Review and Author Interview: A Home for the Holidays by Joe Cosentino

Bobby McGrath’s Christmas trip to the beautiful Italian island of Capri to meet his eccentric extended family offers stunning views—none more stunning than his third cousin, Paolo Mascobello, a real stocking stuffer. As the two young men embark on a relationship, Bobby, a driven law student, learns to relax and bask under the old Italian moon, and Paolo realizes there’s more to life than a frolic on the beach. For the two to find everlasting amore, Paulo must overcome his fear of commitment and learn to follow his dreams, and Bobby must get his wish for happily ever after.

Once again, from the keyboard of Joe Cosentino, comes a story I loved. This time it's a Christmas story, but as ever it has that Cosentino uniqueness. 

I must confess, I have a huge weakness for Christmas stories. Just as I devour Hallmark seasonal films, so do I over dose on holiday stories. There is something about stories set in snowy situations with blazing log fires and cuddles a plenty that warm the cockles of my heart, so I was all over this when it arrived in our in box. Bobby McGrath's Christmas... was as far as I got reading the blurb before I started getting excited.

I nipped over to Goodreads, added the book to my TBR...then I got a look at the cover. Hang about - half naked dudes in swimming trunks? That's not Christmassy (yes I am aware that I'm ignoring the Christmas experiences of everyone in the Southern hemisphere. Blame Dickens. My mindset is Christmas = snow, even though in nearly 4 decades I've yet to experience an actual properly white Christmas). It was about then I thought I'd better read the blurb. So I did - and I was just as excited about reading the story.

The one thing you can't escape when reading Cosentino's books is his humour; it's what draws me back time and again to this author. Sometimes the humour is subtle, sometimes it's unashamedly overt - every time it is hilarious. Now a story set in Italy immediately makes me think ROMANCE (well, okay, spaghetti, ice-cream and then romance) because Italians are stereotypically loud and beautiful and romantic. In the interview (below) you will see I asked Joe whether he considered himself a romantic and he said no. He said he uses humour instead. Well I respectfully disagree Mr Cosentino, humour is one of the most romantic things in the world! Laughter is important.

Bobby, sent abroad to Italy to spend Christmas with a branch of the family he didn't know, is a workaholic. Paulo, his cousin, is all about having fun. Right from the start I loved the dynamics of these two. Actually, I loved the dynamics of all the family. It is a clever thing that Cosentino manages superbly, the interactions and integration of all the characters; in his books the supporting cast are as important as the stars of the story.

Equally, the Italian setting is as much part of the cast as the characters. The scenery, the atmosphere - the food. It all added to the story, each part making the whole more intricate. Sometimes, when reading, I feel as though such added extras are unnecessary. That instead of adding to the story, they take away from it. I certainly don't feel that way when reading work by this author.

My only complaint about this novel is - I wanted more, I wanted longer. But I'm greedy like that! Hope you enjoy this Christmas story as much as I did.

Excerpt: A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Joe Cosentino, published by Dreamspinner Press 
“Bobby, every Christmas your father and I buy you a nice gift and you return it. So this year before we go shopping, I’m asking you. What do you want for Christmas, exactly?”
I was tempted to answer, “How about the new Zeb Atlas DVD, Mom?” No longer reading my law textbook, I pressed the cell phone against my ear and responded, “My red sweater is getting frayed. I guess I could use a new one, Mom.”
“I don’t like red on you. I’ll get you a green sweater. It will go nicely with your eyes. You’ll be twenty-four in June. Nobody ever caught a husband wearing red clothes, except for Mrs. Klaus, and then look how overweight he was.”
I adjusted the heavy book on my knees and leaned back against the headboard of my narrow dorm room bed. Since fall semester of my third year of law school was over, my roommate had already gone back to Utah to be with his father and three mothers. Normally I would go home for the holidays.
As far back as I can remember, every December twenty-third through the twenty-fifth my mother works herself to exhaustion while forbidding anyone to help her. Since I am not married, I am seated at the kiddy table, where I dodge meatball and manicotti grenades courtesy of my little nieces and nephews. Then the gifts are bestowed with price tags on them so we all know “How many hours your father and I had to work to be able to buy our children such beautiful things.” This is followed by “oohs” and “ahhs” for every gift except the presents from me, which garner comments from my parents and two sisters like, “Oh well, I can wear that for dress-down day at work… if I keep on my coat.” After the extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins arrive for dessert (cannoli grenades at the kiddy table), my mother’s side (the Mascobellos) eat the pastries, and my father’s side (the McGraths) drink the liqueurs, while I sit upstairs in my old bedroom reading law case decisions on the Internet.
This Christmas is going to be different. Throughout my childhood I heard stories about my mother’s now deceased father who had a first cousin in Capri, Italy. Mom, “too exhausted from taking care of all of you to survive such a journey,” had recently spoken on the phone to her deceased father’s cousin’s daughter-in-law (got that?), and the two women had arranged for me to spend this Christmas with my Italian relatives. This led to my Christmas in Italy with my Italian cousin, Paolo Mascobello.

It is my pleasure to welcome back a writer who always tickles my funny bone, MM author Joe Cosentino, to tell us about his latest release, a holiday short MM romance novella with a HEA ending set on the island of Capri, A Home for the Holidays published by Dreamspinner Press. 

Joe, the story is set in Italy and I saw in the dedication that it was a place you'd been persuaded to visit. What was it about Italy that inspired a story set there? 
After writing two Bittersweet Dreams novellas, An Infatuation and A Shooting Star (In My Heart Series) published by Dreamspinner Press, I needed a vacation. My parents, sister, niece, aunts, uncles, and cousins had been telling me for years to travel to Italy. I always resisted due to the long plane ride and steep cost. However, like Kunta Kinte charting his roots, I decided it was time. So my spouse and I dipped into our savings—and dipped into the Dramamine, and booked a flight and bus tour from the US to Rome, Naples, Venice, Assisi, Lake Como, Milan, Florence, the Amalphi Coast, Pompeii, Tuscany, and Lake Maggiore. We were exhausted, but we had the vacation of a lifetime seeing the most gorgeous architecture, natural resources, and views of any of our trip. We also ate delicious food and reveled in the art, history, and beauty (noticing all the statues were of very muscular, naked men). The people were warm and friendly as was the weather. However, there was no site more gorgeous, magical, and romantic than the Island of Capri.
While on the boat ride to the Marina Grande, the sight of the enormous cliffs sitting majestically on the water literally took our breath away. From the funiculare (cable car) we marveled at the stunning views of the island below and Mt. Vesuvius in the distance. At the Piazetta (main plaza) we boarded an island bus that zoomed around harrowing, tight corners like a car in a Fun House. We travelled to Via Krupp in the southern part of the island, and we walked through what Italians call “the villas of the rich and famous,” underscored by the sparkling turquoise sea below. We swam in gorgeous white sand beaches surrounded by artistic white stone formations like Marina Piccola. When we arrived at Mt. Solaro, our guide told us it was highest point on the Isle of Capri, five hundred and eighty-nine meters above sea level. As we looked out at the fog, the sun came up and the wind blew the vapors of fog upwards, crowning the clouds, and revealing stunning views of the Bay of Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and the mountains of Calabria in the distance. As we looked out over the turquoise water, white mountains, and azure sky, I felt like I was in heaven. However, the most magical of all was the Grotta Azzurra (the Blue Grotto). As our boat went through the tiny portal of the expansive cave, my breath was taken away by the water’s brilliant shades of iridescent sapphire and emerald from the sun’s reflection on the water in the cove. Capri also had the most amazing restaurants and shops on the water’s edge. And the people somehow all seemed beautiful and sensuous.
Upon arriving home, I had to write a short novella about that amazing place.

In A Home for the Holidays, Bobby is meeting his Italian relatives for the first time and sharing Christmas with them. How do you celebrate the holiday season? Do you have traditions or do you like to be new and spontaneous? 
I wish I had a winter holiday like Bobby’s in A Home for the Holidays. My Christmas memories are of my older sister and male cousin wrapping a blanket around me, putting me in a trash can filled with yellow construction paper, throwing sheets around themselves, and charging the neighbors money to see our nativity play. At least I played the leading role!
As the years went on, Christmas in my big Italian family included grace by my father (“Bless us, let’s eat.”) my mother displaying her ceramic Santa napkin holders (“When I die take these out, think of me, and cry buckets.”), a huge feast where my spouse and I dodge food grenades at the kiddy table, and opening lavish gifts (one year my parents gave my sister a house and me a sweater).
It’s not much different now. Still, I have always loved the winter holiday season with carols, hot chocolate by the fire, snow, decorated trees and wreathes, and the quest for peace, joy, equality, and goodwill to all.

The food! My mouth watered at the foods mentioned in this story. Tell me about them! 
Italian food is quite different in Italy than it is in the US or in other parts of Europe. Meals are served in courses with mouthwatering chicken, fish, pasta, rice, and vegetables dishes. The food isn’t smothered in cheese as it is in the US. Olive oil, lemon, and fragrant herbs like basil and saffron are used to bring out the amazing flavors. People will have to read the novella to find out the various dishes served at each meal, but let’s just say they’ll be really hungry afterward.

Bobby and Paolo are distantly related, was this something you had to think about before you wrote it, or was it no big deal at all? 
As Paolo tells Bobby in the story, dating or marrying one’s third cousin is common place in Italy. Actually my great aunt and uncle were second cousins. That may explain a lot about me. Hah. As they say, “When in Rome….” Since I brought Italian culture to the story, I felt this element was just another part of that culture. 

This story could be described as insta-love. What is your view on insta-love or (as I prefer it called) love at first sight. Does it exist? Or is it lust in disguise? 
I am a total believer in love at first sight. Actually in the story Bobby (a young, Italian American law student) visits his quaint Italian relatives in their stunning villa in Capri, and he and Paolo (Bobby’s handsome, muscular, sexy Italian third cousin) get off to a rocky start. However, it doesn’t take long for the Italian moon to work its magic.
Like Harold in An Infatuation and Jonathan in A Shooting Star, Bobby is sweet, sensitive, and smart. As a law student, he has buried his head in his books. As the novella begins, he is ready for an adventure—and ready for first love.
Like Mario in An Infatuation and David in A Shooting Star, Paolo is handsome, muscular, charismatic, and like many people in Italy, much more interested in love than in work. Unlike Bobby, Paolo is very experienced in matters of the heart. Paolo loves the finer things in life, but he doesn’t want to work for them. He is not interested in everlasting love. Hence the conflict between Bobby and Paolo. Paolo is loosely based on my cousin’s cousin who lives in Italy.
BTW, Bobby’s mother is loosely based on my mother. She is hysterically funny, and loves her son dearly. Paolo’s grandmother is loosely based on my grandmother who really said, “A boy leaves home with a wife or in a coffin.”

Would you consider yourself a romantic? 
Besides the fact that I was an actor, I think one of the reasons my novels and novellas contain a great deal of humor, mystery, and drama is that I’m not a romantic. However, going to Italy changed that. I think this short novella reflects that unquenchable spirit of romance.
Romance also plays a big role in my upcoming The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (my gay fairytales) novella releasing from Dreamspinner Press in February. Romance is also a large part of my Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back and Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward novels releasing from Nine Star Press. It is a new series set in a gay beach resort in New Jersey also full of humor, mystery and drama.

Italy is a place that speaks of romance and love. What is your most romantic moment or memory?  
Like Bobby and Paolo, my spouse and I sat at Mt. Solaro in Capri, looking at the views of the Bay of Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and the mountains of Calabria. I’ll never forget it.

Have you written other stories that take place in interesting locations? 
Yes, my Nicky and Noah mystery series from Lethe Press is a farcical, gay, cozy, who-dun-it set at a fictitious Edwardian style college in Vermont. In Drama Queen theatre college professors are dropping like stage curtains. With the inept local detective more interested in getting into Nicky’s pants than solving the murders, it is up to well-endowed Directing professor, Nicky Abbondanza to use his theatre skills (including playing other people) to solve the case, while he directs a murder mystery onstage. Complicating matters is Nicky’s intense crush on Assistant Professor of Acting, gorgeous Noah Oliver, the prime suspect in the murder. In Drama Muscle (releasing 2016) Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills to find out why musclemen are dropping like weights in the Physical Education department while Nicky directs the Student Bodybuilding Competition. In Drama Cruise (releasing 2016), Nicky and Noah go on a cruise to Alaska, and discover why college theatre professors are going overboard like lifeboats while Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship. Drama Queen hit #18 on Amazon’s bestseller’s list in its category, and is available as an e-book, paperback, and audiobook performed by the very talented Michael Gibloe.
My Jana Lane mysteries, with straight leading characters and gay supporting characters, take place upstate New York, in New York City, in Hollywood, and in Washington, DC. In Paper Doll (Whiskey Creek Press), ex-child star Jana at thirty-eight lives with her family in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. Her flashbacks from the past become murder attempts in her future. Forced to summon up the lost courage she had as a child, Jana ventures back to Hollywood, which helps her uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves. She also embarks on a romance with the devilishly handsome son of her old producer, Rocco Cavoto. In Porcelain Doll (releasing in 2016 from The Wild Rose Press), Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. Her heart is set aflutter by her incredibly gorgeous co-star, Jason Apollo. In Satin Doll (releasing in 2016 from The Wild Rose Press), Jana and family head to Washington, DC, where Jana plays a US senator in a new film, and becomes embroiled in a murder and corruption at the senate chamber. She also embarks on a romance with Chris Bruno, the muscular detective. In China Doll (releasing in 2016 from The Wild Rose Press), Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, enchanted by her gorgeous co-star Peter Stevens, and faced with murder on stage and off. Since the novels take place in the 1980’s, Jana’s agent and best friend are gay, and Jana is somewhat of a gay activist, the AIDS epidemic is a large part of the novels.

As always, I really enjoyed your interview. Thank you for stopping by. How can your readers contact you? 
I love hearing from readers! They can contact me at:

A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS by JOE COSENTINO, an HEA holiday short story published by Dreamspinner Press and released on 2/12/15
e-book: $3.99
Bobby McGrath’s Christmas trip to the beautiful Italian Island of Capri to meet his eccentric, extended family offers stunning views—none more stunning than his third cousin, Paolo Mascobello, a real stocking stuffer. As the two young men embark on a relationship, Bobby, a driven law student, learns to relax and bask under the old Italian moon, and Paolo realizes there’s more to life than a frolic on the beach. For the two to find everlasting amore, Paulo must overcome his fear of commitment and learn to follow his dreams, and Bobby must get his wish for happily ever after. “Reading this little holiday treat is like taking a romantic trip to gorgeous Capri, Italy!”

“I could see the lovely sites as Joe described them with such beauty and prose. I could feel the growing desire between the two young men and the heat building as well.” Cathy Brockman Romance

“You can see the beauty of Capri, almost taste the incredible food laid out on the page. Paolo and Bobby’s romance is sweet and tender.” Divine Magazine

“I adore the character of Bobby” “the heartwarming family moments” “The vivid and almost lyrical descriptions that Joe Cosentino uses when Bobby is arriving on Capri or sightseeing all over the island with Paolo.” The love the author has for Capri and the people there flows off the page in every word he has written.” “When you finish reading this story, you will want to book your own flight to Italy and boat to Capri.” Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.

“I was there with Bobby and Paolo, feeling the sun on my face and the warm swell of the sea as I walked barefoot on the sea’s edge, the author’s brilliantly descriptive words took me to that beautiful place where Bobby and Paolo fell in love.” Three Books Over the Rainbow.

Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays (Dreamspinner Press), Drama Queen the first Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), Paper Doll the first Jana Lane mystery (Whiskey Creek Press), and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, Charles Keating, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming releases in 2016 are The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press short stories novella), Porcelain Doll the second Jana Lane mystery (Wild Rose Press), Drama Muscle the second Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), and Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (Nine Star Press).


ISBN: 978-1-63476-536-7

Cover Art: Paul Richmond
Words: 15,000
Release Date: 2/12/15


  1. Spot on with the humour remark, Joe's not being truthful to himself, of course he is romantic! How can he not be, when he writes such great books?

  2. Hugs, Lori and Lorraine! Joe Cosentino