Title: Second Hand (Tucker Springs #2)
Author: Marie Sexton, Heidi Cullinan
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel/177 PDF pages/50K words
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5, DIK
Review Summary: Awesome!
Paul Hannon moved to Tucker Springs for his girlfriend, but she’s left him with a house he can’t afford and a pantry full of useless gadgets. All Paul wants is to get back to normal, even if he’s not sure what that is anymore. When he wanders into Tucker Pawn for a gift to win her back, he meets El Rozal, pawn shop owner and all-around cynic.
El Rozal doesn’t do relationships, especially not with clueless straight boys still pining for their ex. El may make his living dealing in castoffs, but that doesn’t apply to men. Still, when Paul starts clearing out his old life, pawning kitchen equipment he never wanted in the first place, El is drawn to Paul in spite of himself.
Paul and El have nothing in common except a past full of disappointments. There’s no reason to believe the two of them could fit, but in El’s line of work, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. When it comes to love, El and Paul may learn that secondhand doesn’t mean second best.
I absolutely adored Second Hand, a story about making choices, letting go of old fears, and learning to fly without a net. In a world of low expectations and always being second best, Paul “just wanted to be the first choice for someone for once, just once.” This story is told from Paul’s first person POV and Ed’s third person POV and their voices and perspectives are so different, and yet so similar, it was like a melody played with different instruments that blended perfectly.
Paul’s live-in girlfriend had dumped him 2 months ago, after six and a half years together, to move in with someone else but he couldn’t seem to accept her decision and kept asking her to come back. His life had been a series of hard knocks so far and everything he did seemed to fall apart. He aspired to a career as a vet but he failed his exams, so instead he was working as a receptionist in a veterinary office; he was up to his ears in debt and it was a constant struggle to pay the bills every month; his credit cards were maxed out and he was struggling to pay off his student loans. In other words he was a failure in his personal and financial life. Meeting Ed added a huge complication to a plate already overburdened with issues he couldn’t handle.
El was Paul’s polar opposite in every way. He was both a philosopher and a cynic, as his business of being a pawn shop owner, trading in the remnants of other people’s lives, exposed him every day to human frailties and failures. He had no expectations of anyone but had a heart of gold which made him a soft touch for his crazy family, especially his sister Rosa, the eternal optimist about men. Meeting Paul required that he make a massive shift in the paradigm of his life and recognize that just because someone was second hand didn’t make them any less valuable. He was lonely but pretended he liked being alone, had no current boyfriend and couldn’t remember the last time he had sex – (he had to check the expiry date on the condom the first time he had sex with Paul). 🙂 He didn’t do relationships and he wasn’t doing Paul; he wouldn’t admit how he felt about him at first even though he would set up the most elaborate schemes just so he could see Paul every day.
When Paul’s mother came to visit she made him realize that the feelings he had for males which he was trying to repress went way back, even before puberty, but he was afraid about not being “normal” (or what society considered normal). Then Stacey came along 7 years ago to “rescue” him from the life he really wanted, and his fears overcame his desires as he chose the easy way out by living with Stacey, even telling himself he loved her, but he still couldn’t control his desire for the male of the species. It wasn’t until he met El that he realized he had been bi all along but suppressed his sexual orientation through fear.
There is so much in this book that I can’t talk about because that would spoil it for you, but one of the most wonderful aspects was the slow build-up of El’s and Paul’s love for each other – slow because although they knew they had a connection they were both afraid to explore it, which is why it was so delightful when their love bloomed. In the end Paul gave El confidence that what they had was real, while El cherished him and taught him about making choices in addition to living life without boundaries. Both MCs grew incredibly in this book as Paul learned that making the right choices would enrich his life, and he was able to let go of his fears. El was Mr. Cool until he fell for Paul and saw how barren his life would be if he let him go.
Part of the reason I love this book is also because of the secondary characters. El’s best friend Denver was the typical alpha male: he was a bouncer at a gay bar, built like a brick shit house, and he poked fun at El and his feelings for “Strawberry Shortcake” as he called Paul. They bonded 🙂 while doing their laundry at the Tucker “Laund-O-Rama“ while catching up on the week’s events during the wash and spin cycle, and some of the best dialogue was between Denver and El. Denver amused himself at El’s expense, especially about his love for Paul, a man who could get him to do anything, even adopt a stray dog. El walking around town with the dog in a baby sling was priceless! There were many facets to El’s personality and one of them was his great love for his family especially his Abuela, and he was even tender toward his mother, the hoarder, who drove everyone crazy. Every character was multi dimensional even Stacey who was flawed and a user; she gave Paul what he persuaded himself he wanted at that time, a “normal” life. In the end they wanted different things.
This is a book you will inhale and read many times because you won’t get the full impact once or twice. The writing was among the best I have read recently and Paul and El were such wonderfully crafted, complex characters that I’m sure you will revisit them often as you won’t be able to get them out of your mind and heart.
As for the lovemaking, here is a quote from El:
“I want to lie in bed with you and listen to a rainstorm come in over the mountains. I want to find out what you have for breakfast…”
And from Paul:
“I just want to lick you all over.”
If you read my reviews you probably know by now that even though I love a well plotted story, for me great characterizations trump the plot of a book. In Second Hand I got both as the characters rocked as well as the plot and the only element that was better was the love between Paul and El. While there was sex in this book and it was hot, it definitely did not drive the story as the love between the MCs was clearly the most important aspect of the plot.
I think I will end my review with this quote from Paul:
“All I want is to be with you Emanuel. You aren’t my first choice or my second choice. You’re my only choice.”
I’m looking forward to the next book in the series by Heidi Cullinan called Dirty Laundry, which will be released next year.