Author: Heidi Cullinan

FAMILY MAN by Marie Sexton & Heidi Cullinan

FAMILY MAN by Marie Sexton & Heidi Cullinan

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Source: Publisher
This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
FAMILY MAN by Marie Sexton & Heidi CullinanFamily Man by Heidi Cullinan, Marie Sexton
Published by Samhain Publishing on 2013-03-12
Genres: Contemporary, Gay
Reviewed by Cassie

Sometimes family chooses you. How does a man get to be forty without knowing whether he’s gay? That’s a question Vince Fierro is almost afraid to answer. If he is gay, it’ll be a problem for his big, fat Italian family. Still, after three failed marriages, he can’t help but wonder if he’s been playing for the wrong team. There’s only one way to settle it, once and for all—head for 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 to the sultry strains of Coltrane, Trey finds himself wanting to help Vinnie figure things out—no promises, and no sex. It seems like a simple plan, until their “no-sex” night turns into the best date of their lives and forges a connection that complicates everything. Warning: This book deals with alcoholism, broken promises, and overbearing little sisters.

JoyfullyRecommended

Forty-year-old Vince Fierro is at a crossroads. After three failed marriages, he suddenly begins to wonder if the problem isn’t that he chose the wrong women, but that he chose women at all. For a good Italian boy raised in a huge Catholic family, it’s a terrifying question to suddenly be asking himself. After confessing his confusion to his sister, he decides to take her advice and go to a gay bar. If he’s not attracted to anyone, he’s not gay. The experiment ends in miserable failure, until he runs into Trey Giles. 

Trey’s family and Vinnie’s have been friends forever. When Trey sees Vinnie at the bar, he’s astonished. Seeing Vinnie’s discomfort, he takes him to a jazz club, where they share a hot dance Trey can’t get out of his mind for days afterward. Between college, his two jobs, and taking care of his grandmother and mother, Trey really doesn’t have time to help a guy who’s just discovering he might be gay, but something about Vinnie makes Trey want to make the time. 

Can the tentative feelings forming between Vinnie and Trey survive Vinnie’s fears and Trey’s difficult circumstances?

I absolutely loved Family Man. Vinnie and Trey are wonderful characters. Both men are caretakers who feel a lot of responsibility toward their families. Vinnie’s huge Italian family is a lot of the reason he’s afraid to admit he might be gay. The last thing he wants to do is disappoint them, or cause them to turn from him. The family has strong Catholic beliefs that make Vinnie’s fears a real possibility. It’s during a plumbing job at the home of a married gay couple that Vinnie begins to consider he might be gay, and he freaks out. After gathering his courage, he tells his sister about what he’s been thinking, and thanks to her advice ends up at a gay bar. It’s not his scene at all, until Trey shows up. Trey’s more than a decade younger, and really attractive, and Vinnie is terrified of him—or more accurately, of the attraction he feels for him. Once he allows himself to go with the flow, however, he begins to enjoy himself. Unfortunately, no matter how much fun he’s having, or how much he’s starting to care for Trey, his fears won’t go away.

Trey has his own problems. At twenty-five, he’s still in school because he spends most of his time working to support his grandmother and alcoholic mother. He’s also still a virgin. Dating Vinnie, who isn’t anywhere near ready for sex, seems like the perfect way to have fun and spend time with someone without the demands another guy might put on him. Of course nothing is that simple, and pretty soon Trey starts to want the strings he thought he didn’t want. His feelings grow deeper and deeper, but his family and Vinnie’s could spell the end of their relationship.

Family Man has so many things going for it I couldn’t help but love it. Both heroes are men I’d want to know in real life. I sympathized with both of them, and shared in their joys and sorrows. The secondary characters, especially Trey’s grandma and Vinnie’s large, Italian family, are great. The conflicts are all realistic, and handled beautifully. The story is told in alternating styles—third person for Vinnie, and first person for Trey. That should have been weird, but was so well done that I ended up really liking it. The partnership of Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan brought all the best things about their work together into one delightful book. I can’t recommend Family Man highly enough.

LET IT SNOW by Heidi Cullinan

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Source: Publisher
This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
LET IT SNOW by Heidi CullinanLet it Snow by Heidi Cullinan
Series: Minnesota Christmas #1
Published by Samhain Publishing on 2013-11-26
Genres: Contemporary, Gay
Reviewed by Cassie

The weather outside is frightful, but the cabin is getting pretty hot. Minnesota Christmas, Book 1Stylist Frankie Blackburn never meant to go to Logan, Minnesota, but his malfunctioning GPS decided otherwise, and a record-breaking snowfall ensures he won’t be heading back to Minneapolis anytime soon. Being rescued by three sexy lumberjacks is fine as a fantasy, but in reality the biggest of the bears is awfully cranky and seems ready to gobble Frankie right up. Marcus Gardner wasn’t always a lumberjack. Once a high-powered Minneapolis lawyer, he’s burned out and back home in Logan to lick his wounds, not play with a sassy city twink who might as well have stepped directly out of his past. As the north winds blow and guards come down, Frankie and Marcus find they have a lot more in common than they don’t. Making a relationship last beyond a snowstorm could prove impossible when one man won’t live in the country and the other won’t return to the city. Yet the longer it snows, the deeper they fall in love, and all they want for Christmas is each other. Warning: Contains power outages, excessive snowfall, and incredibly sexy bears.

Stylist Frankie Blackburn is on his way back to Minneapolis when a bad snowstorm and a malfunctioning GPS conspire to strand him in Logan, Minnesota. After a small-town childhood that left him feeling like an outsider, Frankie is determined to get back to the city. Instead, he ends up at the cabin of three huge, scary-looking lumberjacks. He’s astonished to discover that the three men are gay. Too bad the hottest one is cranky and surly, and seems to dislike Frankie on sight.

After a really bad experience with an ex, former lawyer Marcus Gardner can’t stand city twinks. He takes one look at Frankie and assumes the sexy hairdresser must be cut from the same cloth. There’s no way he’s going to let himself get hurt again.

The more time they spend together, the more Frankie and Marcus realize their assumptions about each other were dead wrong. As the snow continues to fall, they become closer and closer—but it can’t last when they live in two different worlds. Will their newfound closeness vanish when the snow clears up?

I loved Let It Snow. Frankie, a somewhat effeminate stylist, should have been a walking gay stereotype. Fortunately, he came off as anything but clichéd, due to his sweet, genuine personality. He might seem shallow on first glance, but he’s not at all. Gruff, bearish Marcus also had hidden depths. Burnt out by his high-powered lawyer job and a terrible experience with his ex, he’s decided to focus on his new job and taking care of his mother, who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s and lives in a local care center. He’s determined to ignore Frankie’s friendly overtures and keep his attraction to the man at bay in order to protect himself from another heartbreak. Mother Nature has a mind of her own, however, and the snow keeps coming down.

Watching Marcus’s coldness thaw was definitely a pleasure. Once Frankie and Marcus get together, the heat between them is intense. So are the feelings. Of course, real-world obstacles such as their differing lifestyles and locations get in the way, as do their issues. Frankie is hesitant to live in a small town again after his unhappy young adulthood, and Marcus can’t leave his mother or return to his soul-crushing former occupation.

The conflicts are realistic, the emotions are sweet, and, to add icing to this already excellent cake, there are some great secondary characters. Marcus’s fellow lumberjacks and housemates are entertaining, and I liked the scenes with his mother and the others in the care center. While I found the scene near the end that gave Frankie the courage to act to be a bit on the predictable side, I can’t hold that against this delightful story. If you’re in the mood for a holiday tale, or just a sweet opposites-attract story, pick up Let It Snow.

LOVE LESSONS by Heidi Cullinan

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Source: Publisher
This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
LOVE LESSONS by Heidi CullinanLove Lessons by Heidi Cullinan
Published by Samhain Publishing on 2013-10-01
Genres: Contemporary, Gay
Reviewed by Cassie

Love doesn’t come with a syllabus. Love Lessons, Book 1Kelly Davidson has waited what seems like forever to graduate high school and get out of his small-minded, small town. But when he arrives at Hope University, he quickly realizes finding his Prince Charming isn’t so easy. Everyone here is already out. In fact, Kelly could be the only virgin on campus. Worst of all, he’s landed the charming, handsome, gay campus Casanova as a roommate, whose bed might as well be equipped with a revolving door. Walter Lucas doesn’t believe in storybook love. Everyone is better off having as much fun as possible with as many people as possible...except his shy, sad little sack of a roommate is seriously screwing up his world view. As Walter sets out to lure Kelly out of his shell, staying just friends is harder than he anticipated. He discovers love is a crash course in determination. To make the grade, he’ll have to finally show up for class...and overcome his own private fear that love was never meant to last. Warning: This story contains lingering glances, milder than usual sexual content for this author, and a steamy dance-floor kiss. Story has no dairy or egg content, but may contain almonds.

Kelly Davidson can’t wait to get to Hope University. He’ll be away from his small-town high school and ready to find Mr. Right. Unfortunately, college doesn’t seem to be working out like he planned. Coming out is harder than he thought it would be. None of the guys he meets seem to want anything more than sex from him, and he’s determined to save his virginity for someone he cares about. Worst of all, he ends up stuck with the biggest player on campus for a roommate.

Walter Lucas’s screwed-up family has taught him that love doesn’t exist. He’d rather have as much fun as possible than get hurt, so he jumps from guy to guy. When his plan to live off-campus by himself gets squashed by the university honchos, he ends up stuck with a geeky, allergy-ridden freshman for a roomie. He thinks it might be fun to help poor, sheltered Kelly come out of his shell. Walter doesn’t plan on developing feelings for Kelly. Can Walter move past his own fears to seize the happiness that’s right under his nose?

Love Lessons is an absolutely adorable tale of opposites attracting. Kelly is too cute. He’s sweet, a true romantic, a little nerdy, and stricken with severe food allergies. He loves Disney movies to the point of obsession. His plan is to go to college, come out, meet Mr. Right, and fall in love. Of course things don’t work out the way he plans. Hope University isn’t the shining beacon of diversity the brochures made it out to be. He gets placed in the jock dorm, where everyone seems to be homophobic and obnoxious. His roommate is the campus slut.  Still, Walter is very likeable, and they become friends. Kelly begins to make other friends as well. It’s the Mr. Right aspect of his plan that doesn’t seem to be falling into place, in part because he can’t seem to get over his silly crush on his roommate.

Walter is the kind of character it would be easy to hate, yet I didn’t hate him. He may be an unapologetic man-whore, but he’s up front about it. Nobody gets hurt, least of all Walter. That’s important to him, because he’s spent years dealing with the fallout from his parents’ relationship. He figures helping Kelly make friends and learn to have fun will be entertaining. Kelly soon becomes a real friend to him. Unfortunately for his heart, his feelings don’t stop there. What begins as friendly, roommate-ly protectiveness becomes more.

What ensues is a slow-paced romance in which both young men are hesitant to move forward, Kelly out of fear of Walter’s experience and Walter due to his own fears. Family crises spring up, giving both Kelly and Walter opportunities to be there for each other. Soon enough, the last thing Walter wanted becomes the thing he can’t live without.

I really enjoyed Love Lessons. Both main characters were wonderful. Romantic Kelly and cynical Walter each had their own vulnerabilities, and I wanted to hug both of them. I liked the slow pace of their romance. They were friends first, then lovers, and then even more. The secondary characters are great, the conflict believable, and the ending exactly the awww moment I wanted.

Read Love Lessons. You’ll be happy you did.   

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