Group Review: Tough Love by Heidi Cullinan (Love Fest)

Tough Love, Special Delivery, Book 3

Crescencio “Chenco” Ortiz pulled himself up by his garter straps after his father’s will yanked the financial rug from under his spank-me pumps. He doesn’t need anyone, yet when Steve Vance steps into his life, the prospect of having a sexy leather daddy on tap begins to take on a certain appeal.

There’s a hitch when he learns Steve is friends with Mitch Tedsoe—the half-brother Chenco never knew except through his father’s twisted lies. Despite his reservations, soon Chenco is living his dreams, including a performing gig in Vegas. Now if only he could get Steve to see him as more than just a boy in need of saving.

Steve’s attraction to Chenco is overshadowed by too many demons, ones he knows his would-be lover is too young to slay. Yet as he gets to know the bright, determined young man whose drag act redefines fierce, Steve’s inner sadist trembles with need. He begins to realize Chenco’s relentless tough love might be the only thing that will finally set him free.

Warning: This story contains glamorous drag queens, exhibitionist secondary characters, and no-holds-barred BDSM play, including watersports. Readers advised they may well leave this novel feeling uncharacteristically fierce.

This is a bittersweet moment in the clubhouse. We all just finished Book #3 of the Special Delivery series and DAMMITALLTOHELL did we have a good time reading and loving this series together or what? We couldn’t wait to get to this story and not a one of us was disappointed (except for it being over, hence the bittersweet). Tough Love was especially fun because while Special Delivery and Double Blind were new to a few, they were an awesome re-read to others, Tough Love was new to us all. The beauty is, now Tough Love can (and will) be a re-read, guaranteed. Thank you Heidi for making us look at blue semis, poker, cat posters and drag queens in a whole new, and incredibly amazing, light!

And now, Unicorn thoughts . . . . .

Also - some of these reviews may contain some spoilers, consider yourself warned!

Miss Sunny Says:

The characters: More Mitch, Sam, Randy, Ethan, and Crabtree? Sign me up! Add in Chenco and Caramela, who I loved, and I was feeling a little giddy. Steve was likeable, and at first, I really liked him, but later on, I felt disconnected from him as he struggled with different worries. Also, Steve's BDSM preferences were outside my comfort zone, which made it even more difficult for me to connect with him. All in all, though, these were interesting, complex personalities that contrasted with each other even as they worked well as a family. 5 big shiny stars

The writing: So much emotion shown through words. Beautiful, consistent characterization. Great details that were slipped into the story. A few spots with too much telling, though, and a lot happened off page, just enough to make me say, wait, what about... 4 stars

The story: Simple, interesting, kept me engaged, but more a vehicle for the characters to interact. Strong beginning. I loved meeting Steve, Chenco, and Caramela, and I loved how Steve understood Carmela right away.
-The BDSM didn't work for me for me as much as it did in the earlier books. ***SPOILER*** ...especially the sadism; serious pain at that level and for its own sake was difficult for me to read about and the needle play went further than I was prepared for. Watersports? In general, it just confuses me.  I did like other parts of the BDSM play, though.
-Caramela was such a great character, I wish she'd been present more often. It felt like she was too easily put away.
-I also wish we'd had more Chenco and Mitch time. They were brothers meeting for the first time and we barely saw them together. Chenco had more page time with Randy and Sam.
-After a strong and interesting start, it felt like the story stalled a bit, started to meander. Actually, the whole story was like that, strong scenes that grabbed me interspersed with a lot of telling, summarizing, wrapping up. 3 stars

Overall, 4 stars, but I'm not sure I would have liked it as much as I did if I hadn't read and loved the other books first.

Favorite quote: "Chenco swallowed a whimper. 'I'm not a princess, bitch, I'm a queen.'"

Side note: I don't think he means to, but Randy tends to steal the show. His personality is so big it draws most of the attention in every scene he's in. Sam does something similar, not just because of who he is, but also because of how everyone else reacts to him. Those two seem to be the main players, even in this story about other people. Of course, that might be my impression because that's just how they affect me :)

Miss Lorix Says:

So we're back with the series that made me realise I like a little kink in my reading. *cough* a lot of kink if it involves Randy *cough*

And this gem was certainly no let down. Before I start I will echo Sunny's thoughts that I may not have read/enjoyed this so much without having read the previous two in the series - who knows I may have done, but, as I had already read them and couldn't unread them, it'll forever remain a mystery.

So as well as Sam, Mitch, Randy, Ethan & Crabtree (scary, scary man) we meet Steve & Chenco & Caramela. Caramela is Chenco's drag queen persona and boy does she rule the roost. She was a fabulous character but I also loved her alter ego Chenco. I also loved Steve, a lot. He made me feel safe - he made me feel like Chenco was safe with him. Strange really as he had some kinks going on that I couldn't relate to. The beauty of Heidi Cullinan's writing is that, though I couldn't understand the needle or watersports (or if I'm honest some of the more basic BDSM stuff) I could totally understand the characters' need for them. If I took each individual kink and analysed it in the cold light of day I wouldn't 'get it', but I had such empathy for the characters, purely due to Heidi's writing, that I did get it. I understood their needs and desires and the way they dealt with release and pain and love. In short Heidi Cullinan is a genius.

Of course the original three characters, in particular Randy, were my favourites - I'm pretty sure as long as they have stories to tell I will never get tired of reading them.

Miss Breann Says:

 "Bossy McBosserpants. Big old Dom, don't-you-fuck-with-me, I-run-the-room Steve Vance."


Yup, I liked Steve. A whole hell of a lot. I completely agree with Lori's take on him, he was safe. Chenco and Caramela were safe with him. He helped them discover things about themselves that they didn't even know existed. Things they didn't know they wanted, let alone needed.

I'm talking about Caramela and Chenco as two separate people, because really, that's what they were. Of course, Caramela was a part of Chenco all the time, but when she came out to play everyone around knew who they were talking to. She's 100% badass and I love, love her for it.

The sex. Ooooooh holy BDSM hotness, the sex. Their chemistry, they had such chemistry I almost couldn't stand it. The way they fit together was completely perfect.
"Even if you were fifty-five, tonight I'd call you boy. It's not about your age. It's your role. Being a man is tough work. Being a boy is something we all miss, and some of us never got it. Right now you get to be a boy. You can be tired, you can be petulant, you can be scared. It doesn't matter. I'm your man right now, the only one you need. You can lay it all down and be a boy. In fact, I require you to."


I really loved all the BDSM elements they shared together. I love what they represented to each other and how they were done. They only deepened what they had and it only deepened my love for Steve and Chenco.

Unlike my fellow unicorns here, it's been quite a while since I've read the first two. I loved this with or without the rest of the series. It's a forever favorite of mine. It was dirty and kinky and loving and just fucking hot. Holy fuck, it was hot.

Miss Jenni Lea Says:

Well. Lemme just tell you about this here little story. First, we have Chenco. Chenco the scared little rabbit who hides behind his alter ego (Caramela the Fierce One) because he doesn't know how else to deal with the shit life has thrown at him. He meets Steve The Badass Dom soon after his asshat of a father dies and leaves him abso-freaking-lutely nothing. Nothing but a headache, that is. Oh, and Chenco is Mitch's half brother, but you already know that from the blurb so we won't rehash it here.

I seriously think this is my favorite of the series. Now, I know what you're thinking, "what?!?!? What about RANDY?!?!?!". Yes, yes, Randy is still (and always will be) my favorite character but story-wise, this one knocked it outta the park for me. There was just so much excitement! They were doin' stuff and saying stuff and doin' more stuff and I just ate it all up. I think part of the reason it was my favorite is because it didn't just focus on Chenco and Steve but on all of the characters. I gained more insight into the mind of Crabtree. I got to see Sam grow up and be even more confident in himself than ever before. And I got to see Ethan from a totally different perspective (I ♥ Ethan!).

Even though the kinks in here weren't my kind of thing I still found myself engrossed in the scenes and I was able to get a feel of how much Chenco and Steve were into it and how much it affected them and it really came across in a respectful and entertaining manner.

So, do I recommend you read this book? Why yes, yes I do. Read it. Right now. Now I say!

Miss Ann (that would be me) Says:

Tough Love is pretty much the epitome of why I love reading Heidi Cullinan’s books. The characters have SO many dimensions, that no matter what their kink is, be it needles or Disney princesses, I get it. I don’t have to understand it for myself, but I so understand it for her characters.

Reading the “warning” at the bottom of the blurb, I should think I would say, “Oh, hell no!” And yeah, for me, “Oh, hell no!” But for Steve and Chenco, the kink was so beyond the act itself, it was almost as if the act didn’t matter, it wasn’t the point. The point was what the act represented the symbolism of respect, trust and release. All things that both Steve and Chenco needed so desperately.

I love that her characters can’t be pigeonholed. Sure Steve is a leather daddy and Chenco is his sub learning all about pain play. At first Chenco seems to be in a desperate state and Steve is going to be his savior, but as the story progressed, I had to wonder, who was saving whom here. Every pairing in this series is so spot on perfect and these two are absolutely no exception. And, while I love the story, love to read more about my favorite characters (and meet new ones, Caramela – HELLO!) and love the filthy sweetness of it all, what I love most is all the layers in which these guys love. Every act is so much more than just an act and speaks to each of them so personally I feel like I know them inside and out. I really can’t recommend this series enough. And while Tough Love may be new, it’s a classic just like the first two.

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  1. I just bought this, can't wait to dive in! Busy day so it won't be till later, so I'll be spending the day fantasizing about all the kinky goodness I think will be in this book!!

    1. Oh, there is sooo much kinky goodness in this book! I hope you love it Rissa!

  2. Replies
    1. Did you start?? Are you done?? What did you think?? Tell me ALL the things Paisley!!! :D