Donny’s always been a good son. (He’s a better son than a brother, considering the way he handled Mike’s coming out, but he’s working on that. Besides, his brother’s boyfriend, Shane, is a pretty nice guy and he makes Mike happy.) Like his father, Donny’s a firefighter. Like his father, he’s into sports, beer, and bowling. Donny is loyal, hard working, proud of his family, and always there when they need him. And, with Mike — his father’s favorite — no longer the favorite, Donny’s also been getting more time with his father, more praise, more everything.
To add the cherry on top of the sundae, Donny’s getting a chance to work as the aviation liaison with his fire station, which is just cool. The men who fly the fire planes are heroes, especially the newest hire, Dell Murphy. Ex-army, daredevil pilot, looks like Captain America, Dell’s just … wonderful. And Donny is starstruck. Donny can barely string two words together in Dell’s presence, but he wants to do nothing more than listen to Dell talk for hours. When Dell reaches out, looking for a new friend, Donny is overwhelmed and delighted in equal measure.
And when, on a hike, Dell kisses him, Donny is overwhelmed in a completely different way. Or is he? There’s something about Dell, the way he takes charge of a situation, the way his hands feel on Donny’s neck as he pulls him closer, something about the way he makes Donny feel. When Dell offers to make this just sex, Donny agrees, because it lets him have what he wants — both Dell and his father; mind-blowing sex and family approval. But secrets — especially in a big, nosy family — don’t long stay hidden, and Donny will have to make a choice no child should have to make: Dell or his father. What he wants, or who he is.
This is the second book in the Hot Cannolis series, books that involve loud, large, and loving families and what it means to be a father and son. What it means to be yourself. The Canali family have long been in public service as firefighters, police, and EMTs, always putting other people first. And Donny has learned to put the family first, which made it hard when his brother came out as gay (in the previous book, Hot Seat). It was something Donny didn’t know how to handle, especially when his father made it clear he didn’t approve. But Mike’s happy, now, and for Donny, that’s what matters. He likes Shane, but he loves his brother.
All of this makes his time with Dell … more delicate. Because Donny isn’t certain how much of this is him fanboying over Dell, and how much is just this newly discovered kink of his finding an outlet. Donny has only very recently discovered he wants his lover (male or female) to take charge in the bedroom. He wants to be dominated, restrained, told what to do, and taken care of. To be praised. To be told he’s doing well. And Dell does that. His army voice makes Donny’s bones melt and his dick rise and his trust in Dell is absolute. However, it’s that same kink that makes it hard for Donny to turn away from his father, who also gives orders, whose love and praise seem to be conditional upon Donny being the model son, now that the golden child has surrendered his position.
Dell is a man prone to calculated risks — such as refusing to drink, knowing his family history of alcoholism — and he’s very, very good at math. He likes being in charge, being the alpha. And Donny, as tall as Dell is, almost as built (lugging all that firefighter equipment around keeps him in flawless condition), kneeling at his feet, staring up at him with equal measures of lust and adoration turns Dell on like nothing else. And being Donny’s first male lover, showing him how to take pleasure and give it … yeah, that’s hot. But it’s getting wearing, being a secret. Being the booty call with none of the boyfriend.
What’s worse is that Donny doesn’t seem to see it. He doesn’t look at Dell as a person, sometimes. He sees the hero, he sees the man fucking him. He doesn’t see the man who just wants to be able to hold his hand in public, come to the family dinner and wrap an arm over his shoulders, be recognized by the family. Dell’s own family is small with just himself and his mother and sister, a sister who has recently survived cancer. His mother is flighty and more clingy with her daughter, which makes Gala, Dell’s sister, more uncertain about her own ability to be a separate person. So Dell has two people depending on him, two people he left the army to help, and now Donny … and no one helping him. Holding him. Loving him without the expectation of being taken care of by him.
The relationship between Donny and his father is a turbulent one. But Angelo is making effort. When he meets Dell for the first time, he brings up Dell’s sexuality because he’s trying to understand his son Mike, who recently came out. Mike’s boyfriend, Shane, is out and proud, flamboyant and fabulous, and takes absolutely no fucks from anyone, and Angelo wants reassurance that his son, like Dell, can still be a man. His version of a man. And it’s that toxic masculinity he is inadvertently pushing upon both Donny and Mike (and all his other sons.) Angelo has to learn to be a father to his sons whether they’re straight or gay, and this book doesn’t shy away from that question.
In fact, this book isn’t shy at all. Dell and Donny’s first time is one of the more amusing scenes with Dell asking constant questions. Do you like this? Do you want to try this? How to you feel about that? He wants to make sure Donny is ready for a sexual relationship with another man, or, as he calls it, reading the manual. There is humor in this book, and both authors show not only an understanding of their characters but a fondness for them. The writing is just very good. The pace, in this one, seemed to drift a touch in parts, but overall the story is engaging and the side characters are almost as much fun as the main pair. I hope you give this series and this book, especially, a try. It’s very much worth it.