Pay It Forward · Pictures · Quotes · Review · Writing

Book Review: Cozzi Cove, by Joe Cosentino

~

Book One: Bouncing Back

On Cozzi Cove at the New Jersey shore, handsome Cal Cozzi’s seven bungalows are open for summer and love.

Mario and Harold are brothers and college students who happen to look alike, but couldn’t be more different: Mario is searching for love, and Harold is searching for lust. Josh and Greg, a wealthy older couple, are matchmakers for their son, Christopher.

When it comes to Connor, the maid, packed with muscles and a roving sponge, anything can happen. Opposites attract as wild Tim with the secret past meets shy Mark, and porn star Chuck Caliber connects with Sean, a virgin romance novelist.

And what will happen when computer-game designer Arthur has a midnight sea rendezvous with a merman? Even married Cal faces an emotional upheaval when a gay bashing turns into something quite unexpected.

What secrets and passions lie in magical Cozzi Cove?

Book Two: Moving Forward

On Cozzi Cove at the New Jersey Shore, handsome Cal Cozzi’s seven bungalows are once again open for summer and love. The vacationers include Rodney Maxwell and Dennis O’Halloran, a Tony Award winning actor and his estranged producer/husband with their two hired studs, Jarek and Zeus. Computer analyst Sam enlists his best friend Chase in a scheme to attract hunky Raul. Middle aged Gil Van Truren wants to end it all—until he sees a vision of his first love. Cal also has his hands full with college student Michael—his new young lover—Michael’s study buddy Carlo, man of mystery George Valis, and Connor, the houseboy packed with muscles and a wondering sponge. All the while Hunter, a female gay romance novel enthusiast, experiences gay life off the page. What secrets, humor, tragedy, mysteries, and passions lie in the magical place called Cozzi Cove?

Book Three: Stepping Out

It’s time for another summer of sun, sand, suntan lotion, sandals, and Speedos on Cozzi Cove at the New Jersey Shore. Cal Cozzi’s seven bungalows are once again open for love.

This summer, sexy Cal welcomes back his brother and sister, who are confronted with people from their pasts. Connor, the maid packed with muscle and mayhem, becomes the subject of a handsome young psychologist’s study on human sexuality. Tommy, the strapping, bald and tattooed local bartender, is captivated with guest Cory Magnum, a police officer with a secret. Another guest, Bill, a disbelieving pastor, is inspired by a vision of two sexy male angels on the cove. And Cal and Michael reach a plateau in their relationship.

What secrets, humor, tragedies, mysteries, and passions lie waiting to unfold in this magical place called Cozzi Cove?

Book Four: New Beginnings

Welcome back to the romantic and magical place called Cozzi Cove, seven guest bungalows on the New Jersey Shore.

This summer, Cal and his new husband, Michael, along with sister, Taylor, and her wife, Carla, prepare for the first in the next generation of Cozzis. To add to the action: Cal finds his great-grandfather’s diary, exposing a shocking surprise; Michael and Taylor weigh new job opportunities that could take them far away from Cozzi Cove; red-letter Christian and new houseboy, Billy Dean, gets his wish when meeting Jesus and John at the cove; summer guest, Nijad, can’t decide which sibling he prefers—Annabel or Andrew; and Jonathan, an occult enthusiast, encounters a sexy vampire.

As usual, nothing is as it seems when romance blossoms once again at Cozzi Cove. What secrets, mysteries, and passions lie waiting to unfold?

~

Book One: Bouncing Back

No. of Pages – 213
Movie Potential – ★★★★★
Ease of reading – very easy to read
Would I read it again – Yes!

Themes that may be triggers – cancer, child abuse, suicide, death, homophobia

~

“Cozzi Cove must be a magical place where opposites attract, people fall in love, and last wishes are granted.”

~

Cozzi Cove is that fantasy place where everything is kind of perfect, without being unbelievable. But, behind the scenes of his perfect location lie dark secrets, dark pasts and heavy burdens. The story is about how a group of eight men deal with the darker aspects of their lives finally being confronted.

Think the ultimate holiday romance, that doesn’t have to end when the week is over. Though it might normally seem extreme to think that two men could fall in love with each other after only a week, the setting, description and chemistry between all couples really works in this story. Not one relationship seems ridiculous or rushed.

Potential couples are:

Cal and Lance – Cal, as the manager for Cozzi Cove, is pretty much the man who makes it all happen for everyone else. Cozzi Cove is his dream, with his husband Lance, until things begin to crumble as the story progresses. When new kid Michael comes into the picture, things begin to make sense again.

Tim and Mark – Tim is one of those tortured souls, who lives life to the full but keeps his past well guarded. Mark, on the other hand, is this beautiful, gentle soul, who has come to Cozzi Cove to make peace with his life. The two together are sweetness personified, despite their outlooks on life.

Sean and Chuck – Sean and Chuck are wildly different personalities. Sean, a writer stuck in a fantasy world, and Chuck a porn star looking to retire and settle down. Due to recognising each other for who they really are, the two hit it off and come to some uncomfortable conclusions about their own lives and futures.

Connor and Harold – Connor is the ‘houseboy’ employee of Cozzi Cove. Kind of a slut, he’s happy to lay his hat wherever it might land. 😉 Harold, as Mario’s twin brother, is only too happy to take advantage of that, while causing a little havoc of his own.

Christopher and Mario – Christopher is the son of Greg and Josh, while Mario is at Cozzi Cove to spend more time with his brother, Harold, to mend old wounds. From their first awkward meeting, nothing goes right for these two and it borders between hilarious moments of weirdness and really uncomfortable misunderstandings.

Arthur and the Merman – Arthur is a lone-soul, with porphyria, who writes video game software and likes to be by himself. When he meets the mysterious “merman” at the cove, he suddenly realises that his life is more empty than he thought. And the same can be said for his merman.

Greg and Josh – These are the only established couple at Cozzi Cove. Already married, their bubbly attitudes are matched by their elitist personalities and they become a fun interlude for all the dark stuff that goes on behind the scenes. As an established couple, however, they don’t really have a big slot in the story. That’s for their son, Christopher.

To go into any more detail than that would ruin the story for you and I really don’t want to do that. This is such a poignant tale that you really have to read it for yourself, to get the feeling of Cozzi Cove and the magic that it creates for its visitors.

For a story that is all about love and magic, it covers some very dark topics, as mentioned in my warning above. It also covers twin betrayal, inter-racial romance, may-december romance, outdoor sex, exhibitionism and a lot of pain. But, it’s through that pain that the members of Cozzi Cove find their strength and, often, each other.

The only clear things I’ll say about the plot are this:
I loved flirty, slutty Connor from the start. Cal was the sweet, tortured soul. Mark and Tim broke my heart. Michael was a ray of light. Harold is a shit-stirrer and revels in making Mario’s life a misery.
The scene between Michael and Cal, after they met in the alley, was beautiful and poignant. I loved that Greg and Josh freaked the hell out at the thought of their son, Christopher, possibly being straight. Though, I’m disappointed to see that poor Julie was completely ignored for most of the story.

The only negatives are that the formatting issues were minimal until the 5% mark, then they got messy for a while and again later in the book. This is an un-edited, un-formatted ARC so I absolutely don’t mind or care about that, but I always mention it, just because it’s in my copy. The only real problems were a few missing quotation marks and sentences being copped in half between two lines/paragraphs. Nothing really.

Oh, one other thing I didn’t really like, that isn’t formatting/grammar related. The sex. Sadly, for me, the sex wasn’t really necessary, but it kept cropping up for each couple. It felt generic and second-rate to the fantastic writing of the rest of the story. I would have been happy to have it all behind closed doors, but it wasn’t, so that is my issue. Most of the characters never talk about sex, all make presumptions on who is doing what to the point of putting in the position and actually getting on with it, before making sure it’s okay. It just seems to happen, flawlessly, despite some characters being total virgins and there being no indication that sex was going to happen until it’s actually happening.

~

Overall, this whole story was poignant and full of beautiful imagery. It’s one crazy mix of characters, all weird and wonderful in their own way, but also carrying around these heavy burdens that they don’t share until they meet someone at Cozzi Cove, who can coax them out of their hiding places.

Despite my misgivings about the sex, it’s really such a minor part of the story that I couldn’t penalise my rating because of it. It’s a solid 5 stars for me. It made me laugh out loud, cry and want to snuggle up with someone I loved.

I couldn’t have asked for more.

~

Favourite Quote:

““I never cared what you were. You’ll always be in my heart.””

“Mark coughed some more. “Tim, I’m afraid.”
“Me too.” Tears rolled down Tim’s cheeks.”

~

Book Two: Moving Forward

Length – 231

Star rating – ★★★★★
Movie Potential – ★★★★★
Ease of reading – very easy to read
Would I read it again – In a heartbeat!

Themes that may be triggers – suicidal thoughts, cheating, Parkinson’s disease

~

*SIGH* Cozzi Cove is my first foray into Joe Cosentino’s writing and you can now call me a firm fan.

As I’ve just come straight from reading book 1, visiting Cozzi Cove is like coming home or revisiting a beloved holiday destination. I know everyone, by now, who is a permanent fixture and I sincerely hope that Cosentino continues this series forever. You could never run out of ideas for it.

As before, the characters are a hoot. They’re a mixture of funny, quirky, sad, lonely individuals who come together to make a riotously brilliant cast.

Potential couples are:

Cal and Michael – As the owner of Cozzi Cove, Cal has all the same responsibility of the previous book. Only, this time, with a one-year romance blossoming between him and Michael, things begin to fall apart. Cal feels a connection with guest George, which causes jealousy from Michael. Who, in turn, feels a pull towards his Photography partner Carlo, thus building another bridge of jealousy and insecurity from Cal.

Gil and Bruce – Gil is the only guest of these two, at Cozzi Cove. There because of an illness and having lost a lot in his life, Gil is prepared to end it all at the beautiful location of Cozzi Cove. Until he spots a vision from the past – a ‘vision’ of his college love, Bruce. When he finally meets the man he saw at the cove, everything begins to change.

Bruce Jr and Colby – Bruce Jr is the son of Gil’s college love and knows nothing of Gil’s past relationship with his father. Thankfully, Gil is rejuvenated by Bruce Jr’s presence and helps him face the two families who don’t accept his relationship with Colby.

Dennis and Zeus – Dennis is the high-profile Broadway producer, recently split from an eighteen year relationship with Rodney, his biggest star. To try to patch things up – and make Rodney jealous – he brings escort Zeus with him to Cozzi Cove, with only a week to mend fences.

Rodney and Jarek – Rodney is much more highly strung than any other character, as well as being very melodramatic. Bringing along his personal trainer and new partner, Jarek, he’s there to rest up after two years in a Broadway show that he’d lost interest in.

Sam and Chase – Sam and Chase are the best of friends and have been their whole lives. With Sam infatuated with their friend Raul, Chase is there playing the ‘lover’, to make him jealous.

Raul – As the best friend of two gay guys, with a gay brother, no one believes that Raul is straight. Especially when he works out at a gay gym, is surrounded by gay men and agrees to go on holiday to a gay resort, with his two gay best friends. Yet, Sam’s instincts are that Raul will fall in love at Cozzi Cove. And Sam has never been wrong before.

Hunter – As a straight woman, in love with gay romance novels, Hunter stays at Cozzi Cove to finally meet gay men ‘off page’. Sparking an unlikely friendship with the ever wonderful and flirty Connor, she finally builds her confidence enough to go out and find herself a Will to her Grace.

George – Another singleton, George is one of the few Cozzi Cove guest not interested in falling in love. Despite feeling a spark with Cal, which proves confusing and sparks jealousy for all involved, George is actually at Cozzi Cove for one reason – to reveal a secret that will have far reaching consequences.

Overall, the story and world building was as fantastic as the previous story. I can’t wait for what comes next and to see how Cal changes and improves the facilities of Cozzi Cove. Without revealing anything that will spoil the story for you, I’ll say this:
The whole thing with Michael and Cal had my emotions in turmoil, screaming at the book and praying that things would work out properly.
I was worried Gil’s fate would be so similar to Mark’s that I was on edge for most of the book.

Again, the story deals with some serious issues, in a way that isn’t preachy or pushy – suicidal thoughts, illness, homophobia, threesomes, cheating, escorts and inter-racial romances. Each theme is explored in a light, accepting way that never makes the reader feel uncomfortable or like we’re being lectured to.

~

Favourite Quote:

“He kissed Cal’s wide nose.
“Hey, your lips are covered in honey.”
“So they tell me.” Michael continued eating.
“Does your study buddy tell you that?”
Michael raised his eyes to the mermaid-shaped lighting fixture as if gathering patience. “Carlo is my partner.”
“Really?”
“In my advanced photography class.”
“Is that what they call it at State?”
“Maybe in your day.” Michael’s eyes gleamed devilishly. “Hey, did they have college back then?”
“I’ll put you over my knee, young man.”
“Promises, promises.””

““You must have studied dramatics at the college this year.”
Connor batted the long lashes over his sky-blue eyes. “How else could I have dated all the gay dudes?”
Cal laughed. “I’m sure you dated them.”
“I did.” Connor revealed his pearly-white teeth. “It was the football team last year who went straight, pardon the pun, for the touchdown.”
Cal put his arm around the boy’s wide shoulders and walked him to the front porch. “Please get straight to work so everything is ready when the guests arrive.”
Connor said with the eagerness of a child at Christmas, “I can’t wait to see our pick of the litter.”
“Look, don’t touch.””

Book Three: Stepping Out

Star rating – ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 130
Cover – Gorgeous
POV – 3rd person, multi-character POV
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, Romance

Warnings: This story deals with some heavy issues: historical rape of two characters, historical homicide, ill health, loss of faith, and the difficult transition of a transgender MTF.

~

The story begins with a quick summary of the history of Cozzi Cove and a lovely scene between Cal and Michael. It’s a great way to start the novel and the brilliance of Cosentino’s writing style means that anyone can pick up this book without having read the previous two in three series, without any difficulties.

Our cast is diverse, as always, but a little more close to home than before. As promised in the previous book, we have Cal, Michael and George as the resident family. Dr Aaron Weiss is the cardiologist who arrives with Taylor, only for them both to end up shaking up the comfortable, happy atmosphere the Cozzi boys have found together. Blue Magnum is a blast from the past with a big secret to share. Connor finally gets his story when Professor Nastas Flowingstream takes up Bungalow Three and takes an interest in the psychology of Connor’s nymphomaniac lifestyle. We have sixty-year-old Pastor Bill Gayton, who is having a crisis of faith, until he meets the resident of Bungalow Six, Kamael. Kamael is the head of ‘the Angels’, a group of like minded gay men, who gather together to do good deeds for others. What was a really nice and unexpected surprise was that we also get the story of Carla, Tommy and Connor, which I’ve been looking forward to all this time.

I’ve loved Connor since the start of this series. When he enters the story here, with one of his usual crazy stories of spontaneous sex with a stranger, it’s a hoot from the get go. But what I loved even more was his initial hesitance over Professor Nastas because he reminded him of the Professors who made him feel dumb before. Despite that, he was willing to listen to his theory about his study of nymphomania and Connor had the strength to agree to be his Subject Y, opening up about personal things, even when it was difficult. The huge maturity and revelations that he came upon in this story were beautiful to see.

Cal and Michael, as ever, were my favourite. Though their story was smaller this time around, it still had the same impact. They were loving, hot and sweet together, but they still had their problems. Exploring those problems while they tried to help their friends and family meant that they came upon their own answers and revelations, more by accident than design. It was a very clever way of allowing them to work out their issues.

Carla’s story was exactly as I’d imagined it would be, though Taylor certainly didn’t make it easy. Tommy, on the other hand, had perhaps the most profound storyline of them all. Reuniting with a lost love, going back to those feelings he’d had in high school and finding that they hadn’t changed, was a big step forward from his life-long crush on Cal. Blue’s story, on top of that, meant that the entire book was emotionally charged and full of shocking secrets.

Because of that, I can’t tell you much more other than that I loved it. As expected. With love, romance and the big reveal of so many secrets, Stepping Out is perhaps the most important novel in the series so far. With so many of the recurring characters getting a huge chunk of the storytelling time, I couldn’t have asked for a better exploration of the Cozzi family and their chaotic summers at Cozzi Cove. Thanks to the perfect ending, I really hadn’t expected there to be more…but, YES! There is an excerpt at the end for the next book. And I couldn’t be more thrilled!

~

Favourite Quote

“Resting his pad on his knees, Nastas asked, “Connor, exactly how many men have you had sexual relations with?”
Connor used the memory skills he’d learned in effective listening class and the additional techniques he’d absorbed in calculus. “Three hundred thirty-eight and a half.”
“A half?”
“We didn’t finish because he had to milk a cow.””

Book Four: New Beginnings

Star rating – ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 174
Cover – Gorgeous!
POV – 3rd person, multi-POV
Would I read it again – Yes!
Genre – LGBT, Contemporary, Romance

Warning: obsessions with vampires, past child abuse and mental health issues ahead.

.

Cozzi Cove has been one of my favourite contemporary series since book one. Since then, I’ve never hesitated to jump at the first opportunity to read each book. I don’t even need to see a cover or read a blurb anymore. If it’s Cozzi Cove, I know I’m going to love it. This one is no exception.

With a new cast of characters, the Cozzi Cove bungalows are brought to life again. Dealing with hope, love, family and so much, these characters once again delve deeper than the surface, to deal with subjects that would be heavy and depressive in the hands of another author. At Cozzi Cove, issues such as identity, family, cheating, integrity and hate crimes arise in loveable, relateable characters, in a way that makes us readers self-reflect and feel compassion. Cosentino is an author not afraid to confront the darker and sadder realities of life within a sweet romantic setting with some complex characters.

It was great to see some of the old ‘regular’ cast back. Michael was just as sweet, innocent and naïve as ever and I really worried about him, because of that. At the same time, I knew how much Cal loves him and that that would never change, so he had that stable support system already in place. But he’s tender hearted and still questions his place in Cal’s life, which makes total sense considering their history and how quickly they fell in love. It’s just great to see that he and Cal, as ever, are able to talk about the difficult things and be mature about it, even if they can’t always agree.

Similarly, Billy Dean was a great new addition to the series. He’s sweet and similar to Michael in some ways; all ripe to have his heart broken. Then his two angels stepped in and I couldn’t have been happier. Billy Dean deserves happiness. I loved his spark, his charm and his small town boy charisma and mannerisms, but I also loved that he could be serious and thoughtful too. I loved the way that he interacted with Jesus and John, how he appreciated the little things and helped when Jesus was struggling.

Nijad, Andrew and Annabelle were an interesting mix and I loved seeing how it all played out, with both Nijad and Andrew being open about their feelings, even if it took some time. They might have been one of those instant attractions that happen at Cozzi Cove, but they took their time and it made sense when misunderstandings occurred because of how little they knew about each other so far.

Jonathan was a riot! I loved him for his humour, his joy for life (or rather, death) and his obsession with vampires. I totally agree with him about the homoeroticism of Dracula and I’ve always said so. Renfield and Barnabas were really cute too. I loved that Vlad wasn’t so much mysterious but totally transparent about his non-belief in vampires and such, but that he didn’t try to dim Jonathan’s enthusiasm over it too much.

Malcolm Wolf really is a wolf and that’s all I’m going to say.

~

Overall, there’s so much I want to say but can’t because it would spoil everything. Just read it. From the sweetness of Billy Dean, to the surprises of Calvin Cozzi I’s journal, to the cheekiness of Jonathan and Annabelle, there’s something for everyone at Cozzi Cove.

And if you don’t come for the romance, come for the food! This book made me hungry. At Cozzi Cove, there’s fun, sun, sand, laughter and love. All you have to do is book your bungalow to find it.

~

Favourite Quote

“When the heroines in those old movies wore garlic necklaces and carried wooden stakes, I always thought, ‘What’s wrong with you, honey?’ If a handsome man with slicked back blacked hair, broad shoulders, and a flowing cape had wanted to suck on my neck, I’d have declared it open season for a transfusion.”

“Jonathan served Vlad a glass of wine.
Vlad took a sip. “Are you trying to get me drunk and have your way with me?”
“Yes, I do that with all the sexually questioning vampires I entertain.””

~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.