BLOG TOUR STOP: Tough Love by Heidi Cullinan and Spanish Garnache/Cabernet Blend

ToughLove72lgHeidi Cullinan knows her kink, that’s an established fact. She also knows how to take her readers to places we never thought we’d go. And not only do we do so with interest, but we move through her stories with a intense sense of familiarity. Her characters are people we know, people we care for. They are vulnerable, broken, resilient, unapologetic, but mostly…MOSTLY they want and DESERVE what we all do, good love. So yeah this one, Steve and Chenco’s story it took me far beyond places I thought I’d be comfortable in, there was a lot of intensity in this one. Theirs was a complex story and with its fair share of ANGST, in ALL CAPS. This third novel in the Special Delivery series, brought me back to that gang of guys we’ve known and loved…Sam, Mitch, Randy and Ethan. These boys are notorious in the M/M universe, and in this story we get to know them all a little more. They join forces to push two more of their little family to arrive at their unlikely happy ending.

So for this book, I just could not think of a single thing to cook…My appetite might have been suppressed at some points do the intensity of some of the scenes. However drinking was DEFINITELY part of the program. This time I selected an unusual wine for me, its a Tempranillo/Cabernet Sauvignon blend from a Spanish winery. I don’t normally go for blends and when  I do, it usually is not one with two grapes that I don’t associate in their flavors. Two things that should not go together so to speak…The 2011 Pata Negra was definitely a nice surprise. It’s a beautiful ruby red color, with lovely aroma and a lightness that is usually not in a glass of Tempranillo, but also with a boldness and a lingering taste that I don’t associate with a Cabernet. It’s a lovely mix of flavor, like Steve and Chenco, not two I would have put together on sight, but that once blended make for a  lovely pairing. For about $9.00 a bottle, also a very affordable and delicious choice.

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So like I was saying…We reconnect with the SD guys a few years after Sam and Mitch, and Randy and Ethan found true love. This time we are in Southern Texas and Chenco, Mitch’s younger and long lost little brother is at the center of the story. Chenco and Mitch had the same father, but never knew much about each other. The old man was an evil bastard and who tried to destroy his sons. Chenco has not had many people in his life to support him, once his mom found about his secret she turned him away from her life, and he’s been fighting the world tooth and nail to be true to himself. Caramella his alter ego, and drag queen extraordinaire is the side of Chenco were he can purge all the fierceness within him, all that fire he had to keep beneath near the surface to not attract the wrong kind of attention.

We meet Chenco at the lowest time of his life, his father has died and when his lawyer informs him that the old bastard had left his trailer home, the only place Chenco had, to the KKK. The FUCKING Ku Klux Klan. Chenco could almost not believe it. Chenco was furious and desperate. What would he do now? While despairing outside the lawyer’s officethis leather daddy with a face that could make any tough guy shake in his boots came to Chenco’s aid. The guy’s outer roughness translated into incredible gentleness. He made Chenco feel immediately protected and cherished. He’s never had that, never felt like he was the most precious thing in the world to someone else. But Steve in just a few minutes made Chenco feel like he could finally put some of his load on someone else to carry. That good feeling didn’t last very long. Chenco soon found out that Steve was his brother’s friend. The brother his father warned him hated him more than anyone for being gay. The brother who was apparently back in town, and that could only make things suck worse. It figured that the one time he had ever felt like he was completely safe with someone, it had all been a lie. Or was it?

It turned out it wasn’t.  Steve Vance was a friend of Mitch, and he was a good man too. A man with a sad past that he could not walk away from. Steve laid eyes on Chenco, and so many things fell into place all at once. Things that had been up in the air, and foreign to him for so long just made sense. He wanted Chenco with a yearning that he could barely control. But he could not have him, he couldn’t taint all that beauty and youth with his own life…There was too much that was a mess in Steve’s world. Too much that he would never allow to come close to that fragile beauty that was Chenco. But Chenco was not taking no for answer, once he saw the man Steve really was, he wanted him too. Caramella and Chenco both wanted the sense of safety and protection Steve provided. Steve couldn’t see past his failures to realize that Chenco was strong enough to stand by his side, that age, or darker desires would not scare him off. He wanted EVERY part of Steve, he NEEDED them too. But Steve would not give in, by trying to keep Chenco away he would end cheating them both out of happiness.

This book had kink in it that really pushed my comfort levels, but I am going to say this, if you focus too much on that part of the story you will cheat yourself out of a very good book. I admit that I had to re-read it and purposely see the heavier kink for what it was, something that Steve and Chenco needed to give each other that made THEIR relationship deeper and better. My ability to feel comfortable with what they did in their intimacy, really had no bearing on the fact that they  were good men, who fought hard for their happy ending. A happy ending  that when it did finally arrive, it not only felt honest, but it felt VICTORIOUS.

Chenco was  a wonderful character and his alter ego Caramella was nothing short of  fabulous. I really commend Heidi for going very deeply into Chenco’s perception of himself when he was in drag, and giving Caramella a voice too. For those of us who know men who do drag, we understand it is not a transformation that only happens on the surface, it is something that comes very much from within. I loved seeing Caramella in action. Something else I loved was how much Chenco expressed where his boundaries in terms of where he would go in a scene with Steve. How he voiced the fact that for some things he was ready, and for others he just wasn’t. These things don’t just happen, when someones has an “extreme” kink, even when their partner is interested and willing to go there with them, it takes time. To get comfortable, to understand why they need it. I liked that they took their time. For the most part,  as always Heidi handled herself respectfully and cautiously in areas that for a lesser author could have gone terribly wrong. There WERE certain parts of the book that frustrated me a bit. Mostly Steve’s relationship with his childhood best friend, it tried my patience, but Chenco felt the same way and was VERY vocal about it, which helped!

For the most part this book had all the elements that I associate with this series. Good men with complicated lives and desires trying to make a life that makes them happy. Strong and loyal friendships, dirty dirrrrrty sex and all sorts of shenanigans at the hands of the one and only Randy. Good book, recommend it to any fan of the series.

Tough Love will be out on Samhain Publishing on April 8th, you can pre-order here.

I hope you enjoy the read and the wine!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

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Special Delivery Blog Tour: Valentine’s Treat for Sam and Mitch

SpecialDelivery72lgSpecial Delivery by Heidi Cullinan was re-released this month from Samhain Publishing.  I first read Special Delivery about three years ago when I was first starting to really sink into M/M. I had been a reader of the genre for less than a year, and I was still figuring out who my favorite authors were and what types of stories I preferred to read. This book was one of my first introductions to BDSM in a love story, it was also the first book I read by Heidi, but certainly not my last. In the years since her stories have been consistently favorites of mine, and I literally never ever pass up on one of her books.

I’ve said before that what I love most about her heroes is that their strength lies in their ability to show their vulnerabilities. In saying to the world “this is what I need to be happy, I won’t let your prejudices make me ashamed”. Mitch and Sam are a classic couple for M/M romance reader,s and for many of us a perfect example of exactly the kind of love story that makes this genre so damn special. EVERYONE has a right to be happy, to get what they need from a person who loves them…To be loved without judgment or shame.

For this post I wanted to do a Valentine’s Day treat for these guys. I wanted to do something simple, like something Sam could whip up in the back of Old Blue, but also something colorful and sweet, which is how I think of him. Today’s treat is a Sweethearts Graham Cracker Chocolate Bark, which is SUPER easy to make and is also delicious. This will be a huge hit for the kids, and for those who are gluten free this recipe can be done with gluten free crackers as well.

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Sam is a young man from Iowa, living a life that might be a bit too small for him. He is studying to be a nurse, he works for his aunt and uncle’s pharmacy. He tries to be content with the ways things have worked out for him. After losing his mother at 17 he was taken in by his relatives, but their idea of kindness seems a lot like what other people would consider indentured slavery. On top of that Sam is gay, his desires and his wants make him feel dirty and wrong. The kind of sex that he likes best, is the kind that SHOULD make him feel ashamed. He feels so trapped by the things he wants and he can’t have. He’s lonely…It seems like other than his best friend, there is not a single person out there who cares for him at all.

Then out of the blue (literally!) this sexy trucker comes to make a deliver at his uncle’s pharmacy, and pretty soon Sam in the man’s truck on a summer cross country trip to California. His knight in shining armor’s name is Mitch and the man is sexy and kinky as hell. He’s come to take Sam away from his boring life, and show him all the ways that “bad” sex can be oh so good. The thing is that nothing is ever so simple, and Mitch clearly  has had his share of troubles in love. There is clearly something in his past that makes Mitch weary of how far he can go with Sam. It confuses him and makes him feel uncomfortable and a little scared, but GOD the sex is just so good. Sam is so caught up in all the things that Mitch can make him feel, all the ways that Mitch makes him feel dirty, and wicked but safe and cherished. It’s getting hard to see past the end of the trip. How can he ever go back home to being tolerated by his aunt and uncle when he knows how good he can feel, how happy he can be?

So Sam and Mitch make their way from Iowa to the West, and with every mile they are more intensely bonded. They are falling for each other, but there is too much that can’t work. The age difference, circumstances, the fact that Mitch is afraid of ruining Sam with his own dark desires. He’s been down this road and it has not gone well.

It’s complicated, and then it gets REAL FUCKING CRAZY when Mitch’s past comes barreling back into the scene (again LITERALLY!)…And holy shit is his past a kinky bastard.

Heidi’s books in this genre are always an education, they provide a fresh and moving perspective on what it means to love and be loved. What it means to be safe and cherished. Her characters are what most of society would consider the “fringe”, yet all their emotions, what makes them happy and what doesn’t, at the very core resonate with all of us. We all want to belong, we all want to be happy. We all want to feel sexy and irresistible to the one we love. We want to see happiness in the face of the person who makes us happiest. But everyone of us has to reach that in our own ways. Heidi’s men ALWAYS remind me of the absolute truth behind the words Love is Love…We all deserve to get it, in exactly the way we need it.

Completely recommend this book, and this series. You can get the revised edition of Special Delivery here, and don’t make sure you stay tuned for Double Blind and Tough Love the second and third books in the series!

Sweetheart Graham Cracker Chocolate Bark

Ingredients

  1. 7 whole and 1/4 of a graham crackers
  2. 1 4.25oz. bar of chocolate (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
  3. 1/2 c M&M’s
  4. sprinkles

Instructions

Layer graham crackers in a 9″ x 13″ baking sheet. Melt chocolate in the microwave 40 seconds at a time until its all melted, make sure you stir it in between heatings.

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Spread chocolate over the crackers and add sprinkles. You could add M&M’s if you’d like as well. Let set in the fridge for 30 minutes and break into pieces. This is a FAB project to make with kids or for a party, and it’s really tasty and pretty.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and the book. Whether it’s your first time or a re-read Sam and Mitch are two of the best pairs in M/M Romance!!

Cheers and Happy Reading and Happy Valentine’s Day to ALL!