The Perfect Gift by Joe Cosentino

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Back in America after finding “A Home for the Holidays” and each other in Capri, new couple Bobby McGrath and Paolo Mascobello are ready to tie the knot during the winter holidays. Their families, friends, and pastor offer more advice than sages on speed. So, young lawyer Bobby and fashion designer Paolo are caught in the matrimonial holiday circus. Will a shocking turn of events somehow lead to the perfect wedding for the December grooms?

The following Christmas, Bobby and Paolo aren’t feeling the holiday spirit. They have a nice apartment, designer clothes, entertaining and supportive friends and family, but little time for each other. While out shopping in their quaint local holiday village, Bobby and Paolo encounter Gregory, an adorable seven-year-old who changes their lives forever, offering them a true holiday miracle… if they’re willing to accept it.

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An interview with Bobby McGrath, the  leading  character  in  Joe Cosentino’s The Perfect Gift

Hi, Bobby. Thank you for joining us.

It’s great to be out of Joe Cosentino’s head for a while.

Since the readers can’t see you, tell them what you look like.

I’m twenty-five, tall, with a swimmer’s build from swimming at our local gym in Philly. I have emerald eyes with long auburn hair. Paolo loves to run his thick, warm fingers through it.

What does Paolo look like?

He’s my age with smooth olive-colored skin, a Roman nose, chestnut wavy hair, sapphire eyes, and muscles for days. His Italian accent is incredibly sexy.

Tell us a bit about your first holiday short story, A Home for the Holidays.

Joe Cosentino wrote a holiday short novella loosely based on his trip to the magical and gorgeous island of Capri: A Home for the Holidays, published by Dreamspinner Press. That’s when I came into Joe’s head as a young, Italian American law student traveling to Capri during the winter holidays to meet my quaint Italian relatives, while falling in love with my handsome, muscular, sexy Italian distant cousin, Paolo. Since Joe comes from a long line of funny Italian Americans, he included a good deal of humor in the story as well with Paolo’s eccentric family. Readers and reviewers called it the perfect holiday gift, feeling as if they had taken a trip along with me to Capri for the romance of a lifetime. When the talented Joel Leslie performed the audiobook, listeners marveled at Joel’s ability with accents and emotions, feeling as if they could see, hear, taste, and touch the captivating characters and romantic locations in my story.

And now your story continues with The Perfect Gift (“December Grooms” & “An Unexpected Present”).

Since A Home for the Holidays leaves open our future relationship; Joel, readers, reviewers, and Dreamspinner Press staff asked Joe why he hadn’t written a sequel featuring Paolo and me. When Joe couldn’t come up with a reason, he talked to me some more in his head and started writing. In The Perfect Gift (Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories, Book 2)  it’s a year after the end of A Home for the Holidays. Paolo and I are living in Philadelphia as a junior fashion designer and junior lawyer. We jump through some hoops and finally have a December wedding. Then a year later, it’s Christmas time again. As a married couple, we tour many of the quaint and wonderful holiday sites in the area featuring elaborately decorated trees and wreathes, Dickensian villages, Victorian carolers and bell ringers, vendors selling hot mulled cider and roasted chestnuts, and bay-windowed shops. We also exchange beautiful gifts, and enjoy spending Christmas with my eccentric family. However, something is missing in our lives. There’s an emptiness and a longing neither of us can explain.

While playing department store Santa, my father suffers a heart attack. A man in a Santa suit, who I assume is my father’s replacement, brings Paolo and me to the hospital room of a sick little boy. Like the child we celebrate at Christmas, could this boy be the holiday gift leading to happily ever after for Paolo and me? You’ll have to read my story to find out.

Tell us about how Joe created you and the other main characters.

Joe tells me I have his sensibility and sense of humor. As a junior lawyer who has just passed my bar exam, like Joe I am passionate about LGBT equality. He also tells me I’m a bit like Harold in his An Infatuation and Jonathan in his A Shooting Star. I’ve met them in Joe’s head, and I agree.

Paolo is loosely based on Joe’s cousin’s cousin who lives in Italy. Like Mario in An Infatuation and David in A Shooting Star, Paolo is handsome, strong, and charismatic, masking an inner pain. He is also a gifted junior fashion designer who is very much in love with me. I like how Paolo has transformed from a party boy to my committed husband.

My parents are loosely based on Joe’s. They are hysterically funny, and love their son dearly.

Geoffrey, the sick boy who approaches us is adorable, sweet, and so in need of love. He is a combination of many neglected children Joe met through a friend who is a social worker.

What about The Perfect Gift makes it different from other MM holiday novellas?

Our love for each other, the wonderful winter holiday locations, humor, plot twists and turns, our gay wedding, and happily ever after ending make the story a terrific read. Also, I think everyone can relate to feeling that something is missing at Christmas and hoping for the perfect holiday gift.

You and Paolo are distant cousins. Might that ruffle some feathers?

As my mom says in the story, it is not unusual for distant cousins to couple in Italy. Actually, this was the case with Joe’s great uncle and great aunt who were married for sixty years until their death.

Will there be a part three for you and Paolo?

Joe is already writing it—based on what I whisper in his ear.

What other books has Joe written?

I’m a bit jealous since they’re really good and I’m not in them. Joe’s Nicky and Noah comedy mystery series from Lethe Press features Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary novel of 2015), Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, and Drama Detective. In each novel, dead bodies drop like hammy actors at a curtain call as college theatre professors and lovers Nicky and Noah use their theatre skills, including impersonating others, in hysterically funny antics to figure out whodunit and why.

Joe’s Jana Lane mystery series from The Wild Rose Press includes Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, and Rag Doll. Set in the 1980’s, ex-child star and current comeback actress Jana Lane solves mysteries on her movie, television, and stage sets with the help of her gay best friend and gay agent while fundraising for her AIDS foundation.

Finally, his Cozzi Cove beach series from NineStar Press is set in a gay resort on the New Jersey shore owned by ex-football player, handsome Cal Cozzi. Each novel provides an entryway into Cal’s life and the lives of the various residents staying in Cal’s bungalows each summer. They include Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention/TBR Pile Favorite Book of the Month), Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, and Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings. I love the mystical element in each book.

As a college professor/department head, where does Joe find the time to write so many books?

He writes at night after his spouse has gone to sleep and the house is quiet. Being a bit tired helps release his inhibitions and creativity. Also, don’t tell him I told you, but I tell him what to write.

Like Paolo and me in our story, I hope everyone reading this gets just what you need this holiday season. Enjoy our special holiday gift to you. Please know that it comes wrapped in a huge ribbon of love. And Joe loves hearing from readers. You can contact him at http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com

Excerpt

“Hi, Mom. What are you doing?”

“Sitting home alone like a dog.”

That’s Mom’s logic. If their house isn’t full of people eating and carrying on, she’s alone.

“Where’s Dad?”

“In his den, watching the game on TV as usual.”

I’m Bobby McGrath. Since this is my story, I should tell you more about myself. I have frizzy red hair, green eyes, and a swimmer’s body, thanks to the pool at my gym. The swimmer’s body is thanks to the pool. The red hair and green eyes are courtesy of my dad’s side of the family, which my mom calls the Bad Seed. And I passed the bar. I don’t mean I’m a recovering alcoholic. I aced my bar exam, and I’ve been a junior lawyer for nearly a year now.

“Bobby, are you listening to me or thinking about one of your cases?”

“I’m listening, Mom.” I sat on the window seat in my Victorian apartment’s turret and gazed out at the carolers appropriately dressed in Victorian garb as they sang in front of the department store across the street. That’s the department store where my father is manager and plays Santa every December. “How did Dad’s physical go with Dr. Sherman?”

“He said Dad’s overweight. Like we didn’t know. For that we shelled out a thirty-dollar co-pay.”

“Did you mention how Dad’s been forgetting a few things lately?”

“I told him how your father forgot to take out the garbage, sweep out the garage, and chase the squirrels out of our summerhouse in the backyard.”

I couldn’t help thinking Dad’s memory lapses were intentional.

“Dr. Sherman asked Dad some questions, like Dad’s birthdate and our anniversary.”

“And?”

“Your father never remembers things like that, so I answered for him.”

“Mom, you shouldn’t have—”

“Your father’s fine, except for an enlarged prostrate.”

“That’s prostate.”

“Don’t correct your mother, especially now.”

“What’s wrong?”

“You know I don’t like to burden you with my problems.”

“All right. I should get on my laptop to do some research for a—”

“I’m worried about your sister.”

“Which one?”

“Both of them.”

I took a sip of Lemon Zinger tea and braced myself for a long story.

“They work so hard at their jobs and taking care of the kids, they never see their husbands.”

My sisters’ know-it-all spouses? “Is that a bad thing?”

“Watch your mouth, mister. I’m your mother. In my day we never disrespected our parents, no matter how wrong they were about everything. And we never took drugs.”

“I don’t take drugs, Mom; neither does Paolo.”

“But plenty of young people today are drug addicts, Bobby. They say they’re nervous. If young people are nervous, they should do what I do, and take a Prozac.”

As Mom rambled on about the sad state of our youth, I glanced over at the antique cherry coffee table to a framed picture of Paolo and me smiling in front of the Mascobello villa in Capri, Italy. That’s where I met Paolo, when I visited my extended family. Don’t freak out. Paolo is a very distant cousin. He has dreamy sapphire eyes, wavy chestnut hair, more muscles than a daytime television star, and a little-boy pout that makes me want to take care of him for the rest of his life. Which I do. Since Paolo was quite the playboy in Capri, I had my doubts about our relationship. But we’ve been living in boyfriend bliss here in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, for a year now.

Review by Janice Birnie

★★★★★

The Perfect Gift is the second book in the ‘Bobby and Paolo’s Holiday Stories’ series. It is not necessary to read the first novella in the series to enjoy this one, but I recommend doing so in order to fully appreciate this delightful Christmas tale. I love this time of year for many reasons but, as a reader, I particularly love Christmas novellas; they add an extra touch of magic to the season. This novella was no exception.

The Perfect  Gift follows A Home For The Holidays where we first met Bobby McGrath, a 25-year-old newly minted American lawyer traveling to Capri before taking his Bar exam. He is staying with his Mother’s Italian relatives, attempting to study and relax at the same time. When Bobby meets his gorgeous, distant cousin, Paolo Mascobello, sparks fly and they end up returning to America together. This is where we pick up the story in The Perfect Gift; twelve months later.

Bobby has settled into a career as a junior counsel in a law firm, working hard on establishing his career. Paolo has begun his career as a junior fashion designer and is also working incredibly long hours. The passion between these two gorgeous men is sizzling but trying to find a work/life balance is hard on both of them. Something is missing, and in the lead up to Christmas, they find themselves questioning their life choices and future.

Bobby and Paolo soon agree that marriage is the perfect next step in their journey together. A simple ceremony celebrating their love sounds perfect. A meddling mother with PFLAG ideas and visions of a ceremony to beat all ceremony’s, sisters with strong opinions, a friend with outlandish suggestions and even a priest with visions of equality protests all seem intent on high jacking their special day. Getting the wedding of their dreams is looking more and more difficult and disagreements between the men lead to thoughts of canceling. Love and two very determined men will find a way, however, and everything comes together in the end.

In the lead up to the wedding a cheeky seven year old boy named Geoffrey enters their lives, and shows Bobby and Paolo what they have truly been missing. Deciding whether they can make room in their lives and provide for a sick, lonely, slightly damaged young boy will be the hardest decision of all. Or perhaps not. There is something about Geoffrey that calls to both of them and loving comes very easily to these men.

Joe Cosentino has a way with words that I find enchanting and delightful. His descriptions of characters and settings are colorful and often highly amusing. There’s a magic to the worlds he creates that few other authors can achieve. Bobby and Paolo’s home, for example, is described with awesomely kitsch detail. The food they eat, the clothes they wear, their meddlesome families and friends, are all described lovingly and with humor. It truely is a glorious world to inhabit.

In The Perfect Gift, Joe Cosentino has, once again, written a story filled with love, laugh out loud humour and a HEA that will leave a smile on your face and seasonal joy in your heart. I loved this delightful novella and highly recommend you add it to your holiday reading list.

[author title=”Guest Post by Joe Cosentino” image=”https://www.divinemagazine.biz/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Joe-Cosentino.jpg”]Joe Cosentino was voted Second Place Favorite LGBT Romance author of 2015 for AN INFATUATION in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Poll of 2015. So he tries harder. He began as an actor appearing in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Watching him on YouTube, his students said, “You were cute when you were young.” He moved on to playwriting and directing, where his plays were published and produced in NYC, regionally, and on tour. Upon writing fiction, his mother said, “Don’t you have anything better to do than write books?” He replied, “I wonder if Shakespeare’s mother said that to him?” All’s well that ends well, as his mother, other family members, and friends love his published books. He hopes AN INFATUATION, A SHOOTING STAR, and THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND will be made into movies, so he can play Principal Ringwood, Professor Katzer, and Mortimer, bringing his career full circle. It’s all in the family since his spouse is an audio book performer. Joe received his MFA from Goddard College in Vermont, and MA from SUNY New Paltz. He is currently Head of the Department/Professor of Theatre at a college in upstate New York, where he and his spouse designed and had built an environmentally friendly home. Joe is a member of an open and affirming church, and does fundraising for GLSEN. He hopes people young and old will be infatuated with AN INFATUATION, wish upon A SHOOTING STAR, find A HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, and believe in THE NAKED PRINCE AND OTHER TALES FROM FAIRYLAND. He loves to hear from readers.[/author]

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