Writing the Rio Grande Valley
by Heidi Cullinan
Ever since the first time I visited the RGV, I knew I wanted to write about it. I’d casually named Mitch as being from the area when I first drafted Special Delivery, since my sister was living there at the time, but when I visited her a year later, I knew I had to put the place in a book.
The Rio Grande Valley is home to over one million people, roughly 90% of those residents identifying as Latino. Two of its cities take the number one and number two spots as the poorest metropolitan areas in the United States. It’s the size of the entire state of Connecticut in land mass. It is hot, all the time—my sister would come home for Christmas telling us how it had been 80 and humid when she left. It is desolate desert, except where it is city desert. It once housed a large portion of the US citrus industry, but several freezes combined with industrial growth have changed that landscape.
What I loved about the RGV (called “The Valley” by locals) was how it felt like another country and yet was like no country I’d ever seen. It wasn’t simply that as a Caucasian I was a minority. It was that the very makeup of the area was radically different than anything I’d known. I couldn’t get enough of the flea markets and shopping areas and even just drives around town. When we stayed at a hotel, the staff was beyond charming and helpful, and everywhere I went I felt at home. I’m overall not a fan of Texas, but the RGV I would visit again anytime.
My greatest handicap, however, is that I don’t know any Spanish at all. I knew Chenco was Mitch’s brother, which meant he was at least half Caucasian, but I had to scrap his deep Valley identity because I couldn’t accurately replicate it without taking up a residence there and doing some serious cultural immersion.
Because the Valley truly is an amazing, unique world, one which deserves so much more than I was able to give it. Without my sister there, I don’t know why I’d go back to south Texas, but I find myself hoping something someday gives me an excuse. I hope you enjoy taking a small vacation there in Tough Love. And if you ever do get to McAllen, be sure to go to Taco Palenque or its sister restaurant, the Palenque Grill. Sadly while Club 33 did exist, it’s since been renamed Aria. But I bet it’s still fabulous.
Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at www.heidicullinan.com.
It takes a strong man to be this fabulous.
Crescencio “Chenco” Ortiz pulled himself up by his garter straps after his father’s will yanked the financial rug from under his spank-me pumps. He doesn’t need anyone, yet when Steve Vance steps into his life, the prospect of having a sexy leather daddy on tap begins to take on a certain appeal.
There’s a hitch when he learns Steve is friends with Mitch Tedsoe—the half-brother Chenco never knew except through his father’s twisted lies. Despite his reservations, soon Chenco is living his dreams, including a performing gig in Vegas. Now if only he could get Steve to see him as more than just a boy in need of saving.
Steve’s attraction to Chenco is overshadowed by too many demons, ones he knows his would-be lover is too young to slay. Yet as he gets to know the bright, determined young man whose drag act redefines fierce, Steve’s inner sadist trembles with need. He begins to realize Chenco’s relentless tough love might be the only thing that will finally set him free.
In honor of Heidi’s release, she’s graciously offered to give away one eBook copy of Tough Love! The giveaway starts now and will end next Sunday, April 6th, 2014, at 11:59 pm EST. After which the lucky winner will be randomly picked.
All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below with your email address and you’re in!
Make sure to follow the blog for the winner’s announcement post or check back next Monday, April 7th, 2014, to see if you’ve won!
Check out JustJen’s review of Tough Love to see what she thought of it!