Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan

Rating: 10/10 ★★★★★★★★★★ 
Title: Special Delivery
Author: Heidi Cullinan
Genre: BDSM/erotica
URL: Dreamspinner Press
Price: US $6.99
Other Information/warnings: explicit m/m and m/m/m, BDSM
Summary [from the publisher]:

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.

My review: I rarely read books for their erotic content, because I’m rarely in the mood and ‘erotica’ which is as erotic as the author thinks it is, is even rarer. But if you want an erotic book which really is smoking hot, and is also a fascinating tale of a young man coming to terms not just with his sexuality but his sexual preferences, then look no further than Special Delivery. It’s all that, and more.

Cullinan has achieved something very special, no pun intended. She’s taken what could have simply been a vehicle for smut, smut and more smut – a young man is picked up by an older experienced trucker who introduces him to the joys of kink and threesomes – and turns it into a journey about self-awareness, love and healing. Sam, grieving for his late mother and living with unwelcoming, homophobic relatives in a small town, isn’t the only one in this story in need of healing and expanding his horizons. Mitch, running away from his shameful sexual history, is also broken, terrified of screwing it up when fate gives him another chance. And finally, and most surprisingly, Mitch’s former partner and friend, Randy, is also a damaged soul. His transformation is possibly the most wonderful of all, for being unexpected.

Cullinan weaves so many themes and ideas into this plot, and there are so many layers, it’s amazing there’s room for the sex. But the sex is used intelligently to show the way the characters learn about each other and themselves, and as a way for them to grow out and up. It’s also very much not vanilla, and is very very dirty 😉 Sam revels in his ‘sluttiness’ while retaining a beguiling purity, and with Mitch both participant and protector, Sam tops happily from the bottom, going where he needs to be, taking risks, but with Mitch as his safety net. The way their relationship grows is fascinating to me.

I loved Cullinan’s writing, and the way she creates emotional atmosphere, and how she sets up apparently implausible scenarios quite plausibly. I did think she didn’t pay as much attention to Sam’s career as she should have, considering its importance to him. He’s a trainee nurse but for all the detail we get about that, he could have been a trainee accountant. Being a nurse is more than just going to classes, and it would have been nice to have seen that side of him. But it’s only a small flaw, like the unfortunate typo I spotted at one point. Another small criticism is that the minor characters like Sam’s aunt and uncle weren’t particularly well-fleshed out, though I did like what she did with them, and Em, Sam’s best friend. The author did catch the claustrophobic feel of small town life quite well, and Sam’s urge to be himself and live in a way true to his mother’s wishes contrasts quite sharply with the closeted jocks who Sam turns to for sexual relief.

This book really is more than the sum of its parts, and whether you choose to read it for the erotic bits, or the story of a young man coming into his full flowering, you won’t be disappointed. A rich and wonderful read. Highly recommended.