*copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*
“I wish I didn’t love your stupid ass so much.”
Dear lord, this book slayed me. I didn't expect to love this as much as I did. And I didn't expect it to hurt so good, even though I had been warned.
So let me tell you why the pain is so worth it.
Firstly, we get to meet Michael. Puerto-Rican New Yorker, escaped from his messed up family life in South Jamaica, teaching in one of the most LGBTQ friendly schools in Brooklyn, is struggling with... Everything. His family is broken. His mother is dead, his brother can't motivate himself to even keep the house clean, let alone find a job, and ever since MIchael moved back into his childhood home, his feelings are all over the place. Add his low-life father, who not surprisingly is dying because of the cirrhosis of his liver, and the mix is getting toxic pretty damn fast. You can practically taste Michael's guilt, anger and desperation right from the start.
The only light in his life is Nunzio. Best friends for twenty years, the two men know each other inside out - even literally ever since picking up drunk David in a bar. But toxic stays toxic, no matter how much sugar you add to it. So, even though Michael still has his rock, Nunzio, things start to change. At work, they're put on two different teams, there is the new supervisor who looks awfully familiar with all the green stuff behind his ears, and at home the atmosphere is so full of rage and desperation, that not even his escapes to Nunzio can really make a dent in Michael's ever-growing pile of dark feelings. Liquor is his crutch, a sharp tongue his only weapon, flight his only instinct remaining intact.
And that's only the beginning, because as soon as things start to crumble left and right, Michael looses his footing for real, more so with each day that doesn't get better. And it's so painful to read, it's insane.
Santino Hassell has an eerie talent to transport me right into the middle of his tale without warning. I started reading and I was just right there with Michael. There was no way out of his head, and even when I stopped reading, I had him on my mind the whole time. I realize that for some readers that was too much. Which is totally understandable, but made the book all the better for me. I wasn't able to get away from the darkness lurking behind the pages, and didn't want to. Not once. Even after the hollow feeling in my gut got worse and worse, even when I felt like I was watching a train wreck and would probably crumble as soon as shit hit the fan for real, I kept on reading. And reading. And reading. Despite my fear that nothing would get better in the end, I kept going. Which is not how I usually operate.
I also understand that some readers felt Nunzio to be too pale, or too vague, his thoughts not illustrated enough. That they would have needed his POV in order to really enjoy him as an MC. That was so not the case for me. Because even though we never get a chance to be in his head, Nunzio is one of the most expressive and clearly portrayed MCs I've read in a long time. Even though his POV is not given, I understood him perfectly. Granted, you had to read between the lines, watch him carefully, empathize a lot, but in the end that made it all the more worth it. Nunzio just felt real to me. As deeply flawed as Michael, but more self-less, more empathetic and as a reader you had to do what Nunzio was doing with Michael. Not listen to his words, but watch his reactions, analyze his actions and get your clues from what he was NOT saying.
Needless to say, I loved both of these men. Despite Michael's depression and very own darkness, he was an inherently good guy. Self-centred more often than not, oblivious to a fault, descending into his very own hell faster and faster, but never selfish or evil. His own fears, guilt and desperation led him to some questionable decisions, his caring nature brought him to his knees when it came to his family, his despreate clutch on the status quo almost destroyed the good things he still had. I loved him. He was flawed, he didn't always do the right thing, he didn't react to things the way I would have or did in the past. But he still got under my skin and made me hurt in all the right places. As for his family drama: If there is one thing I understand it's the predicament of "I know, it ttears me apart, but it's still my FAMILY." Resounded with me on every possible level. Same goes for Nunzio. He grabbed me by my heart and my "balls" and queezed until I wanted to hug him for days.
One word for the smut: Delicious! Or maybe three: Dirty, gritty, RAW. No sweet fluffy love-making, at least not in the traditional sense. There was tenderness, there were real feelings, heart-breaking moments - but it came in a package that fit the story so damn perfectly, it was unreal.
And special kudos go to Raymond, Michael's brother. Another flawed, real character with many facets, layers and a complex personality. One thing this book aced were the three-dimensional characters. Perfectly done. Plus, I loved Raymond's tendency to call 'em as he saw 'em.
“Wow, son. You’re mad retarded.”
David whipped his head around and pinned my brother with a lethal glare. “Don’t say that word.”
“Sorry.” Raymond kept staring at me. “You’re mad special ed.”
David scoffed, and I burst out laughing.”
I'll stop now, because enough said. But just so you know, I could go on for hours about this book! All the love, because this definitely is one of my favorites of 2016.
You had me at: Holiday Road Trip!
Aaaaaw, this melted my grinch-y heart and just in time for the holidays.
Charlie has to get home for Christmas. He HAS to. Because as surreal as it sounds, if he doesn't, he just knows something awful will happen to his little sister again. He dreamt about it. And his little girl sure as hell had enough bad things happen to her for a lifetime or three. But things don't go as planned, and before he knows it, he's in a car with Gavin freaking Bloomberg. The guy who broke his heart and never even apologized for it. But the years of resentment weren't onesided, and for good reasons. Naturally, the journey promises to be straining and tense for both guys. Long suppressed feelings surfacing don't exactly make things easier.
This was one hell of a wonderful ride! I loved both MCs, their interactions and their inner struggles. It was beautiful to watch how they worked through their issues, cleared up past misunderstandings and soothed hurts they didn't even know they still had. Keira Andrews did a wonderful job with this holiday story. It has just the right amount of sweetness, bitterness and hurt to make it a great comfort read for lonely days. Sure, it was coated in an adequate amount of sugar, but it wasn't too sweet for my taste. Especially because things weren't automatically awesome just because the two fell into bed together. Family, friends, past, present, future - nothing was too easy, but also not too angsty.
Like I said, the right amount of everything to make it one of my favorite holiday reads 2015.
This was fun!
I'm a little irregular when it comes to the Tucker Springs series. I've read some of the books, but not all of them, and certainly not in the correct order. Which is not necessary, because these books work fine on their own.
In this onstallment, we get to meet Paul. I immediately liked him. He was lost and depressed after being dumped by his girlfriend. While he smack in the middle of "I need you to come back." and "PLease go to hell.", he has some pretty big financial fish to fry. Thanks to his ex, he's stuck with a house he really can't afford, a job he doesn't exactly love and a collection of crap he never really uses. Enter pawn shop owner El, who might be able to help Paul out - but only once a day. Or so he says.
I enjoyed the journey of these two a lot. Especially Paul grew on me so much, I really rooted for him and his pursuit of happiness. El, in comparison, stayed a little pale throughout the book. Which might have something to do with this little pet peeve of mine. I was constantly told that El's behavior, ever since meeting Paul, was so atypical and unusual. Which is fine, but I never got to actually SEE that irregularity. And I always have a hard time buying the change in a person when I can't witness it - at least a little. On the plus side, the relations and interactions between El and his famliy were wonderfully written and grabbed me right where it hurts.
All in all, I had a lot of fun reading this, keeping my fingers crossed for these two, waiting for them to finally get it all together.
Definitely recommended if you're looking for something low on the angst, big on the feelz and a little deeper than a garden pond. And let's not forget the sexy times - because Heidi Cullinan rocks the steam like nobody's business.
Sweet, funny, sexy. It's basically the perfect little holiday read.
It follows the Friends-to-Lovers trope to a T, and is not really surprising in its' following of the "pretend-boyfriends-until-feelings-happen"-theme. What you see is what you get, here. And the writing, as always, is flawless, flowing beautifully and really engaging.
Pick it up if you need something to boost your holiday spirit, and want to close the book with a smile.