Family Connections by N.J. Nielsen

18690198Title: Family Connections

Series:   The Connelly Chronicles (I’m assuming)

Author: N J Nielsen

Genre: Contemporary

Length:   Novel (254 pages)

Publisher: Silver Publishing (October 18th, 2013)

Heat Level: Low

Heart Rating: ♥♥♥3.5 Hearts (Should really be two stories)

Reviewer:   Eli/Mandingo

Blurb: Thrown into circumstances beyond their imagining, Ray Connelly and Christopher ‘Viv’ Vivvens must step beyond their own lifestyles to survive the future. What started out with a small white lie and two men becomes more than either of them ever dreamed. 

Ray and Viv learn that love isn’t always what they expect but in learning to deal with the road ahead, they realise change can be so worthwhile as they become a family in the greatest sense. 

When an ex makes an appearance and tries to destroy their happily-ever-after, the guys need to find out if they have what it takes to beat the odds. With the help of family and friends, Ray and Viv fight their past demons to make their future even better than they ever thought possible.

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Review: Let me start with the point that this is a long story.  It is 451 pages and is much more than just a simple love story between two men. When it states that, it is the Connelly Chronicles, which is exactly what this is.  Ray and Viv meeting and falling in love is the tip of the iceberg.  There is a LOT of family in this book and readers should not for a minute lose track or they will be lost.  I suggest a pad and pencil to keep all the players straight (so to speak). I will admit to an initial confusion when first reading. My disorientation was due to the story moving backwards and forwards between Viv and Ray’s perspective in the beginning which was a tad confusing.  Novels in a single character’s voice are easier to follow; OR if using multiple voices, separate them by chapter or some other indicator, so that the reader is cued as to when the story will be in another character’s perspective.

So let’s summarize quickly then shall we. Viv is straight, or so he thinks and claims, and Ray has not come yet out the closet; but, they embark ‘fake’ relationship for reasons which I’ll allow the reader to explore. I experienced a believability issue here because both inexperienced men seemed too “okay” with the fake relationship, especially Viv, the straight man who can’t seem to keep his hands off the NOW newly out Ray.  Yeah, issue with believability here. But it’s cute and so I kept reading.  Ray is the super nice guy who allows the sexually oriented confused Viv to take advantage of the pretend boyfriend situation way too long. On the surface the pretend situation is cute until you realize that in Viv refusing to come out and admit his feelings for Ray, Ray is left in a situation where he’s marching to Ray’s tune.  That is not a nice thing to do to anyone – but for the sake of literary love, we accept that this is part of the courting game of the two men. Then we move to my second bout with suspended disbelief: there is a LOT of hot kissing and making out between these two man-love virgins but it never leads to sex. Really? There is no way two sexually active and aware men are going to be naked in bed and sex isn’t going to happen EVEN if one claims to be straight but is wrapped around the other like a spider monkey.  Men are basic – naked beside naked equals sex – Simple as that.

Finally we get to where Ray and Viv are in a “real” relationship and suddenly we throw in Viv’s ex trailer trash girlfriend who’s trying to create problems.  Now I cannot even understand how she’s still in the picture with criminal act she committed. Thankfully someone got a clue and the law finally caught up in the story when she aimed to commit the same crime twice.  By the time we wrap our brains around that, suddenly there are additional siblings, surrogate babies and families. Did I mention that it’s Ray’s ex and best friend who are the surrogates? The family confusion and cross-pollination friend dynamics I will leave to each reader to unravel, remember to keep the note pad handy; and, just be warned that even while there is an ‘ick’ and ‘squick’ quality to it all, it’s still sickeningly sweet. 

There is a LOT going on in this book. Quite frankly it’s enough for two books.  If this is a series, then the first book should have focused on Ray and Viv becoming a couple and then the second book on them becoming a family with all of the ensuing drama, especially since the second half of the book is written almost entirely from Ray’s perspective. There are several stories running concurrently but they all blend since the core of the second half of story is about Viv and Ray building the Connelly family. There appears to be a sequel to the story called Beautiful Goodbyes, which I’m sure will begin with the cliff-hanger left at the end of this book (no spoiler alert here); and continue to be about Viv and Ray continuing the Connelly empire and the large group of friends and allies they’ve developed.  The book is clearly a … saga.

The story has two distinctly different feels to it. The first half of the book is clearly the typical coming out story of two men who must find each other and their HEA. The second half of the book is what happens after the HEA when life happens and these men must manage some very fantastical situations. It felt a bit like I was living in a soap opera, with the number of over-the-top things which happen to this couple; yet through it all their love and family prevail. I have only one spoiler for readers: Think John and Kate plus 8. The whole story has an air of unbelievability to it, but its sweetness and the readers desire to see Ray and Viv together as they build this remarkable family make you forgive it and chalk it up to it being entertainment so realism can be tossed out the window.