Growing up Greek-Canadian, Peter Georgiou always knew his duty was to his family, for whom twenty-first century rules don’t apply. In his early thirties, Peter still lives at home, dates who his parents tell him to, and works at the family restaurant. But watching his two best friends find happiness in each other’s arms has made him worry over his destiny.
When Louie Papadakis returns home to nurse his broken heart and start a new life, he can’t believe his sister is dating his high school crush, Peter. There’s a sadness behind Peter’s eyes that draws him in, and a chemistry he wishes he could ignore. After his closeted ex broke his heart, Louie is afraid to fall in love again, especially with a man who’s keeping secrets.
As Peter finds himself drawn to Louie in unexpected ways, old and new worlds collide. Then a family crisis forces Peter’s hand, and he must decide if he’s willing to sacrifice his happiness for family duty.
Dreamspinner Press: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7560
“Are you happy?”
It was a simple question. Should have been a simple answer. So why was it still rattling around in Peter’s head an hour after Adam had asked it? And why did his insides squirm uncomfortably every time he thought about it? Of course he was happy. Wasn’t he?
He rinsed his hands under the bathroom faucet and chanced a final glance in the mirror. The man staring back at him certainly didn’t look happy.
You’re a sad fucking case these days, Peter Georgiou, he thought tiredly, taking in the dark circles beneath his eyes and the retreating hairline that even the closest shave couldn’t disguise. His lungs grew tight, and he quickly averted his eyes before he looked too deeply and saw something he’d rather not see.
Peter cupped his hands beneath the water, letting it spill through his fingers before bending to splash his overheated face. He struggled to recall a time when he hadn’t felt this weight on his chest, but if it had ever existed, it must have been long ago. Before he knew what expectations were. What had happened to the boy who was going to get away and see the world? Be his own man?
He straightened and flicked his wet fingers at the mirror, shattering his reflection with droplets. With a sigh he reached for the nearby hand towel to dry it off. His image blurred for a second and then crystalized again as the water evaporated. He made a face and then looked away. Ugh. He shouldn’t have had that last beer. He was a gloomy drunk to begin with, but tonight he was more morose than usual.
When had it all started to go wrong? With his dad’s heart attack? When Elena ended their engagement? Or was it before that, even?
The sounds of laughter filtered up to the second floor through the floorboards of the old house. The party was winding down, but a few stragglers still hung on in the living room, having moved inside after darkness settled in and brought the mosquitos with it. Peter wondered if he could slip out without anyone noticing. Then he remembered he had no way to get home without Julian, unless he called a cab.
He was reaching for the door handle when voices drifted through the open window, too low to hear the words but loud enough for him to recognize the speakers. Curious, Peter crept to the window and squinted into the shadows. The bathroom overlooked the narrow backyard, and sound drifted easily. Through the fluttering streamers and paper bells stretching over the deck, two familiar figures moved about below, illuminated by the glow from the kitchen.
Adam hopped up to perch on the deck railing, facing the house as Joe filled a garbage bag with the litter from earlier in the evening. After a mumbled comment, Joe set down his bag and moved to stand between Adam’s splayed knees, his back turned toward Peter, his hands seeking out Adam’s hips. As Peter watched from his secret vantage point, Adam wrapped his arms around Joe’s neck and leaned down to kiss him.
It was slow and tender, and Peter’s stomach hollowed.
His best friends rarely displayed this side of their relationship in public. They’d always been affectionate with each other—Joe was a chronic hugger—even when they were only friends, so once they’d gone beyond that, not much had changed. Unless you happened to notice the way they looked at each other, or the way they finished each other’s sentences, or how one would know what the other wanted without him saying a word.
Peter did his best not to notice.
There was enough light from the house to see Joe’s hand slide up Adam’s pale thigh and under the leg of his shorts. Peter’s breath hitched. His groin filled with a slow heat.
Writers are insane.
After several years of my own empirical research, that’s the only logical conclusion I can reach for why we do what we do. Seriously, think about it.
My love affair with writing is the most dysfunctional relationship I’ve ever had. If writing was a real relationship, with an actual person, I’m pretty sure I would have bailed long ago, unable to deal with the constant emotional ups and downs, the insecurity and feelings of inferiority. The waiting around for someone to like you. Not to mention far too much drama. One heartbreak and I’d have been outta there. I sure wouldn’t stick around for it to be broken over and over again.
Don’t you love what you do, you may ask. Of course. But if a friend told me she had a job she loved where she slaved away for literally pennies a day, with no benefits and no pension plan, and that other people routinely stole or ripped off her work, I’d still say she was exploited and that she should get her ass out of there.
So why do we do this? Why do I do this? The answer is, I don’t really know. I’ve always considered myself a writer, even before I was ever published. I love making up stories and characters—I always have—and they are a part of me. But let’s be honest, the business of writing is mentally and emotionally exhausting. After each book there’s been a point where I’ve said “That’s it. I’m done. Not doing this again” only to find myself right back at that keyboard. I guess I must feel like I still have something to contribute. I’ve never given birth, but sometimes I think writing must be like the “feel good” hormones that flood a woman’s body after childbirth, helping her to forget the pain and difficulties of labour, and persuading her to try again.
Albert Einstein once famously said that insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. And isn’t that what we writers do? Over and over we strip ourselves bare and pour out our hearts and souls and deepest desires only to have them sometimes go unnoticed or worse, rejected, all in the hopes that next time will be different.
I can only think I must be a glutton for punishment.
Either that or I’m insane.
Review by Janice Birnie
Happy by Chris Scully is a story of a young Greek/Canadian man’s struggle to come to terms with his sexuality, within the confines of a strict Greek Orthodox family, living in contemporary Canadian society. Trying to balance family values and culture, whilst still seeking personal happiness, is a very real struggle for many young people and this story will resonate with readers from a variety of backgrounds.
Peter Georgiou is in his early thirties, living in his parents basement, and working in their Greek restaurant seven days a week. He is living the life they’ve chosen for him, including dating a young Greek woman they selected. He has plenty of ideas for updating the restaurant but his father is set in his ways, leaving Peter to live a stationary life with little satisfaction or hope for his future. The fact that he is only attracted to men, and has been unable to live an authentic life due to his parents religious and cultural beliefs, makes for a very lonely existence. Being in an arranged relationship, with Demetra Papadakis, in order to keep his parents happy is just one more thing weighing Peter down. He hasn’t been happy in years and his friends are starting to notice. Hiding his secret, even from those closet to him, is getting more and more difficult. As is the thought of finding happiness.
Louie Papadakis is Demetra’s brother. He grew up in the same neighbourhood as Peter, admiring him him from afar. When Louie returns to Toronto, to escape a disastrous relationship with his closeted ex, the last person he expects to find dating his sister is his childhood crush. Things aren’t all that they seem, however, and it becomes increasingly obvious that Peter and Demetra’s relationship is going nowhere. Louie can’t understand the mixed signals he’s receiving from Peter and he sure as heck isn’t interested in another closeted relationship.
Following Peter’s journey as he struggles to be true to himself makes for a compelling read. Louie has the patience of a saint and I found myself wanting to slap Peter at times, as he worked through the web of lies he’d created.
Happy is a story of letting go of the shackles that bind and allowing yourself to live and love authentically. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
Rating: 4 Stars
Chris Scully lives in Toronto, Canada. She grew up spinning romantic stories in her head and always dreamed of one day being a writer even though life had other plans. Her characters have accompanied her through career turns as a librarian and an IT professional, until finally, to escape the tedium of a corporate day job, she took a chance and began putting her daydreams down on paper.
Tired of the same old boy-meets-girl stories, she’s found a home in gay romance and strives to give her characters the happy endings they deserve. She divides her time between a mundane 9-5 cubicle job and a much more interesting fantasy life. When she’s not working or writing (which isn’t often these days) she loves puttering in the garden and traveling. She is an avid reader and tries to bring pieces of other genres and styles to her stories. While her head is crammed full of all the things she’d like to try writing, her focus is always on the characters first. She describes her characters as authentic, ordinary people—the kind of guy you might meet on the street, or the one who might be your best friend.
Although keeping up with social media is still a struggle given her schedule, she does love to hear from readers.
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Publisher and Distributor of Gay Romance Novels, Short Stories, and eBooks Publisher and Distributor of Gay Romance Novels, Short Stories, and eBooks.