Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Family Man by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton

Family Man* * * *

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.




Review: 

I’ve read a string of crappy books lately.  It was getting so frustrating that I actually decided to not finish one.  I rarely do that.  Then after not finishing a book, I went on to experience the supreme downer of reading a craptastic book  that was recommended to me and that had over 1000 5* reviews on GoodReads.  I needed some sort of palate cleanser after that piece of drivel.  Something to remind me how amazing gay romances can truly be.  How to do that?  Hmmmm…Oh, I know! Maybe look on my TBR shelf...  And that’s where I found Family Man.

Let me tell you.  This book was the saving grace of my August reads.  I think it actually started an amazing upward climb in good reading karma because I read two more books after this and I loved them as well.

While working on a plumbing job for a gay couple in Lakeview, Vince Fierro realizes that the loving relationship these two men have with each other might be what’s wrong with his love life.   Vinnie experimented with a guy in college but never went any farther than that.  Because what would his family think?  And if he’s cool with girls why take the risk losing his big close Italian family’s acceptance?  But Vinnie is starting to have an idea of what’s been missing in his life and he makes the decision to slowly explore the possibilities. 

So many gay romances revolve around the struggle of familial acceptance.  And Family Man is no different.  What was different from other m/m romances I have read was Vinnie’s family dynamic.  He comes from a large Italian family.  The kind that is all up in each other’s business every minute of every day.  It reminded me greatly of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  I was waiting any minute for Vinnie’s grandfather to pull out a bottle of Windex. 

One of the most important people in this family is Vinnie’s sister.  She is the one he goes to when he needs to talk and she is the one he first comes out to.  What I found fascinating was how in the beginning his sister yells at him for buying into gay stereotypes; forcing Vinnie to realize that being gay only means that he likes men and doesn’t necessarily mean he has to fit into a mold.   But as Vinnie slowly explores his sexuality and educates himself, his sister is the one that is challenged with reconciling her gay brother with her inherent expectation of macho Italian men. 

Then there is Trey.  Trey is busting his ass; working two jobs, going to school part time, helping his aging grandmother and tolerating/helping his substance amusing mother.  With everything he has going on, Trey doesn’t have time for pursuing a relationship.  But sometimes life doesn’t give us a choice.  Like when you see Vince Fierri sitting alone at a gay bar in Boystown.  After an unexpectedly romantic evening of dancing at a nearby jazz club, Trey’s plans for avoiding a relationship are completely thrown out the window. 

I felt that Trey was not only dangerously close to being a forever boy but he was also an emotionally complicated character.  Which is no surprise when you are dealing with a 25 year old man that has been dealing with his mother’s addiction for at least the past 15 years of his life.  I really appreciated the authors’ portrayal of Trey and his feelings towards his mom.  His mother is an alcoholic that has gone through multiple programs (programs that cost Trey his college fund and forced his grandmother to take a 2nd mortgage on her home) but has never been sober for more than a few months.  Trey has a lot of anger and frustration and I liked how no punches were pulled when he was internalizing his feelings when his mom fell off the wagon yet again.

Trey has his grandmother and a small family of close friends.  But even though he is close to them he often feels he is isolated.   So when Vinnie offers the hope of more family, Trey isn’t sure if he should stay hidden in his bubble or embrace the gift of family that Vinnie is giving him.  Seeing Vinnie’s quiet and unobtrusive persistence when it comes to giving Trey the family he needs is wonderfully sweet. 

I highly recommend Family Man if you like a little bit of angst and whole lot of sweetness and romance.  It hit the spot for me and I hope it will for you too.


Nat

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