To say that I loved Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan’s “new” book, “Second Hand,” is an understatement. I love both of these authors own their own, and together they are 24 karat gold. Oh, I needed this book. And from the first chapter, it was like slipping on a pair of comfortable house shoes. Warm and relaxing and oh, so familiar. But not familiar as in, “Oh, I’ve read that a million times,” but in that delightful way these two authors have in creating characters and spinning their tales.
BLURB: A Tucker Springs Novel
Paul Hannon flunked out of vet school. His fiancée left him. He can barely afford his rent, and he hates his house. About the only things he has left are a pantry full of his ex’s kitchen gadgets and a lot of emotional baggage. He could really use a win—and that’s when he meets El.
Pawnbroker El Rozal is a cynic. His own family’s dysfunction has taught him that love and relationships lead to misery. Despite that belief, he keeps making up excuses to see Paul again. Paul, who doesn’t seem to realize that he’s talented and kind and worthy. Paul, who’s not over his ex-fiancée and is probably straight anyway. Paul, who’s so blind to El’s growing attraction, even asking him out on dates doesn’t seem to tip him off.
El may not do relationships, but something has to give. If he wants to keep Paul, he’ll have to convince him he’s worthy of love—and he’ll have to admit that attachment might not be so bad after all.
MY REVIEW: Paul Hannon hasn’t had much good luck of late. He works for a vet because he failed out of veterinarian school, and his fiancée has left him for a man she thinks can give her what she wants in life. He wants this lady back and her birthday is coming and he hopes that if he gets her a nice present, he can win her back. He can’t afford much though and tries the local pawn shop where he thinks he might get a deal, and meets openly gay pawn broker Emmauel “El” Rozal. The man helps, but Paul’s plan doesn’t work, she is upset by what he does, and this makes him begin to finally realize he needs to move on. He also needs money for his crippling bills and decides to get ride of a pantry full of useless appliances that said fiancée said she needed. So he takes that stuff to the local pawn shop and now things begin to happen!
I don’t want to go on too much about the plot—it upsets me when reviewers say too much, making it unnecessary to even read the book—or just basically repeat what is on the cover blurb. I will mention that I liked several of the secondary characters quite a bit, especially Jase, bartender at a bar El frequents, and Nick, Paul’s boss. I didn’t catch if the vet was gay or straight, and clueless-Paul would have missed that fact if Nick and grabbed his butt. So it’s not surprising I’m not aware of his sexuality either—but I would love to read novels about both these guys. Because part of what I liked *so* very much about this book is the “universe” Marie and Heidi created with their city of Tucker Springs. They made the place so real I wanted to visit and I certainly want to visit in future books. It was so real, and that’s missing in so many books. Tucker Springs is the non-scary version of Castle Rock.
What I want to say is how much I liked the two main guys and how much I believed in them. Sexton and Cullinan took the trope of the gay guy who doesn’t quite realize he’s gay, and make me believe in his realization that he in fact *is* gay. Then there is the second trope of the gay guy who doesn’t do relationships…but realizes he’s falling in love, and they NAILED it. I believed him falling in love. My heart sped up when he figured it out. I *loved* watching these guys fall in love! I loved it!
I thought the authors were just a tad heavy handed in the whole Paul thinking “he’s-not-worth-of-love-thing,” but I hesitated even mentioning it. It was easily fixed with how they handled the tension of whether these two guys would work through their issues to find love. I mean I was tense! Edge of my seat. I had to keep reminding myself that, “Hey! This is a romance! Of course, they’re going to get together,” to get my stomach to unknot. And what is really important to me as a gay man is that these men were believable *gay* men. Especially El.
The sex was pretty good too! I believed in that too and needless to say that’s pretty important to me too. “Watching” Paul lose his virginity was both hot and worked right.
AND one more thing! There was a twist toward the end I didn’t see coming. *How* I didn’t see it I don’t know! I should have. Hey! I’m a writer. I know how to put those hints in. I’ve been trained. And now I see the those hints were there all along, and I didn’t see them coming for a second. Good work! Good work!
But you know what my biggest praise is?
Sexton and Cullinan make me want to write again. I’ve had a sort of block for months now. And they made me so happy with their characters and plot and story and timing that I am longing to punch those keys again. A story is coming! Thank you! Thank you, both. You could not have made me happier in every way with your book, “Second Hand.”