Family Man, by Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (Re-release)
Release Date: September 11, 2017
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.
Side Character with Alcoholism, Depression
Having read the first edition a number of years ago, Family Man was actually a re-read for me, something I don’t often indulge in. Between changing tastes and ever-growing awareness of harmful tropes in queer romance, few re-reads (especially titles from my early days as an M/M reader) have the ability to withstand the test of time. I was happy to (re)discover that Family Man was still a smooth and engaging read.
That’s not to say Vinnie and Trey’s story was all rainbows and sunshine. After all, Vinnie was a deeply closeted 40 years old from a traditional Italian Catholic family and was thrice divorced. That was no small amount of built-in denial, stereotypes and homophobia (both internal and external) he had to overcome. I had been somewhat apprehensive about any bi-erasure or harmful GFY elements to his journey of self-discovery, but in the end I had little issue with the way Vinnie’s story turned out. Overall, I appreciated his internal struggle and especially the candid (and sometimes cringeworthy) heart-to-hearts with his supportive sister.
While I might go so far as to call Vinnie’s narrative pretty low angst (after his early denials, that is), Trey’s story was unexpectedly rife with drama, especially in the final third. I’m not a fan of the toxic female element in M/M romance (in this case, represented by Trey’s alcoholic mom) but I do think the presence of other strong female influences (namely Trey’s grandma Sophia, Vinnie’s awesome sister Rachel and his mom Lisa) balanced things out very nicely.
As for the two of them together, I thought our heroes made a super sweet and adorable couple. They just felt right. Their quiet chemistry had an innocence and a shyness to it, and I love love love that they actually dated (say whuuuut?) with hand holding and cuddles and everything(!). It reminded me of an old-fashioned courtship and I appreciated how they took things slow and really spent time together without being swept away by sex. I also adored the way Vinnie’s self-consciousness and fears naturally faded away the more they went out, and I loved how protective and devoted he was to Trey without being overbearing.
I thought the book was aptly named and the title could have easily apply to either character. I liked the focus on family (the good with the bad) along with the story’s theme of love, loyalty, and hearty Italian comfort food(!). If you like cuddly Italian bears who just want to take care of their man and treat them right, Family Man is definitely for you.
Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime.
A member of Romance Writers of America since 1999, Heidi Cullinan has served as president of Rainbow Romance Writers, run local chapter newsletters, and volunteered for committees on the local and national level. In addition to teaching writing since 1993, she also served as the writer’s workshop coordinator for GayRomLit Retreat for 2013.
Marie Sexton lives in Colorado. She’s a fan of just about anything that involves muscular young men piling on top of each other. In particular, she loves the Denver Broncos and enjoys going to the games with her husband. Her imaginary friends often tag along. Marie has one daughter, two cats, and one dog, all of whom seem bent on destroying what remains of her sanity. She loves them anyway.
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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.