Desert Isle Keeper
The Professor's Green Card Marriage
Beware of judging a book by its title. Had I listened to my inner book snob, I would not have read Heidi Cullinan’s beautiful romance The Professor’s Green Card Marriage. I had passed over the novel a few times because I believed the clunky title to be too literal and uninspired for my tastes. But, between the novel’s intriguing synopsis and my enjoyment of Cullinan’s Let It Snow (Minnesota Christmas, #1), I decided to give the book a chance. And, I am very glad that I did. A distinctly unique queer romance, TPGCM offers a moving portrayal of a romantic relationship involving a special needs protagonist that touches the heart and uplifts the soul.
Twentysomething barista Peter Grunberg has a crush on the handsome middle-aged professor who frequents the Colorado coffee shop where he works. Unfortunately, Peter can only admire the man he fancies from afar. His selective mutism (SM), a severe anxiety disorder, renders him unable to speak in social situations. When Peter learns that Ukrainian professor Dr. Valentyn ‘Val’ Shevchenko must marry a U.S. citizen in order to stay in the country, he musters the courage to propose marriage. Val is touched and extremely flattered that the cute guy who makes the best lattes would commit to a marriage of convenience with him. Even though Val has reservations about entering into a fake relationship and defrauding the government, his fear of returning to homophobic Ukraine trumps his concerns.
As Peter and Val become acquainted through emails, texts, and carefully planned face-to-face dates, the engaged twosome develop a genuinely intimate connection, and their ‘fakeship’ soon becomes the real deal. While their newfound love is certain, their future together isn’t. Between Peter’s verbal communication challenges and Val’s personal demons, the men fear failing their immigration marriage interview. Now that they’ve found each other, their worst nightmare is to be torn apart.
Heidi Cullinan masterfully crafts sympathetic, well-drawn protagonists who exemplify #relationshipgoals. Stepping into the roles of caring and generous mates comes naturally to Peter and Val. They are true sweethearts. Val patiently learns and obeys the ‘rules’ of Peter’s selective mutism so that they can comfortably talk to each other, while Peter works hard to expand his comfort zone to include Val. He is fiercely determined to overcome whatever SM hurdles he must so that Val can stay safe and happy.
The affection between Peter and Val is palpable on the page, with TPGCM containing plenty of #awww #myheartisfull moments that readers will find gratifying. Even their sizzling lovemaking is based less on lust and more on a mutual desire to feel cherished. As Peter and Val allow themselves to become more open and vulnerable, the couple falls irrevocably in love. And, with every romantic gesture, sweet text, candid email, and Ukrainian term of endearment exchanged between the lovers, I fell head over heels for them.
Not only did I swoon over Cullinan’s romance protagonists, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the way the author utilizes current affairs and a little-known psychiatric condition to create an unputdownable, rather suspenseful read.
Cullinan explores the fascinating complexities and management of selective mutism, U.S. immigration laws, the green card marriage interview process, environmental issues, and the dangers faced by the LGBTQ community in present day Ukraine. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a timely novel of any genre that has taught me something new and interesting. How wonderful to be entertained and educated!
The Professor’s Green Card Marriage tells the story of two lonely people who find the courage to claim the love that they deserve. Cullinan’s superb LGBTQ romance is a must-read to add to your permanent collection.