As a reader addicted to fighting-themed romances, I've been drooling over this book for the last few weeks with its storyline of inner conflict and turmoil when dealing with two men's lifelong friendship becoming more. Cultural and career expectations also weigh heavily in their journey towards HEA that will lead to lots of twists and turns as well as heartwrenching interactions. Keep reading to get a tempting taste of Heavy Hitters by Taylor V. Donovan, and discover even more about it by visiting the other sites hosting this tour, then count down the days until its June 24th release. In honor of this first installment in the Caribbean Tales series make sure to fill out the form below for the chance to win a $25 Amazon GC too!
His toughest opponent is himself.
World Boxing Champion Santino Malavé González has been fighting since he was a kid. Poverty, domestic violence, and emotional abuse were early contenders. Guilt and self-loathing were beaten into him at an impressionable age, and now machismo, an integral part of the Latino culture, rules his life. In the ring he’s undefeated. Outside the ropes life constantly hits him below the belt. It takes a sucker punch from his best friend to finally knock the denial out of him and force him to face his true nature like a real man.
A natural born entertainer, Luca Jenaro Betancur Ferrer has grown up serving God, performing, pursuing a career in music, and celebrating life among his tight-knit Catholic family under the scorching Puerto Rican sun. Singing the wrong note on stage is not a mistake the multi-platinum award-winning singer would ever allow. Falling in love with a man is not a transgression his devout family may ever accept. The ties that bind him are strong, but the pull toward his childhood best friend may just be enough to tear it all to shreds.
Anger, mistakes, bigotry, and the need to conform put up a good fight throughout their life journeys. Their religious and chauvinistic society constantly challenges their pursuit of happiness, and only time will tell if their relationship will survive the battles, or if they’ll lose each other by technical knockout.
Julito looked at their mom, nodded quickly, and took a deep breath before he asked in a taunting voice, “Did it ever occur to you the reason me and Héctor didn’t make it as boxers is because you’re a lousy trainer?"
Oh, Jesus, Santi thought, his gaze darting between his brother and his mom. What’s happening? What is he doing? Why isn’t Ma telling him to let it go, like she always does?
“Fuck you, cabrón,” Papi snarled, punching Julito’s ribcage. “How dare you say that to me?” He tried to headbutt his way out of Julito’s hold to no avail. “You think you could’ve done better without me? You think your brother could’ve won a single amateur bout without my guidance? You really think he can get anywhere without having me to teach him how to fight and how to be a man? Go out and try to fight again, maricón. I’ll just sit here and watch you fail."
“I don’t need you to teach me anything,” Santi barked, even though he would’ve done anything to have his dad’s support. “I’ll show you I can win. I will win every single fight. I’ll win at everything for the rest of my life!"
“Shut the hell up!” Papi yelled. “Shut up.” The more he yelled, the more pronounced the veins on his forehead became. His face was so red Santi had no problems seeing it in the dark, and his neck was so tense it looked like it was about to snap. He punched Julito in the head and kicked his shin. “You won’t get anywhere without me.” He twisted his body and finally got away. “None of you will, and I won’t have you say otherwise in my house. This is my house. Mine. You either respect me or get the fuck out!"
Santi couldn’t be sure, but he thought he saw relief flash in Julito’s eyes.
“This is our house,” Julito said in a mocking tone. “The only reason we aren’t on the streets is because Tío Benny took pity on us and let Mami have this ranch. Did you conveniently forget you drank the mortgage money away and made us lose our house? Because I haven’t forgotten—none of us have!"
“Did you tell them about that?” Papi demanded to know, taking a step toward the bed and pointing at Mami. “Did you put me down in front of my kids?"
“She didn’t have to tell us.” Omayra snorted. “We aren’t stupid."
“And we have no respect for you, you miserable drunk,” Julito added.
“All of this is your fault,” Papi yelled at Mami, nostrils flaring and spittle building up in the corners of his mouth. “You gave birth to a fucking pato and made me lose the respect of my kids to boot. You’re a fucking disgrace. Worst woman I’ve ever met."
Julito’s face twisted in disgust. “You’re the only disgrace in this house."
“Get out of here.” Papi pushed Julito and then grabbed a bottle of alcohol from the dresser and threw it against the wall. It was promptly followed by a brush, a coffee mug, and a jar of Vicks VapoRub. “Se me van pa’l carajo los tres. Get the fuck out right now."
“I’m not gay,” Santi whispered for the hundredth time. Mami was right. He hadn’t done anything with another boy, and if he’d thought he wanted to kiss a boy it was because he was curious—that was all! “I swear I’m not. Why won’t you believe me?"
“I never meant to give you a gay kid,” Mami said quietly. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do better with him."
Santi gasped when a pair of strong hands wrapped around his throat.
“I knew it,” Papi snarled, squeezing harder. Was he trying to strangle him? “You’re dead to me, you hear me? I don’t want to see you ever again."
Tears spilling from his eyes, Santi reached back and grabbed his dad’s head. He tried not to panic by breathing rapidly through his nose.
“Let him go,” Julito yelled. Santi’s body jerked every time Julito tried to pull Papi away from him.
“Leave my brother alone,” Omayra shrieked, jumping on the bed and grasping Papi’s fingers. “You’re killing him."
“Please, let him go.” Santi was still trying to make sense out of his mom’s betrayal when she moved Omayra out of the way and put her hands on Papi’s shoulders. “You’ll get arrested if you kill him, and he’s not worth going to jail for,” she whispered, staring at Santi. She looked sad, but she also looked determined. “You heard your dad,” she continued. “You’re dead to him. Get out of this house and never come back."
“All of you,” Papi yelled. “I want all of you out of my house.” He let go of Santi’s neck and slapped Mami. “You destroyed my life, desgraciá. You destroyed my son’s future, and you’re going to pay for it."
“Do as he says,” Mami sobbed, pressing her hand to her bruised cheek. “Go!"
“Ma, no,” Santi whispered. He didn’t want to leave her in the room with his dad. He might beat her badly before passing out.
“I said go,” she barked, sliding off the other side of the bed, farthest from the door. “Get out, all of you. Julito, take your brother and sister and get out."
“But Ma, you can’t stay--"
“Don’t argue with me, Omayra.” Mami covered her face with her arms at the same time Papi’s fist landed on her head. “I love you, mamita. Now, go,” she said one more time, then she sobbed.
Julito didn’t hesitate. He grabbed Santi’s arm and rushed him and Omayra out of the room.
“We can’t leave her with him,” Omayra said, trying to break free of Julito’s hold.
“She thinks she has to stay,” Julito said as he entered his and Santi’s bedroom and pulled four bags out of the small closet. “She’s convinced it’s the only way."
“We’ve got to do something,” Santi argued, his attention firmly focused on the noises coming from his parents’ bedroom. There was a crash. A thud. A yelp. He took a shuddering breath. “He’s going to kill her."
“He can barely stay up,” Julito pointed out. “He’ll pass out in no time, and we’ve got to be out of here before he decides to come after us.” He handed one bag to Omayra and another to Santi along with a chiding look. “Hopefully he’ll be so ashamed of you that he’ll leave us alone for the rest of our lives."
Santi’s eyes grew hot, and he was hit with yet another pang of nausea.
He felt like the biggest scum of the earth—like his brothers and sisters knew he was the main reason life in their house was hell, and they all hated him for it.
“What’s in the bags?” Omayra asked, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Clothes for a few days and a pair of shoes—stuff to start us out."
His brother had gone through his things, and he’d taken the time to light a candle before going to their mom’s bedroom. He’d been prepared. Clearly he’d known all along they’d be leaving this house.
Omayra pressed her bag to her chest. “Where are we going?"
“We can’t just leave,” Santi rasped.
Julito grabbed his wallet and shoved it in his back pocket. “We must, and we are."
“Wants you out of here so that you can do something useful with your life,” Julito cut him off. “Should’ve kept your mouth shut if you wanted to stay in this stupid house."
Santi swayed on his feet and hung his head—his brother’s words a hard blow to the chest.
Julito was right, though. Santi should’ve never said a word to his mom.
“But I have school,” Omayra protested. “I don’t want to--"
“You’ve got exactly thirty seconds to run to your room and get your diary and favorite books,” Julito said over his shoulder. “Thirty seconds, Omayra, or we’ll go without your stuff."
“I’ll be right back.” She rushed down the hall.
“Put on your shoes,” Julito ordered Santi in a gruff voice, “and go wait in my car."
Santi’s chin trembled. Tears burst from his eyes.
So this was really happening, then. He’d been thrown out. Not even his mom wanted him in the house.
Biting down on his lower lip, Santi stepped forward and started taking his Tito Camacho newspapers clippings from the wall. They were his inspiration. He wasn’t leaving them behind. “I need my bracelets, too,” he mumbled.
“Here.” Julito moved Santi’s pillow to the side and gave them to him. “You won’t care about those cheap beads in a few months, but Luca’s your best friend, so, whatever.” He shrugged. “I already put all your letters from him in your bag along with your copies of The Secret Garden and The Little Prince."
Santi wrapped his fingers around his most precious possession without saying a word. He didn’t move a muscle as he watched Julito gather things in the dimly lit room either, but he winced every time his mom cried out.
She was getting the shit kicked out of her, and it was his fault.
The only reason I hit her is because she gave me a maricón for a son.
Santi rubbed his belly and swallowed hard. “I don’t think Tío David got AIDS, and the landslide story’s bullshit. He isn’t dead,” he mumbled, “but the family likes to pretend that he is."
From what he could tell, the family had no idea of what had happened to Tío David after they disowned him. They didn’t give a shit if he was scared or homeless, and how could they? What kind of heartless monster acted like that? No one deserved that treatment from their own family—not even if they were gay.
Julito frowned. “What are you talking about?"
Gays are considered sexual deviants that shouldn’t be allowed around kids. His mom’s words soared into his mind and heart like a wild fire, consuming his most private fantasies and turning his decision of telling Luca about himself into ashes. You can’t be like David. I’ll die if you’re ever treated the way he was.
“Nothing,” Santi whispered, wishing he could ask his uncle if being gay and wanting to have sex with little boys were really the same thing.
But he knew he wouldn't.
David could appear in front of him out of thin air right this second, and Santi wouldn’t ask anything related to being a maricón. His uncle would wonder about his interest, and there was no way Santi could be honest with him. It was too risky… too dangerous… too fucking painful.
He’d never tell anyone else what was in his mind and his heart. He was burying that shit tonight.
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Taylor V. Donovan is a compulsive reader and author of gay romance and suspense. She is optimistically cynical about humanity and a lover of history, museums, and all things 80s. She shamelessly indulges in mind-numbing reality television, is crazy about fashion, and passionate about civil rights and equality for all.
When she’s not writing or making a living in the busiest city in the world, Taylor can be found raising her two daughters and their terribly misbehaved furry baby in their home.
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