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Special Delivery

Special Delivery - Heidi Cullinan I won the sequel to this book in a Facebook contest. So I actually read the two books out of order. Although I knew therefore of the existence of Randy, it still didn't spoil the story for me.I love contemporary m/m romance where the main conflict is the characters themselves. Their pasts, their personalities and their presence.Being an Aussie, I loved the Kylie Minogue references. If I have one gripe, it's the cover. Mitch to me would have been a lot rougher looking. He's too pretty. But Sunshine.... spot on.There was lots of sex in the book, all of it very hot but it didn't swamp the story. A great read.* * * * *It’s now nearly six months since I first read “Special Delivery” and wrote my review. As a special Christmas Treat I re-read the book specifically looking for what made this one of the most popular and recognised m/m romances in 2010.For a start it has to be the character of Sam. Heidi has done a wonderful job of drawing someone who is exploring his needs. Twinks generally seem to strike a resonating chord, for example: Syd McGinley’s Charlie/Twink, Jay Lygon’s perennially youthful Sam, the God of Sex, K.A.Mitchell’s Joey from “Collision Course” and the list goes on.It’s not easy writing a good twink. The character has to sound youthful, but not irritatingly so. The reader has to be able to see where growth can occur and some of that has to happen through the course of the story. The character has to have a lack of sophistication and amateurishness in their sexual encounters (unless the plot demands otherwise).Matching a twink up with an older man (as they so often are) carries with it another set of baggage. One of the protagonists comes in with a past, often this impacts deeply on the course of the relationship. This difference in maturity has to be seen, but there also have to be enough grounds of commonality to ensure any future they have together is believable.Mitch is a classic case. A man with a past he’s ashamed of. A man who’s acutely aware of how he’s fucked up any chance of happiness in prior relationships. A man in some ways unwilling to come to terms with his mistakes. On the plus side, he is more financially secure, more knowing of who he is even if he’s not entirely happy about it. A man with experience and often with the ability to read people, especially if a Dom (even if not in the full on BDSM sense of the word)So what do twinks bring with them? For a start, it’s usually a verve for life which the other has lost. Sometimes it’s a fresh innocence, sometimes just straight out energy. Heidi’s Sam has all those things in spades.What does the twink get back in return? A degree of certainty. Often the twink is floundering, not sure of their sexuality or the rightness of their ability to just “be” who they are. The trust they have that someone "has their back" allows their inner self to shine forth.But what about the plot? This is very much a story about a journey. A physical one and an emotional one for both characters. As a reader, you just feel you’re in the truck, staring out the window as a whole new world rushes by, seeing it through the wide eyed gaze of a small town Mid-western boy. There's just enough description to fix you in a time and place without bogging the story down with too much detail.It’s also a story about “home”. As far as the characters go, I’m sure if we’d been in Mitch’s head there’s no way he would have believed how a simple flirtation looking for a casual fuck would have led to his journey of reconciliation and possibly an unrecognised search for a home for himself. Unresolved issues from his past were stopping him moving forward. Once he realized what a sparking diamond he’d unwittingly collected in Sam, it must have freaked him out.I love this understanding Sam gets of Mitch near the end: Mitch shrugged. “I like a lot of places. We live in this huge country with so many climates, so many different cultures, so much different everything. I’ve been driving it over ten years and I haven’t seen it all, not even close. I wish I could get gigs in some of the more out of the way areas, but I don’t have networks there yet. I suppose I should just go and make them. I know I’ll die not seeing it all, but I want to do my best to try.”It was such a Mitch answer, but Sam looked into that life with sadness, because much as he wanted to have that experience, too, he couldn’t see a way to be a part of it without being Mitch’s special delivery forever. “So nowhere is home to you, then?”Mitch rubbed his thumb along the wheel for a second before answering. “Home isn’t a place, for me,” he said at last. Sam’s inherent maturity brought on by dealing with the death of a much loved mother and a difficult home situation shows that despite his youth there is a degree of common sense which will grow into wisdom as he ages. I had a discussion with Heidi about why she’d made Special Delivery single POV. Her response was: I choose POV carefully: I'll only use the POV of someone who has a growth arc in the story. And to me, Mitch didn't change a whole lot. He did, but just a bit.This is typical of older people who have become stuck in their persona and actions. Twinks don’t have as much baggage to ditch, Mitch had years of prior behaviour. I love using my imagination to make up my own inner dialogue in these characters. Imagine the fear and trepidation in Mitch against change against commitment.And the final thing I look for in a story is the point or theme. Why write it in the first place?This sums the story’s theme up for me:I have to finish school. I have to—” He clenched his fists and released them. “—grow up.”“For the record,” Mitch said, “you’re more grown up right now, I think, than I am. But I know what you mean. You gotta finish what you started.”Sam nodded. “I don’t really want to. But I have to.” The path Sam took to understand what he needed versus what he wanted is the story.So whether Heidi did all this deliberately or not, she certainly ticked all the right boxes along the way.