Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Review & Excerpt: FAMILY MAN by Heidi Cullinan & Marie Sexton

RELEASE DATE: September 11, 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
FIRST EDITION RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2013 by Samhain Publishing
Format: Novel •  Genre: Contemporary Romance  •  Length: 67,500 words
Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Sometimes family chooses you.

At forty, Vincent “Vinnie” Fierro is still afraid to admit he might be gay—even to himself. It’ll be a problem for his big, fat Italian family. Still, after three failed marriages, it’s getting harder to ignore what he really wants.

Vinnie attempts some self-exploration in Chicago’s Boystown bars, far from anyone who knows him. Naturally, he runs smack into someone from the neighborhood.

Between working two jobs, going to school, taking care of his grandmother, and dealing with his mother’s ongoing substance abuse, Trey Giles has little time for fun, let alone dating someone who swears he’s straight. Yet after one night of dancing cheek-to-cheek, Trey agrees to let Vinnie court him and see if he truly belongs on this side of the fence—though Trey intends to keep his virginity intact.

It seems like a solid plan, but nothing is simple when family is involved. When Vinnie’s family finds out about their relationship, the situation is sticky enough, but when Trey’s mother goes critical, Vinnie and Trey must decide whose happiness is most important—their families’ or their own.
This book was co-written with Marie Sexton.

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After the show they went to the bar Trey had taken them to that first night when Vince had gone out. They didn’t hold hands on the way, which would have been weird, but they did walk closely together on the sidewalk, which was nice.
“Why do I hardly ever see you at the restaurant anymore?” Trey asked. “Too much family?”
Vince shook his head. “No such thing. I just….” He paused, trying to think of how to phrase it. “Well, this sounds nuts, but sometimes being in the middle of all that family can be very lonely.”
Trey frowned. “I never thought about it. There’s just me and Gram and my mom. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have cousins and stuff.”
“I have plenty of those. Let me know when you want to borrow them.”
They walked in silence for a while. A group of young guys laughing and looking inebriated took up too much of the sidewalk, and even after Vince moved far to the left, practically hugging the side of a building, they were set to run Trey right over. Without thinking, Vince put his arm around Trey and shifted their positions, huddling around him and putting his back to the drunks. As they buffeted Vince’s back, he glanced down at Trey, who was gazing up at him, eyes sparkling.
Vince smiled.
Trey smiled back, the light in his eyes spreading to the rest of his face.
When the drunks were past, Vince went back to the center of the sidewalk, but he found his arm lingered against Trey’s back, and he left it there as long as he could until it seemed awkward. As he let it fall, though, Trey took hold of his biceps.
It felt good.
Being with Trey felt good. Going out with him—on a date, yeah. So what? So he was dating a guy. So he was… gay, or whatever. What the f*ck did it matter? He was having a good time. He was happy. He’d played Skee-Ball and watched a play and now was going to go dancing. They’d laughed and ate pizza and talked and talked, more than Vince thought he had on a date, ever.
There was nothing here to freak out over, just like Rachel said. And he wanted to do this again. The thought made his insides jump all over the place, like a Skee-Ball was rattling around inside him hitting nothing but 100s.
The jazz bar was a lot busier than it had been the other night they’d come, but it was still ten times more pleasant than that awful gay bar where he’d met up with Trey the last time. A live band played “In a Sentimental Mood” almost as good as Ellington and Coltrane. The dance floor was full, as was the bar, and all the tables. He caught a glance of himself in the mirror and saw that Rach was right, he looked damn fine. Trey too, and the two of them looked good together.
Vince grinned. All he needed was a scotch and a cigar and the moment would be damn near perfect.
He nodded to the bar. “Want anything to drink?”
“Water, please.”
“Sure thing.” Vince pulled out his wallet and elbowed into a free space to order. He got a bottle of water for Trey and a scotch neat for himself.
Trey took the water and smiled, but Vince couldn’t help but notice his date’s gaze drift down to his scotch and his expression went a little flat at the sight of the drink. If he hadn’t indulged in some single malt scotch, he might have put it aside and forgotten about it.
Instead he sipped even more casually than normal and kept watching Trey for clues as to why his ordering a scotch was such a bad thing. They stood there for a few minutes, until the song ended. When a new one started, Vince eased back happily against the wall behind him.
“Somebody in this band likes Coltrane.” He sipped his scotch and basked in the sultry saxophone. “I like this band.”
“Do you listen to a lot of jazz?”
“Oh yeah. But Coltrane is my favorite. Nobody has been able to make a sax sing like he could. These guys don’t do too badly.”
Trey leaned against the wall too, but he sagged a bit against Vince’s side. “It’s so… I don’t know. Not soft, but relaxing. Easy. I feel like I could float away.”
“That’s the idea. Jazz seduces you.” Seeing that Trey had drained his water bottle, Vince had one more sip of drink, leaned over to put the unfinished glass on the bar, and held out his hand. “Ready to dance?”
Beaming, Trey took his hand.
They found a bit of open floor space up front by the band. Vince herded them off to the side, in part because he was still a little self-conscious about dancing with a man, in part because it was dark there, and he liked the idea of dancing in the dark with Trey.
Still, when Trey settled into his arms, fitting their bodies close together, Vince watched the other couples to see who was watching him. A few were, though most didn’t seem to care, too wrapped up in each other. Maybe some of those who noticed looked like they didn’t care for two guys dancing. Maybe he read into it.
They weren’t the only same-sex couple on the floor, either. Two other male couples and a female pair were scattered amongst the heterosexuals. Realizing he’d just lumped himself in with the not-heterosexual crowd, the Skee-Ball went berserk inside Vince again, this time finding every gutter.
He shut his eyes and did his best to shut off his stupid head, to focus on Trey.
It was a good distraction. God, but Trey just fit in his arms. A lot of women had, yeah, but not like this. It felt completely different to hold a man. Trey’s body was harder, more filled out, and in more than that hard ridge pressing against the front of Vince’s trousers. He smelled different too. Like a man. And it was so… right.
The band was playing Sinatra now, a smooth-voiced tenor singing “Like Someone in Love.” Vince pulled Trey closer, fitting their bodies so tight together they were nearly fused. He didn’t hide his erection, and when Trey shifted against him, subtly increasing the friction in time to the beat, Vince didn’t let it do anything but fuel the pleasure of the moment.
Trey nuzzled Vince’s neck, his nose, his collar, his skin. “Vinnie?”
“Mmm?” Vince nuzzled back.
Trey’s lips moved along Vince’s jaw, tickled his ear. “This is a date.”
Vince grinned and rubbed the scruff of his cheek alongside Trey’s. “Yeah.”
Those tickling lips brushed his lobe, and a tongue darted out, making Vince shiver. “I want another one.”
The tongue had made Vince shiver, but those words shimmied right down to the bottom of his belly. “Sure.”
Slim hands gripped his hips, fingers curling into his backside. “I want a kiss.”
The heat slid lower, setting all of Vince into a slow, steady burn. He didn’t say anything, just pulled his head back far enough to meet Trey’s gaze, angle his head, and close in on his mouth.
It started almost sweet, but they were both hard, both kneading hands into each other, and fuck if Trey didn’t taste more exotic than anything in the world. He worried for a second that Trey would dislike the scotch on his breath, but then Trey pushed him deeper into the shadows, into an alcove behind the speaker, and Vince didn’t worry about anything at all.
There was something incredibly freeing about being this turned on and being somewhat secluded. They were hidden but at the same time couldn’t go too far because they were still, technically, on a dance floor in a respectable establishment. Much as he wanted to undo Trey’s pants and take his cock in hand, as ready as he suddenly was for that kind of thing, he couldn’t, and it was a little bit of a relief.
Instead he ground against Trey’s pelvis like he was trying to screw him to the wall, and the soft, gasping noises Trey made only inspired Vince to dig his fingers deeper into Trey’s backside. The kiss was deep and crazy, mouths mating, tongues tangling, Trey’s hands pulling Vince in closer and closer until they almost couldn’t breathe. Vince’s nipples pebbled beneath his shirt, so stiff they jutted like rocks, super-sensitized points that made him moan against Trey’s lips.
Eventually the delicious tease turned over, though, and common sense warned Vince he needed to slow the f*ck down or he was going to come all over the inside of his pants. Trey seemed to be in a similar place, because when Vince pulled back, easing out of the kiss slowly, Trey didn’t draw him back, just held on tight, breathing hard.
When he was able, Vince said, “Will that do?”
Trey smiled like the sun itself, and even in the dark Vince could see the sparkle in those eyes. “Yeah.”

Carra's Review

I’ve enjoyed the stories I’ve read by both Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton as individual authors,  so it really was a no-brainer for me to check out Family Man.  With a great storyline, amazing characters, and just the right amount of drama and sexual tension, these two authors have written a truly enjoyable story that made me smile and laugh, made me frustrated, made me swoon…the perfect balance.

For Vinnie, this story was a personal journey—finding out who he really is, accepting it, and moving forward…even if that might mean some huge changes in his very family-centered life.  For Trey, this was about helping Vinnie find his way while dealing with his own very compact family and the issues with his mother.  I was able to relate to Trey easily, and could empathize with his frustration and anger.  

The chemistry between Vinnie and Trey…to say it was hot is not enough.  With Trey holding off on full physical intimacy until it really means something, the sexual tension runs high for much of the story—making the releases once they start pretty darn steamy, even when they still haven’t gone all the way.  The two men share more than physical compatibility, becoming so comfortable with each other emotionally and as friends as well.  

The concept of family is continually reiterated in Family Man, both the good parts and the not so good ones.  A common theme is the support family brings, no matter the size, and this story also shows that family doesn’t just mean who you are related to by blood.

The only thing I really would want to have added to this is a peek farther into the future after the end.  I would have loved to get just that much more of Vinnie and Trey!  Family Man was a 4.5-star read for me, and is a story I would highly recommend to any M/M romance fan.  It’s a bit of May/December romance, along with coming out, with plenty of family drama (and meddling) sprinkled in.  This book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and sexual content.

Facts & Information About the Novel

  • Heidi & Marie wrote Family Man initially as a private project they weren't sure they would publish, a "fun book" entirely for their own joy and entertainment.
  • Though Second Hand was their first published co-written book, they began writing Family Man first.
  • Marie called Family Man less of a collaboration and more of a "relay race" because of the way we kept handing it off to each other. Marie doesn't write in order and Heidi does, so she would write all over the place, get lost, then pass it to Heidi and say, "OMG, your turn!" and Heidi would start at the beginning and fill in things until she too got stuck, and they kept continuing the process over a period of years until eventually they had a book.
  • Though Vinnie was originally Heidi's character and Trey Marie's, they did write each other's character's POV scenes too, and in the end, their betas couldn't tell who wrote what, and frankly, Heidi and Marie weren't sure who'd done what either.
  • While Boystown, Buckingham Fountain and the aquarium are real places, most of the other haunts in Family Man are invented, alas. You can't visit Orecchio's or Emilo's or the jazz club. But you can reread the novel as much as you want, and there, everything is always as real as you want it to be.

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