Friday, June 21, 2019

Family Man by Heidi Cullinan & Marie Sexton Audiobook Review

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.

Audiobook Details
Length: 7 hrs, 40 mins
Narrator: Colin Darcy

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

When I reached the end of Family Man, my first thought was “That was such a sweet story.” But then I paused and reconsidered my thought, realizing that it isn’t a sweet story, but rather a sweet ending – an aww-inducing ending. Considering the tough subjects the authors tackle, Family Man is by no means a sweet story, especially given how honest and realistic some of the scenes are.

Family Man is actually two stories in one. First, you have the romance between Vinnie and Trey, once Vinnie admits to himself that he might not be as straight as he’s convinced everyone he was, including himself. The second story is that of Trey dealing with his mother’s alcoholism and coming to terms with his feelings as he refuses to enable her any longer. I loved the romance. Watching Vinnie come to terms with his sexuality, try to retrain his way of thinking about relationship roles, overcome the ‘lessons and rules’ he grew up with as an Italian-American man, work up the courage to out himself to his sister (someone he was almost positive would accept him), and then face his fear of losing his family so that he could out himself to his mother because he needed to ask the family for help with Trey’s situation – all while falling in love with a man a decade his junior – was an absolute delight.

On the other hand, Trey’s side of the story had me nearly screaming at my Kindle in frustration. No, not because it wasn’t good, but because it was too well done and too realistic. I wanted to wrap that poor boy up in a hug (and I’m not a big hugger) and tell him that he needed to cut his mom out of his life. I’m not advocating turning your back on family just because they need help, but after you’ve tried to help someone several times and they keep throwing it back in your face while playing the victim… well, toxic people don’t deserve unlimited access to your time and attention and you owe it to yourself to put you first. When Trey revealed the lengths his grandmother had gone to in order to help her daughter-in-law, I wanted to slap the crap out of his mother. I completely understood Vinnie’s outrage because I was right there with him. On an intellectual level, I get that alcoholism is a disease because it runs on my father’s side of the family and has made appearances on my mother’s side as well and because of that, I avoid addictive substances. On an emotional level, I felt Trey’s pain and frustration, his desire for just wanting his mother’s vicious cycle to come to an end, and the guilt for hoping that the next emergency room visit will be the last. Trey’s situation had me mouthing off at my Kindle more than once. Despite the personal issues he was dealing with, Vinnie’s presence in Trey’s life is the only thing that kept me sane on Trey’s behalf. Thankfully, when push came to shove, Vinnie and the rest of the Fierro clan was everything Trey knew he needed and wanted, but never hoped to have. And all their interference made for a beautiful ending and left me wanting for more of Trey, Vinnie, and the rest of the Fierro clan.

I do believe this is the first time I’ve listened to an audiobook narrated by Colin Darcy and I was quite pleased with his performance. Initially I was put off by Vinnie’s accent, thinking it didn’t sound like the second and third generation Italians I’d called in-laws. However, once I noticed that Family Man is set in Chicago, not New York, I realized that Vinnie and his family wouldn’t sound the same, but the other characteristics I was accustomed to – the loudness, the friendly exuberance in their tone, the cajoling, the meddling, and the love for family – were present and heartwarming for me. But it was the range of Trey’s emotions that Darcy conveyed so well that impressed me. There is a scene in the book when Trey expresses relief and is then swamped by guilt for his relief and Darcy captures that guilty relief in Trey’s thoughts and voice impressively. I know I would have enjoyed Family Man had I read it, but I firmly believe that Darcy brought Cullinan and Sexton’s characters to life in an entirely different way than I would have and it made the book all that more enjoyable for me.

Rating note: I struggled a bit with the rating on Family Man, trying to decide if it was a four-star listen, five-star listen, or somewhere in between. When I realized that my main issue was that I tend to give five stars to books that I’ll read or listen to again and wasn’t sure if I would listen to Family Man again solely because of the alcoholism thread, I knew that I had to give it five stars because the story was so impactful that it would stay with me whether I ever cued it up again or not.

Heidi Cullinan

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 cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi on her website.

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Marie Sexton

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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Colin Darcy is a narrator for Falcon Sound Company.

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free audiobook copy of Family Man by Heidi Cullinan & Marie Sexton, narrated by Colin Darcy to listen to and review.

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