• Tough Love

  • Special Delivery, Book 3
  • By: Heidi Cullinan
  • Narrated by: Iggy Toma
  • Length: 11 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (123 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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. Listeners are advised they may well leave this novel feeling uncharacteristically fierce.

©2014 Heidi Cullinan (P)2016 Insatiable Press

What listeners say about Tough Love

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

A Decent Story

Not a big fan of drag, nor of the kind of kink that was presented, but that's neither here or there. It was wonderful however to have Mitch and Sam there, still for me stars of the show and always will be. If you're squeamish about the extremes of BDSM, don't read this. If you are, you'll enjoy it. One wonders where the series might go or if it is ended, you cannot tell by the ending of this book. Iggy Toma is a great narrator.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Why did it have to end?

What made the experience of listening to Tough Love the most enjoyable?

Oh my! I wasn't prepared for the emotional journey this story takes you on. Yes there's kink. Yes the old cast is back. Yes there are super sweet moments. Why did it have to end? Steve and Chenco are a great addition to the series. Crabtree's cameo is well written but it's the boys of this series that make you want to keep listening.

Which scene was your favorite?

OMG! The trip to Las Vegas with Steve and Chenco in the back and Mitch and Sam up front. (Fans self)

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

The narrator does such a good job with the voices that you always know who is talking. It's the emotion he shows that make this listen so incredible. The final scene with Steve and Gordy brought tears to my eyes. I could feel the hurt, confusion, and regret.

Any additional comments?

Yes, there is more kink in this book. It's perfectly written and I enjoyed every scene. Steve and Chenco are more hardcore than our previous boys but the storyline works wonderfully.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Another win!!!

I am totally in love with all the books in this series. Heidi writes such great characters and Iggy Toma brings the stories to life!!! I have read them all and listened to them all and I cry every time I come to the end. They are just that good!!! These are a must have in your library!!!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Drag your heart to the finish line.

As with the other 2 books in this series - if you can't handle explicit kink and some pretty non-conventional relationship ties, then this book might be a pass. If, however, you enjoy or at least are not put off by those things - this whole series is a win, in my book. This third installment is a bit different tonally, but ultimately fits and is a gorgeous tie-up for the trilogy.

I am not a huge fan of Queen's in my MM fiction - okay, that isn't totally true, but it is true that Queen's in particular, in MM fiction, are an easy stereotype to camp up in an almost cartoonish way and exploit for the sake of "story-telling". They are the bitchy best friend who delivers the zinger one-liners. Not so in this book. As with many other less than conventional behaviors, Cullinan explores Chenco and his Drag Queen alter-ego Caramela in a real, honest and humane way. No cartoonish stereotyping, not easy go-to gags. Chenco comes across as a real person who has some real issue's and is struggling to find a balance with his own kinks.

The SM in BDSM features far more heavily in this book than in previous books, and it is a bit ... unsettling, squicky, ??? ... the idea that Chenco is half-brothers with Mitch, who we know intimately from previous books - and knowing that Chenco's romance and kink exploration are going on in proximity with Mitch and his sexual world - but the incest fantasy/line is never crossed and it never gets unsettling or squicky or ??? in that direction, though it always sort of stands in the corner as a disturbing possibility. I can deal with a lot of kink and non-convention, but that one is a hard limit for me - and thankfully it was never crossed.

Instead, H.C. succeeds in pushing the hot and steamy, the gooey romance and the heart-tugging family building to the extreme and leaves us feeling good about where this series has traveled and finally landed at.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A Tough Review to Write

I'm going to start right off with saying I don't like this book, and Steve, very much at all. After the first two books portrayed kink pretty darn well, this one was such a let down. I will go into detail on this at the bottom of the review, but I’ll make a general review first.

This is a hard review to write as I wish I could like this book. As my other reviews have covered, I love Heidi’s slice of life stuff, and the addition of kink and non-monogamy was truly exciting in the first two books of this particular series. But I just couldn’t like it here. There are a lot of reasons I don’t like Steve, just as a character. And I hate the whole “magic dom knows everything you need before you do” trope. So it wasn’t a good combination for him at all. Chenco was fine, but he wasn’t like the first four. And I don’t know if he was diminished by Steve or the other issues I had, but in the end I just couldn’t care about these two at all.

I didn’t have an issue with what the kink was, though this book did cover far less common ones, and thus could easily be a turn off on their own to the average reader. I think the warnings for this book really need to be clear that heavy sadomasochism is the core kink with pain being a huge factor. Even the needle play should be right up there in the warnings. Watersports isn’t even uncommon, and “no holds bar” just isn’t good enough. While I got nothing out of the portrayal of these kinks I have nothing against them either. But they involve things that can mess with people. I couldn’t even utilize this book for “informative” interest, because I mostly got mad at it.

The writing is great. The narration is great. There is nothing technically bad going on here in the writing. But this is such a niche book and for me I spent far more time avoiding going back to the book than just finishing it. Usually I start listening to an audiobook the second I wake up, even if it’s just while getting ready for work. This book I avoided for days at a time.

And this is spoilery, but I agree with every other review that dislikes the handling of Gordy. It is shockingly clear that Gordy is mentally ill and how that illness is handled is just bad. How Steve handles it specifically is awful and makes me dislike him even more, but the decision to basically go “let’s try to use kink to cure mental illness” is appalling. Gordy wants kink in his life. Gordy is also mentally ill. Just giving Gordy the kink he wants isn’t going to fix that underlying illness. And Steve thinking that mental health professionals wouldn’t understand him because he’s kinky is ludicrous. Yeah, you can’t just shove him at any random therapist or psychologist, but you can bet there are people out there that specialize completely in kink and mental health. Considering that clinical masochism is in the DSM-5 because there is a component of distress on the client because of masochistic tendencies, there are obviously people that deal with it. Even if Steve was so guilt ridden and blind, Randy is young enough, kinky enough, and internet savvy enough to have fixed that problem years ago. Especially since Randy is the resident fixer and literally helps Steve deal with Gordy. Everything about it is just bad and used to fuel conflict and a dark past for Steve that I would argue isn’t even needed, but could have been done in a much better way.

This part is going to be the specific issues I had, mostly with Steve. I’m not saying these are wrong, as these books can just be fantasy and not “guides”, but they did ruin the book for me. The kink in this book is so completely magic dom fantasy. After the first two books I was pretty proud of the portrayal of some kink, at least in a personal, private, “this is how I do this” BDSM sort of way. This book, on the other hand, seems to attempt to bring things closer to the community at large, and also ignores so many vitals. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with some magic dom fantasy. But this felt far too much like it was trying to be both fantasy and a good portrayal of kink. And the latter it just isn’t. It’s flat out dangerous, especially for subs.

The contract was awful. Everything about it was awful. Clearly Steve is very Old Guard, which is fine. “New Guard” aren’t as likely to even use contracts, especially in this sort of manner. There’s nothing wrong with using them in general as that’s up to the people utilizing them, and Steve does indicate not everyone does use them, but he does. But, from my experience the only type of person that would do a contract in this specific manner would be a red flag control freak or a moron poser who only gets their information from Hollywood. And there is a major difference between dangerous controlling behaviour and having control as a dom.

This should have been a real negotiation. And Steve sitting there, hovering, "comforting" Chenco is manipulative as all hell. It doesn’t feel like Steve is just trying to make Chenco feel safe. It feels like he’s manipulating Chenco into agreeing to things he literally has no concept of and is unsure of. I absolutely hated it. Chenco's agency is violated before he signs anything, even though that signature means nothing. It’s symbolic.

And just because what Chenco considers to be “the screwed up nature” is thought about and disregarded doesn't make it alright. No, Steve should not have hacked Chenco's medical files. He should have stated that a clean std panel was a prerequisite for playing. No, writing out that Chenco gave all his autonomy to Steve is not acceptable. Not without making it clear that those safewords apply to the contract too, that just because he signed something doesn’t mean he has to go through with it, nor should he believe that he has to endure because he signed something that looks official. Where's the designated safe area where they can go to have arguments and discussions that fall outside the rules and protocols? Where is the talk about renegotiating in a few weeks or months because Chenco is so new? Where is having real discussion and negotiation? Where are the Will-Want-Won’t lists? The important stuff is all glossed over to have some buzz word kinks mentioned briefly.

Steve writing things down is okay. Chenco should have been given time to process those things. He should have been given more time to learn and understand the community and his own kinks before just going “Steve knows what’s best for me” after almost no time or interaction. The whole “the dom knows what you need” is garbage. Giving a dom control, and acquiescing to their lead and guidance is great, but doms are not magic, and they need to understand and learn about their subs as people through discussion and play. That’s why you don’t see good doms picking up random subs and throwing them into advance play just on their word. Even pick-up play requires more negotiation and respect shown both ways than the dynamic in this book.

Steve as a character is flat out dangerous, and it has nothing to do with his sadism. I expected way, way better than this, and frankly he disgusts me as a dom. Yes, I acknowledge he is a fantasy archetype of a specific brand of dom, but I hate him. He’s so “I do kink this way” and there really is no compromise. Steve says he’s okay with not doing things, and he does respect safe words without questions (which is one of his only saving graces in my eyes), but it’s never shown, because Chenco is a little puddle of goo, written to fall into Steve’s perfect sub role. Steve never has to show that he’s actually willing to not get something he wants because Chenco just wants all of it.

So much of the kink goes from 0 to 100 in no time. Cold techniques are used, as are practices that are commonly considered advanced. There is no warm up. There is no easing in. Not really. Not in terms of how these things generally go. Hell, the constant wearing of the butt plugs super early on was just handled poorly. Where was the training there? Where was the care? Where were the epsom salt baths to soothe the muscles? Where were the breaks? No, wearing butt plugs isn’t going to weaken the sphincter, but there is a lot of concern around extended sessions, because there is a ton of potential for irritation, and wearing one all night when you cannot be checking on the condition. Not to mention that irritation can lead to swelling and make removal incredibly painful or even impossible until said swelling is dealt with. What is the point in jumping straight to wearing a plug all night because Steve is a possessive egotist over how a dom should train a sub up to the desired behavior or play? The plug is clearly possession based, and not pain based, so this is not part of Steve’s sadism, but is about control. But this is not how this should go. If you are wanting to wear butt plugs for long periods or overnight, do a lot of research and allow yourself the time and breaks you need. And don’t let your doms be like Steve.

And I think there was an exceedingly better way of handling all of this. With Steve, keep his background as is, but have Gordy already getting help for his mental illness at a facility. Steve can still have his guilt trip over leaving Gordy and Gordy going down a dark path, and also about getting Gordy committed. Have the facility be a good one who understands the kink side of things as well, but still have Steve have all his self-doubt and guilt. Keep Steve’s break from the community. It can still be Gordy related or maybe he played too hard with a sub (because clearly this man doesn’t do warm up) and he got a bad rep in the community for a while. While Steve was away from the community, and clearly having an in through Booker, have Chenco get involved in it. Have him have gone to some munches, done some pick-up play, even maybe had a dom he did scenes with on a more frequent basis. But, have it have nothing to do with sex, and while it scratches an itch and he has ideas of what he likes, he’s not really getting the full deal on what he needs. Maybe the dom he’s with, and trusts, isn’t into major sadomasochism. Maybe Chenco gets spanked and flogged, and did plug training, but none of it is hard enough for him. He gains an insight into the community and his own desires, but external stressors, or limits from his doms have him up against a wall and he’s unfulfilled, so ends up sliding back out of the community. This is literally all backstory and would be able to be covered in the same length of time, but it would set things up so much better for where things picked up with Steve and Chenco. We still get Steve being a magic dom who knows exactly what Chenco needs, but Chenco isn’t such a newbie and while he can still balk a little at the hard sadomasochism, he isn’t a baby bird. He can still be out of sorts from the whole bs with the trailer and his father, making his mind jumbled and not seeing things so clearly. But, the transition from initial interaction to high level sadomasochism makes far more sense. And not having achieved the levels of pleasure at it prior, Cheno’s experiences would be just as new and genuine. It’s just a much more logical place to start the story in, giving it a truer to life feel while maintaining the hard kink and fantasy we see in the book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

So many feels

I absolutely love this series! The story starts off with Chenco finding out his father left his trailer to the clan and this puts him in the path of Steve. The chemistry between these two is off the charts but both have some baggage to work out. Heidi has a great talent for making the reader feel the raw emotions her characters are feeling and Iggy Toma did a great job conveying those too!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Loved the series, plot and characters!

5 Blue Roses
4.5 Blue Flames

This series was amazing. The characters are original and totally lovable. I wish we had one more book with all the characters together. It's books like these that make me like BDSM books again.

I gave it 4.5 Flames, because the sexy times did not overshadow the plot. I was able to enjoy the story as well.

Narrator Iggy Toma executed a winner performance! This series is a true reflection of the stunning work he can do. He gave a hardcore performance, bringing hardcore characters to life in each book of this series.

The plot was big and Heidi and Iggy succeeded in bringing us three grade A quality audiobooks. The main characters have their own book, but they reappear over and over. My favorite character was Randy Jensen. He is just all kinds of special.

Special Delivery: Special Delivery, Book 1: Sam and Mitch is about a hot trucker dude beautifully ruin a good nursing student.

Double Blind: Randy saves Ethan and Ethan saves Randy! Get it? Double Blind? The story behind the hot foursome is sad, and wonderful and unexpected.

Tough Love: Steve's and Chenco is hunk meets drag queen.
I recommend listening to the books in reading order to enjoy the whole sick experience so much better!
Happy Listening!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it

This series is amazing. And tho some things seem like to good to be true. You can go from being kicked out of a trailer park in Texas to be a drag queen in Las Vegas.
And Iggy Toma is amazing.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Heidi is a mastermind and audiobooks just make it come to life

Heidi’s stories are just A CLASS! Made even better but the amazing Iggy Toma narrating. Just amazing, heavy on BDSM, but so so charming and painful and heartbreaking, A-M-A-Z-I-N-G