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The Romance Reviews (TRR) - Tough Love

Tough Love

Heidi Cullinan
Tough Love
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Publisher
Samhain
Release Date
April 2014
Series
Book 3 of Special Delivery
Genre
BDSM, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ

SUMMARY
Crescencio "Chenco" Ortiz pulled himself up by his garter straps after his father's will yanked the financial rug from under his spank-me pumps. He doesn't need anyone, yet when Steve Vance steps into his life, the prospect of having a sexy leather daddy on tap begins to take on a certain appeal.

There's a hitch when he learns Steve is friends with Mitch Tedsoe—the half-brother Chenco never knew except through his father's twisted lies. Despite his reservations, soon Chenco is living his dreams, including a performing gig in Vegas. Now if only he could get Steve to see him as more than just a boy in need of saving.

Steve's attraction to Chenco is overshadowed by too many demons, ones he knows his would-be lover is too young to slay. Yet as he gets to know the bright, determined young man whose drag act redefines fierce, Steve's inner sadist trembles with need. He begins to realize Chenco's relentless tough love might be the only thing that will finally set him free.

Book Review by Pat Henshaw (author,reviewer)
Apr 24, 2014   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
164 people found the following review helpful
Tough is the operative word in this novel of love and redemption between two men who've been batted around by life.

After being rejected by his mother for being gay and reviled by his ill father who promised to leave him the old man's Rio Grand Valley trailer after he died, Chenco Ortiz is incensed when his father leaves the trailer to the Ku Klux Klan instead.

Visiting the probate lawyer's office to see if there's anything he can do to keep the trailer which he considers his home, Chenco runs into Steve Vance, a friend of Chenco's older brother, Mitch Tedsoe, the long distance trucker from the first in the series, Special Delivery.

A drag queen in his spare time from his job at a cafe, on the one hand Chenco knows his father was repulsed by his son's onstage alter ego Caramela, but on the other hand, the old man should have been grateful because Chenco paid all his medical bills and the home where he spent his last days.

As Chenco stews about where he will live when evicted, Steve is smitten with him and begins a campaign to get to know him. When push comes to shove, Chenco moves into Steve's spacious hacienda which is also housing Chenco's brother Mitch, Mitch's husband Sam, and their friend Randy, a Las Vegas card dealer, who is married to a casino owner.

Steve's life, however, is not without its complications because Steve is also caring for his old friend Gordy who's gone off the deep end, living in a decrepit cannery warehouse, often not eating, and begging for Steve's personal attention.

Ironing out the problems in Chenco's and Steve's personal lives is paramount if the two are to have a chance of making a life together, which is the crux of the tale.

Both Chenco and Steve are interesting and indelible characters, worthy of this strong series. Both are beset by immediate and important problems, which are fleshed out convincingly. And both are so likeable that readers will be on their side from the outset.

But this isn't an easy book or a predictable read. Neither man is cut from the mainstream, but is plagued by kinks that the outside world for the most part doesn't understand. And this is where Heidi Cullinan shines because she makes their differences part of their basic characters, not colorful add-ons.

Chenco and Caramela aren't two separate entities, but two facets of one interesting character whose well-meaning goodness makes up his basic personality. Steve's safety valves of BDSM and needle play may seem dangerous and unhealthy, but his grounded responsibility and respect for himself and others make these fringe fetishes work to keep him sane in a world that's neither sane nor kind.

As someone who's enjoyed Heidi Cullinan's walk on the wild side in the two previous Special Delivery books as well as this one, I can't wait to see what she has in store for us in the future.
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