Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Happy by Chris Scully

Growing up Greek-Canadian, Peter Georgiou always knew his duty was to his family, for whom twenty-first century rules don’t apply. In his early thirties, Peter still lives at home, dates who his parents tell him to, and works at the family restaurant. But watching his two best friends find happiness in each other’s arms has made him worry over his destiny.

When Louie Papadakis returns home to nurse his broken heart and start a new life, he can’t believe his sister is dating his high school crush, Peter. There’s a sadness behind Peter’s eyes that draws him in, and a chemistry he wishes he could ignore. After his closeted ex broke his heart, Louie is afraid to fall in love again, especially with a man who's keeping secrets.

As Peter finds himself drawn to Louie in unexpected ways, old and new worlds collide. Then a family crisis forces Peter’s hand, and he must decide if he’s willing to sacrifice his happiness for family duty.

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Dreamspinner  Press

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

5 Happy Stars.

I was in a feral mood when I began this book. To be totally honest, I was getting on my own nerves, and this angry, volatile, and unsettling mood isn't my norm. Upon starting Happy, I was able to relax, and well, I felt – HAPPY

Our narrators are Peter and Louie. Peter is a loyal, hard-working man who has never truly lived his own life. Greek, his family moved to Canada when he was a baby. They opened up a Greek restaurant, and their entire lives surrounded it. Once, Peter escaped, only to be drawn back when his father had a heart attack. While he's there to help, his father won't let him. Then there is the mother – she knows who Peter truly is and it terrifies her, so she's always arranging his future marriages to nice Greek women. While on the surface, his parents sound awful, as the only child, Peter understands they love him, need him, and don't want to lose him. All of their issues stem from very real, everyday fears parents have, so even though they frustrated me, I appreciated their actions/reactions.

Peter is trapped. He's sad. He's not sexually confused, so don't get up-in-arms over what he wants in a partner. He knows exactly who he is, and is only willing to either make his mother happy or break her heart for the one. He had thought he found the one before, but Elena crushed him when she married another. Now Peter is dating a nice Greek girl five years his junior.

In walks Louie. The girlfriend's big brother, who's home after a bad breakup with a bi guy who is trapped in the closet. Out and proud, sick of feeling like their community's pariah. Louie will hide nothing, and he won't deal with someone who will.

I thoroughly enjoy Chris Scully's writing style. It's fluid, flowing from scene to scene in a realistic way. The characters are always developed and easy for the reader to identify with. Peter and Louie's relationship grows over the course of the book. The journey is friendship laced with attraction. Their need to spend time with each other, to learn each other on all levels, instead of just lying in bed getting sexual gratification, was a breath of fresh air. It made it feel real for me as a reader, instead of the story buried beneath the lust. Not that anything is wrong with a 100% lusty book, but sometimes I want some more depth than just a good time. After the slow-burn, it was hotter than Hades. I felt like I was being rewarded right alongside the characters.

The side cast of characters were developed, enjoyable and interesting, made real with flaws and all. I need to ask if Joe & Adam have their own book somewhere. It just felt like they may have. If anyone knows, can they let me know? If not, I'm satisfied with what I read of them. If so, I'd love to read it. The reason I ask is because Happy is listed as not in a series.

As I said, I started Happy in a bad mood, an illogical female mood if you catch my drift. Like taking a happy pill, I spent four hours smiling to myself, chuckling underneath my breath, and blushing with the characters. Happy was sweet, Happy was frustrating, and Happy was entertaining as all get out.

MM romance fans will adore this story and its characters. Previously I've only read Until September by Chris Scully, and look forward to more of her stories in the future.

The story starts with Peter contemplating if he is Happy. He clearly is not. He gave up his career to help his father run the family restaurant, which is firmly stuck in the 1980s and he lives in his parents’ basement. While he dates girls and was once engaged, he clearly has a preference for men.

When Peter meets his girlfriend's brother Louie, there is instant attraction and Peter starts to feel happy for the first time in a long time. Louie is coming out of a relationship with a guy who was in the closest and makes it clear he has no time for a relationship and certainly not one that he would have to hide.

I grew up in a community with a high Greek population so I loved the setting for this book. The author does a great job showing the divide between the older generation who grew up in Greece and the younger generation who grew up in Canada. It is clear that Peter has sacrificed his happiness to please his parents. On the other side of the coin, Louie followed his heart and came out which was detrimental to his relationship with his Greek Orthodox parents.

I loved Peter and Louie. They are easy to relate to and their struggle between doing what is right for you and makes you happy versus pleasing your parents and others is an easy one to relate to. Their relationship is a lovely slow burn, complicated by, among other things, Peter dating Louie's sister.

I devoured Happy in about 3 hours. Reading Happy made me happy and I can't ask more from a book than that.

I have the utmost respect for families who follow to the Old World traditions of their heritage. But that doesn’t keep me from getting frustrated for characters whose lives are made more difficult by such traditions, whether it be a daughter wanting to marry a man of a different race, a son wanting to marry a woman outside of his religion, or a young man who is attracted to other men, faced with his parents’ constant harping at him to settle down and start a family – with the expectation that he will marry a wife of their choosing – all while being afraid to come out to his parents for fear of being disowned. Yes, I can respect traditions and at the same time be immensely thankful that I wasn’t born into such a family.

Unfortunately for Peter, he was born Greek and that comes with a slew of expectations he’s beginning to realize that he cannot meet. After a failed engagement and his father’s heart attack, Peter moved into his parent’s basement and began working at the family restaurant – after he quit his job in the city’s Economic Development Office – with the promise that he would be running it, never materializing. Honestly, I don’t know how Peter kept living his life, day after day, not getting to do anything that made him happy, all for the sake of a family who, while they love him, show no appreciation for his sacrifices in life. As the only child, he is expected to do what his family needs without regard to his own happiness. And then, a little ray of sunshine enters his dreary world in the form of his fiancée’s younger brother, Louie. Louie is an out and proud Greek man whose family tolerates him because they don’t know how to reconcile their love for their son with their religion’s views on homosexuality, and he’s just moved back home after having his heart broken by a man who was more concerned with public appearances than with Louie. What begins as friendship soon becomes a cause for concern for Peter because Louie is making it hard for Peter to keep his attraction for men hidden, and Peter’s not so sure he wants to continue hiding either.

One of the things I liked about Happy was that rather than Louie serving as the catalyst for Peter realizing he’s gay, he was the push behind Peter’s coming out to his parents. Peter knew that he was gay, but also knew what was expected of him as a dutiful Greek son. So despite his homosexuality, he was determined to make his parents happy, even if that meant marrying a woman and living a lie. Why? Because he’d never met a man worth coming out for, at least not until Louie. And even when he began to realize that Louie might be worth his parents’ disappointment and judgment, Peter didn’t rush into the decision, and took it so slow that Louie began to think he was again being relegated to dirty little secret status.  Another thing that I enjoyed about the book is that while Louie still finds his high school crush attractive, Peter is no longer the Greek god he was in high school. Scully painted the picture of a just-beginning-to-age Greek man, complete with the softening around the middle and the early stages of a receding hairline. Not the perfect man, but the man perfect for Louie. But I think my favorite part of the book, besides watching Peter fall for Louie, was the unexpected quarter from which Peter found support for his relationship with Louie. To say I was shocked does not even do my reaction justice – I think my jaw may have actually dropped open. Happy was a book that made me just that when I read it…happy…even if it took me on quite the journey to get there. Scully has secured her place on my “authors to stalk” list.

Chris Scully lives in Toronto, Canada. She grew up spinning romantic stories in her head and always dreamed of one day being a writer even though life had other plans. Her characters have accompanied her through career turns as a librarian and an IT professional, until finally, to escape the tedium of a corporate day job, she took a chance and began putting her daydreams down on paper.

Tired of the same old boy-meets-girl stories, she found a home in M/M romance and strives to give her characters the happy endings they deserve. She divides her time between a mundane 9-5 cubicle job and a much more interesting fantasy life. When she’s not working or writing (which isn’t often these days) she loves puttering in the garden and traveling. She is an avid reader and tries to bring pieces of other genres and styles to her stories. While her head is crammed full of all the things she’d like to try writing, her focus is always on the characters first. She describes her characters as authentic, ordinary people—the kind of guy you might meet on the street, or the one who might be your best friend.

Although keeping up with social media is still a struggle given her schedule, she does love to hear from readers.

Connect with Chris

Facebook  ~  Blog  ~  Goodreads

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Happy by Chris Scully to read and review.

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