Heidi is one of my all-time favourite authors. Not only do I love her books, they tend to touch me in a deep place that not many books make it to. Tough Love is the 3rd book in the Special Delivery series and while the 2nd book, Double Blind, is still my favourite, I think this one is the most intense and the most challenging read of the trilogy.
This is BDSM like I've not seen it in the m/m romance genre. I have read more than a few BDSM genre books over the past couple of years and most of them have been interesting and enjoyable, but this one, it gets into the minds of the characters in ways that the others have not. Maybe it's as simple as me loving the way Heidi writes? At any rate, whatever it is, this book is not for someone who has a tough time with the BDSM lifestyle. Heidi goes there. Not only do we have a flogging scene that was so intense that I had to put the book away for a few hours, there is also blood play, needle play, puppy play, watersports - you don't see that stuff in m/m romances every day.
The main characters, Steve and Chenco are so beautifully created. You begin by thinking that it's Chenco who needs the most help to become the man he dreams of being; that he needs Steve far more than Steve needs him... but man, it's so not that! It's Steve that is the most damaged, the most in need of Chenco, the family and someone to give HIM the strength he needs. And the boys are back and featured prominently - Mitch and Sam, Randy and Ethan - oh, and Crabtree (who is so very fascinating. *g*). Chenco is the little half-brother that Mitch discovers when he comes home after his father's death. And Chenco is a drag queen. A glorious, wonderful, stunning drag queen. I loved the way Heidi chose to show us how Chenco and Caramela are two separate entities, yet not.
Part of the reason that Mitch's buddy, Steve, is so... knotted up inside himself, let's say, is because of Steve's childhood friend, Gordy. OMG, the character of Gordy scared the piss out of me! But I have to say... remembering things about spouse #2 (who had his problems bigtime), I can't say that this guy isn't possible. Maybe that's why he scared me so much?
The journey that Chenco takes, discovering the world of BDSM with Steve and the others was fascinating, and it sheds a lot of light, I think, on how the community and lifestyle actually is and offers insight into the mindset of those who are part of it. It's certainly not for everyone.
On a bit of lighter note, one of my favourite scenes in this book was when Ethan asked Chenco to dance and they ballroom danced and Ethan was so elegant. (Yes, Randy might be my fave of the Special Delivery boys, but Ethan is close behind.)
So I said that this was the 3rd book of the Special Delivery series and honestly? I do hope it's the last one even though I love these characters with all my heart. Leave the audience wanting more, y'know? I'm fairly sure Chenco would agree with the sentiment at least. ;)
This is a wonderful series and this book a fabulous part of it! LOVED IT!!!