Family Man

Family Man - Marie Sexton, Heidi Cullinan

Trigger warnings: 

Discussion of alcoholism, medical emergency of a side character, discussion of death.

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I've never read this duo before and aside from one nitpick, I really enjoyed this story. It's well told and written, the characters are fully realized, and there's conflict but it's more related to each of the MC's families (Vince's big Italian Catholic family and Trey's alcoholic mom) and how that impacts their relationship than any tired and worn out romantic tropes. 

 

Vince is nearing his 40s and has been divorced three times when he comes to a realization about himself: he's possibly gay. I was worried about this aspect, because how do you get that old and at least never wonder if that might be the case? As it turns out, Vince did wonder - a lot - but shoved it so far into the closet he managed to forget it most of the time. Trey is in his mid-twenties and struggling to hold down two jobs and go to school. He has no doubts he's gay but is saving himself for Mr. Right. I fully bought the idea of Vince just coming out to himself, and Trey deciding to take on a closet case. They are oddly suited for each other and it shows from the start. I also really appreciate the slow burn because insta-anything always leaves me feeling a little cold. I actually got to see them interact with each other, get to know each other, and develop feelings for each other, and that made the sex scenes much sexier, imo. I also liked the examination of heteronormativity and how it does NOT translate into gay relationships.

For example, Vince likes to hold open doors for Trey, and Vince is physically taller and bigger than Trey, and obviously older. But he also wants to bottom. Vince does still think in man vs woman role terms, but he's at least aware of it and that it doesn't really mean squat.

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I feel like a lot of M/M writers would benefit from reading up on that, especially those who previously wrote M/F and are trying to cross over to M/M.

 

As for the main conflicts of the MC's families, 

when I first started reading M/M, it seemed like every single time a gay character was from a Catholic family, those families were so stereotypically ultra conservative, that I nearly considered avoiding stories with characters that were in any way religious. I get that religion has hurt a lot of gay people, and I don't want that to not be addressed, but I know tons of people in real life who are religious AND open-minded and accepting, and it was ticking me off they weren't being represented. And it looked like that's where this story was going to go when Vince found out a cousin, who's basically the black sheep of the family, is gay too. So I was SO glad when that was not the case, that the cousin was shunned because of his epically bad life choices and not because of his orientation.

 

I'm also really impressed with how well they portrayed living with an alcoholic, the manipulation that comes with that, the despair that comes from growing up with that. It's a hard topic to portray well, without relying on tropes. Trey's childhood was rough, and if not for the positive influence of his grandmother and his own innate reliance, I don't think he would've survived it without getting seriously messed up. Not that he's not without his problems - he does have issues of trust and anger issues with his mom. The financial situation of dealing with his mom's alcoholism was also portrayed well. That whole storyline could've easily become maudlin as hell, but they keep it stark and realistic instead, without bogging it down with too much angst. 

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Now for my nitpick: Vince's POV is written in 3rd person, and Trey's in 1st person. This completely threw me the first time Trey's POV came up, and distracted the hell out of me the entire first half of the book. I did eventually get used to it though and it didn't bother me quite as much by the end, but it's still annoying enough to lose half a star off the rating. There was also one use of 3rd person during one of Trey's chapters, but that was the only time it happened - and I think actually the only typo in the whole book.