and the later scenes with Randy show their connection at its strongest. There are several ménage scenes but the real relationship is between Mitch and Sam. Randy is an important character and likely to be included in their relationship in some way, but just as easily Randy could find someone of his own – he really needs his own story – and no longer be sexually involved with Mitch and Sam. Here the story shows brilliantly how a committed couple can be involved sexually with another person without damaging the main connection and relationship. Romance fans shouldn’t have a problem with this aspect as it’s just one part of Sam’s maturity, similar to the light BDSM scenes and there is a lovely, strong happy ending.
Although Special Delivery is far from perfect, there are some solid reasons why this is clearly a fan favorite. The charming Sam will delight romance fans and the steamy erotica delves into BDSM but never hard core enough to scare some readers and focuses on a few kinks (mental humiliation and domination) in a lighter way. The emotional journey is just as important as the sexual journey, although not as well defined, but the romance element is woven throughout the story which keeps this from being a sexual free for all. One of the best things about this offering is that I could go on and on about different aspects that intrigued or annoyed but it has an impact nonetheless. I can easily see why some love this despite its problems and some not so much, so the best advice is to get it for yourself and see what you think.
Get it HERE!