When I first heard about the Cozzi Cov e Beach series, I was entranced! I’ve asked author Joe Consentino to share a little about what inspired him to write a series of stories about such a diverse group of characters. Welcome, Joe!
The Cozzi Cove Beach Series and Me
COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK and COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD
published by NineStar Press
by Joe Cosentino
I was incredibly lucky as a kid to spend my summers at the New Jersey Shore. Far from The Jersey Shore TV series on MTV, my summers with my family were spent in a quaint bungalow between the ocean and the bay. My sister and I swam, made sandcastles, flew kites, played miniature golf, played pirates and Peter Pan (guess who was Peter) at a private cove, ate salt water taffy, jumped up and down on trampolines until we (literally) saw green, dined at our favorite seafood restaurant with a colorful player piano, and watched handsome blond surfers in rubber suits at night.
Having already written a number of series, I enjoy the serial format, where I and the readers get to watch the characters develop and grow. So I decided my next series would be set in a fictitious place I call Cozzi Cove, a gay resort of eight bungalows in a private cove on the Jersey Shore. Each bungalow is based on my aunt and uncle’s where I stayed as a kid, and is furnished with hand-carved nautical furnishings, and also has a stunning view of the bay and lighthouse in the distance. The main beach and boardwalk are only a mile away. It’s a place I love to visit over and over again in my head, and I know you will too.
The bungalows on Cozzi Cove are set on a stretch of cove formed when softer rocks were worn away by the sun and salty water faster than the harder rocks surrounding them. This created a gorgeous bay of turquoise water shielded by large rocks in the distance and smaller rocks near the water’s edge.
My leading character is Cal Cozzi. Cal, short for Calvin, is thirty years old, tall, and muscular. His Italian and Scottish heritage left him with striking auburn hair, golden skin, and strong features. That’s him on the book covers. He dabbled as a professional football player then restaurant owner, but neither was a good fit. After Cal’s parents died in an automobile accident, he found his calling: managing Cozzi Cove in the New Jersey shore town named after his great-grandfather. Sensing Cal’s sexual orientation as a boy, Cal’s father had turned Cozzi Cove into a gay resort. Cal is honored to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Cal’s husband Lance is twenty-four, short, stocky, African American with dark hair and dark eyes and amazing dimples. He grew up poor, and worked hard getting scholarships and maintaining good grades throughout school. As a second grade teacher, Lance is off during the summers, his favorite time of year. This leaves him more time to do what he loves most: being with Cal.
Connor, the college student assisting Cal, is packed with muscles and hormones. He revels in Cozzi Cove, and in checking out each resident for a possible fling on the cove—which he often enjoys!
Tommy, the bald, muscular, tattooed resident of Cozzi Cove who owns the local bar has held a torch for Cal since high school. Carla Mangione who runs Carla’s Seafood Restaurant holds a similar torch for Cal’s sister.
Cal’s sister, Taylor, drops in from Rome, Paris, Wall Street, or Palm Springs. As a tough as nails top one-percenter, the world revolves around her, which makes her hysterically funny. I also admire her devotion to her brother.
Finally there’s Michael, the college kid who throws a monkey wrench into Cal’s ordered life.
After my An Infatuation novella (Dreamspinner Press), was released, countless readers begged me for more time with one of the characters from An Infatuation (Divine Magazine Readers’ Choice Award 2nd Place for Best MM Romance). So that character and his brother are the first guests in Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (NineStar Press). They are two brothers/college students who look alike, but couldn’t be more different. Mario is searching for love, and Harold is searching for lust.
The other vacations in book one are a wealthy older couple, Josh and Greg, who play matchmakers for their gorgeous son Christopher. Opposites attract as player Tim meets shy Mark, and porn star Chuck Caliber connects with Sean, a virgin romance novelist. Finally computer game designer Arthur has a midnight sea rendezvous with a merman. Even Cal faces an emotional upheaval when a gay bashing turns into something quite unexpected for him. Everyone has a secret at Cozzi Cove, and nothing is what it seems at the magical place called Cozzi Cove.
After Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back released, many readers and reviewers praised its romantic, humorous, dramatic, mysterious style, and interwoven captivating stories. I was thrilled when the readers of the TBR Pile voted it Favorite Book of the Month (March)! Having received numerous requests for another visit to Cozzi Cove, I wrote Cozzi Cove: Moving Froward (NineStar Press). As with the first book, nothing is what it seems in book two, and romance is everywhere.
Also after my novella A Shooting Star (Dreamspinner Press) was released, many readers wanted more time with two of the leading characters, college theatre majors Jonathan and Barry. So two of the guests at Cozzi Cove in book two are loosely based on how Jonathan and Barry might be as middle-aged men. I call them Rodney Maxwell and Dennis O’Halloran, a Tony Award winning actor and his estranged producer/husband at Cozzi Cove with their two hired bodybuilder studs, Jarek and Zeus. Computer analyst, Sam, enlists his best friend Chase in a scheme to attract Sam’s hunky, unsuspecting best friend, Raul. Hunter, a female gay romance novel enthusiast, is hoping to experience gay life off the page. Middle aged Gil Van Truren wants to end it all—until he sees a vision of his first love from college. Cal’s new young lover, Michael Rodgers, is an African American college student with exotic eyes and a toned body. After going through tough times, Michael landed at Cal’s doorstep and the two have never looked back. Cal has his hands full, however, with Michael’s study buddy the gorgeous and muscular Carlo, and resident man of mystery George Valis who seems to know a great deal about Cal’s past.
Once again I’m thrilled to report that readers loved their second visit to Cozzi Cove. So I’m writing book three now, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out.
So grab your Speedos, suntan lotion, and shades and head to Cozzi Cove. I hope to see you there again and again!
COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK
by JOE COSENTINO from NineStar Press
On Cozzi Cove at the New Jersey shore, handsome Cal Cozzi’s seven bungalows are open for summer and love. Mario and Harold are brothers and college students who happen to look alike, but couldn’t be more different: Mario is searching for love, and Harold is searching for lust. Josh and Greg, a wealthy older couple, are matchmakers for their son, Christopher. When it comes to Connor, the maid, packed with muscles and a roving sponge, anything can happen. Opposites attract as wild Tim with the secret past meets shy Mark, and porn star Chuck Caliber connects with Sean, a virgin romance novelist. And what will happen when computer-game designer Arthur has a midnight sea rendezvous with a merman? Even married Cal faces an emotional upheaval when a gay bashing turns into something quite unexpected. What secrets and passions lie in magical Cozzi Cove?
Praise for COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK:
“I loved this story. It carries you through the full range of emotions, from joy to sadness, from happiness to anger. The characters are beautifully written.” “I look forward to a return visit to the Cove.” TBR Pile
“Heartbreaking and heartwarming, sweet beginnings for some, sour endings for others, emotions jumping off the page as you turn eagerly to read more, welcome to Cozzi Cove. The author measured his scales to perfection in delivering the perfect balance of love, laughter and tears in this sexy, fun filled holiday romance entwined with some sadness. Summer magic waved it’s wand at all who visited and stayed at Cozzi Cove and I was one of those who wanted to stay.” Three Books Over the Rainbow
“poignant and full of beautiful imagery. It’s one crazy mix of characters, all weird and wonderful in their own way” “It made me laugh out loud, cry and want to snuggle up with someone I loved. I couldn’t have asked for more.” Divine Magazine
“In true Joe Cosentino style, this book is packed full of drama! This cast of characters will have you laughing out loud one minute before ripping your heart out the next.” Joyfully Jay
“If you like a lot of angst, some humor, love, sadness (be sure to have a couple of boxes of tissue handy), and some hot sensual man-sex, I highly, highly recommend this book. I loved all of the Joe Cosentino’s books, but I think this is my favorite to date! I am ready for book 2!” Cathy Brockman Romance
“Joe Cosentino has the amazing ability to combine heartwarming, feel good moments with droll, sometimes biting humor, along with insights into the frailties and peccadillos of being human.” “Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back is the very finest in literary fiction with a romance theme, yet it’s more than just that—it’s about human connections and empathy and finding a way out of the fear and inertia faced by so many. It’s also about courage and strength, about respect and coming to terms with all that life has to offer, and it’s about letting go. I loved this book and look forward to the next in the series. This is a highly recommended read, well-deserving of Five Stars.” GGR Reviews
“Cosentino tells the stories of the guests and owners at Cozzi Cove as separate yet intertwining stories, a delivery style that’s genius. It’s a bit like watching segments unfold in soap opera fashion.” “While the story is rife with the humor and lighthearted romance I’ve come to associate with Joe Cosentino, it also addresses several serious topics associated with the gay community: homophobia, stereotyping and coming out.” 3 Chicks After Dark
“The humour is full of double entendres and tongue in cheek wit. I can’t help but grin my way through his novels.” “Beneath the comings and goings and toings and froings and sex and arguments and innuendo are real issues. Coping with the death or illness or betrayal. Learning to love. Hoping. Yearning. Becoming different. Growing. Accepting.” “This author has yet to disappoint me with his stories.” “For me it’s love all the way.” Boy Meets Boy Reviews
“There were parts that were hilarious, parts that were serious, parts that were happy and parts that were sad. Regardless of the emotion that the character was portraying at that moment, I was able to feel it myself.” “an amazing book.” “I also truly loved the storyline.” Inked Rainbow Reads
Amazon Bestselling author Joe Cosentino wrote Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (NineStar Press), Drama Queen and Drama Muscle Nicky and Noah mysteries (Lethe Press), An Infatuation, A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press), Paper Doll and Porcelain Doll (Wild Rose Press) Jana Lane mysteries, and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared 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. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. His upcoming novels are Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward (Nine Star Press), Drama Cruise Nicky and Noah mystery (Lethe Press), and Satin Doll and China Doll Jana Lane mysteries (Wild Rose Press). Joe was voted 2nd Place for Best MM Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015!
Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com
COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD
by JOE COSENTINO from NineStar Press
On Cozzi Cove at the New Jersey Shore, handsome Cal Cozzi’s seven bungalows are once again open for summer and love. The vacationers include Rodney Maxwell and Dennis O’Halloran, a Tony Award winning actor and his estranged producer/husband with their two hired studs, Jarek and Zeus. Computer analyst Sam enlists his best friend Chase in a scheme to attract hunky Raul. Middle aged Gil Van Truren wants to end it all—until he sees a vision of his first love. Cal also has his hands full with college student Michael—his new young lover—Michael’s study buddy Carlo, man of mystery George Valis, and Connor, the houseboy packed with muscles and a wondering sponge. All the while Hunter, a female gay romance novel enthusiast, experiences gay life off the page. What secrets, humor, tragedy, mysteries, and passions lie in the magical place called Cozzi Cove?
Praise for COZZI COVE: MOVING FORWARD
“Beautifully written, the story pulls me in and keeps me in Cozzi Cove. I look forward to my next visit there.” TBR Pile
“I jumped straight in after finishing Cozzi Cove last night. And, as I expected, it was fantastic.” Divine Magazine
“Loved it!” Three Books Over the Rainbow
Excerpt of COZZI COVE: BOUNCING BACK by Joe Cosentino
published by NineStar Press
As Lance rested in bed and Cal was putting on jeans, sandals, and a canary polo shirt, they heard Connor enter the living room and call out to Cal. After giving Lance a kiss on the cheek, Cal begrudgingly left his lover, shut the front bedroom door after himself, and then met up with Connor, who was standing next to the living room sofa.
Connor said, “It’s good to be back at work.”
“How were your grades at college this year?”
Connor shrugged his muscular shoulders. “Pretty average.”
Cal thought, If average is getting Cs and Ds. “I’m guessing you were quite involved with extracurricular activities.”
“One or two.” He giggled. “Maybe, three.”
Cal had a soft spot for the kid. “You did a nice job preparing the bungalows yesterday.”
“I aim to please.”
Cal thought the nineteen-year-old looked like an American flag in cutoff blue jeans that matched his eyes, a T-shirt and sneakers that matched his red hair, and pale skin with freckles.
“How can I be of service to you today, boss?”
Cal ignored Connor’s obvious double meaning.
“Just the usual routine.” Cal wasn’t immune to Connor’s charm, but Connor was a kid, and Cal was a one-man man. “Carry their luggage into the bungalows when the guests arrive. Turn down beds at four p.m.” He attempted to look sternly at the boy. “… Without you in them.”
“Me come on to a guest?” Connor feigned surprise.
“Yes, you, Connor. This is a vacation resort, not the baths.” Cal moved behind his desk. “After today, make up the rooms late mornings and early afternoons. Leave the sheets and towels in front of the garage for the laundry pickup. And don’t forget to sweep out the parking area.”
Connor saluted. “Aye, aye, Capitán .”
They heard a knock at the front door. Cal shouted, “It’s open.”
“Is this the office?”
“We’re informal here,” Cal explained. He typed into his computer, and then motioned for the young man to join him.
“I’m Mario Ginnetti.” He placed a piece of luggage at his feet. “Is it okay to park in the lot?”
Connor seemed to nearly salivate at Mario’s arms in his violet short-sleeved shirt. “You can park anywhere you like.”
Ignoring Connor, Cal said, “Yes, that’s the lot for the bungalows.” Cal handed Mario a key. “You’re in Bungalow One. I’ve got your credit card, so you’re all set.” He took a map from the topmost desk drawer. “The ocean beach is open to the public and is only minutes away. You can swim, surf, snorkel, or go on a glass-bottom boat there.” He pointed to various black dots on the map. “You’ll want to get some groceries here. Tommy Malone’s is a good bar, and Carla’s is my favorite seafood restaurant. This place has killer ice cream, which you can work off here at the gym.”
Connor interjected with, “If you need help finding anything, just ask me. I’m a native.”
“Or you can come into the office and ask me.” Cal handed Mario the map and then pointed outside. “The cove is private property. You can sit out there all you like. The bay water is calm and warm. As you can see, the view is amazing.”
Connor added with a grin, “Nude sunbathing is permitted.”
Mario was visibly trying to take it all in.
“Any questions?” asked Cal.
Mario’s dimples appeared. “Will the weather always be this nice?”
“From your lips to the sea gods’ ears.” Cal smiled. “The weather report calls for rain, so that means it’s going to be sunny all week. Connor will take you to your bungalow.”
Connor looked like the wolf meeting Little Red Riding Hood as he took Mario’s luggage. “Follow me, Mario.”
Excerpt of Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward by Joe Cosentino published by NineStar Press
Cal Cozzi sat on the white sandy beach like a king on his throne. The thirty-one-year-old thought about his great-grandfather, Calvin Cozzi III, who had built the eight bungalows, seven of which Cal’s father, Calvin Cozzi II, had rented to guys like Cal when Cal was a boy. With both men long gone, Cozzi Cove was Cal’s heritage, lifeblood, and oasis. As he gazed out at the ancient lighthouse near the horizon, Cal filled his lungs with salty sea air. He was happy to be home.
A familiar yawn and warm breath on his neck caused Cal to turn around and throw his arms around the stocky young man who plopped down next to him. Over a decade younger than Cal, Michael Rodgers rubbed his fingers over dark eyes. Resting his head with its chestnut-colored locks on Cal’s chest, Michael said, “I missed waking up in your arms.”
They shared a long kiss and then rose and stood at the water’s edge, watching the seagulls fly across shades of amber, violet, and flame that were fading to reveal a bright-blue sky. With Cal’s Italian and Scottish heritage and Michael’s Swedish and African lineage, Cal thought their skin glistened in the sun like jewels.
Shorter than Cal, Michael licked Cal’s neck.
“Hey, stop licking. I don’t have any pets.”
“You do now.”
Cal took the boy in his arms and smothered his youthful face with kisses. Though Cal would never forget Lance, the soul mate he’d lost to cancer two years prior, he couldn’t escape the fact that he was growing more and more in love with Michael every day they lived together. Michael’s high-energy zest for life and brutal honesty in speaking his mind both infuriated and delighted Cal. And Cal was well aware that his straightforward, hardworking masculinity still made Michael weak at the knees after living together in the main bungalow for nearly a year.
“Let’s get some breakfast.” Cal ran his fingers through Michael’s curly hair.
Michael kneaded the muscles in Cal’s back. “What are we having?”
“I’m having the honey buckwheat pancakes I made. What are you having?” Cal slapped Michael’s firm buttocks playfully, and then ran away as Michael chased him, laughing.
As they headed for the main bungalow, Cal scanned the row of seven guest bungalows on the cove. Cozzi Cove itself was a quiet stretch of beach with waves tickling jagged rocks perched on white sand only a mile away from the open ocean. Though he was excited about the start of the summer rental season, Cal knew he’d miss the tranquility of having the cove to himself—with Michael.
Michael followed Cal into the kitchen. As Cal gazed at the lantern-shaped kitchen clock on the wall, he admired his grandfather’s taste in decorating all of the bungalows with wood-carved, nautical-themed furnishings.
Sitting at the table, Michael said, “When do the guests arrive?”
“Check-in starts at eleven a.m.”
Michael giggled. “Do I have to check in?”
Cal kissed the top of his head. “Yeah, into my bedroom.” He served the pancakes and orange juice before sitting next to Michael. “What time do you have to leave for school?”
Michael answered with his mouth full. “College! I’m taking a summer class at State, not going to morning kindergarten. I’m a junior.”
“Very funny. In the fall I’ll be a senior, like you.” He kissed Cal’s wide nose.
“Hey, your lips are covered in honey.”
“So they tell me.” Michael continued eating.
“Does your study buddy tell you that?”
Michael raised his eyes to the mermaid-shaped lighting fixture as if gathering patience. “Carlo is my partner.”
“In my advanced photography class.”
“Is that what they call it at State?”
“Maybe in your day.” Michael’s eyes gleamed devilishly. “Hey, did they have college back then?”
“I’ll put you over my knee, young man.”
“Promises, promises.” Michael swallowed his last piece of pancake and then gulped down the rest of his orange juice. “Carlo is coming here before our class. We’re taking some shots of the cove.”
Cal felt his expression harden. “I thought you were going to mow the lawn, rake the pebbles, and hose down the sidewalk around the bungalows.”
“Done.” Michael put his plate, glass, and fork in the sink.
“Last night, when you were in the shower.”
“That’s why you didn’t come in with me.”
Michael wrapped his arms around Cal. “Can I take a rain check for tonight?”
“Maybe you should ask Carlo.”
“Carlo doesn’t shower. He takes baths.”
Cal did a double take. “And you know this how?”
“He told me.” Michael ran into the back bedroom, the home of his computer and photography equipment.
Cal felt his blood boil. Taking in some deep breaths, he told himself to calm down.
Michael came back holding a number of prints and placed them on the kitchen table. “What do you think?”
Cal looked down at photographs. “Nice composition, proportions, and shading.”
He pointed at the dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned, very muscular young man with a stoic Roman nose, dimples like craters, and a cleft chin like the San Andreas Fault. “Your professor brought in an Italian porn star?”
“Watch many Italian porn films, do you, Cal?”
“Obviously you don’t have to.”
“That’s Carlo. I took them in class.”
Cal offered a weak smile, trying hard not to let the anger and jealously he was feeling show on his face.
Michael ran his finger over the photographs. “Our professor complimented me on the line and shape.”
“I can see why.”
“And the contour and shading.”
“I’m really proud of them. Tommy loved them too.”
Cal rose and put his breakfast things in the sink. “When did you show these to Tommy?”
“Yesterday afternoon when I was working at Tommy’s bar. The pictures of Cozzi Cove are for our next assignment.”
“‘Hot Italian guy on the beach’?”
“‘Summer magic.’ ” He hugged Cal’s neck. “And there’s no place more magical or more romantic than Cozzi Cove in the summer.”
After Michael headed into the bathroom, Cal heard Connor’s jeep pull up into the parking lot.
A minute later, Connor’s voice rang out. “Hi, boss. Private Connor O’Riley reporting for duty.”
Cal met Connor in the living room. “Hi, Connor. Good job cleaning the bungalows yesterday. I aired them out last night. Do me a favor. Get some fresh towels from the bin outside and put them in the bungalows.”
In his usual skintight white T-shirt and short-shorts, the freckled twenty-year-old saluted. “Aye, aye, Capitán.” Connor licked his red lips, which matched his frizzy hair. “Where’s Michael?”
“In the shower.”
“Does he need more towels?” Connor headed toward the bathroom.
Cal grabbed his muscular arm. “Down, boy. And keep it in your pants when the guests get here.”
Connor feigned shock. “Me? Make a play for a guest? Never! Cal, you wound me to the heart.”
“You must have studied dramatics at the college this year.”
Connor batted the long lashes over his sky-blue eyes. “How else could I have dated all the gay dudes?”
Cal laughed. “I’m sure you dated them.”
“I did.” Connor revealed his pearly-white teeth. “It was the football team last year who went straight, pardon the pun, for the touchdown.”
Cal put his arm around the boy’s wide shoulders and walked him to the front porch. “Please get straight to work so everything is ready when the guests arrive.”
Connor said with the eagerness of a child at Christmas, “I can’t wait to see our pick of the litter.”
“Look, don’t touch.”
Connor opened the front door and bumped into Carlo, whose crimson dress shirt had enough buttons open to reveal impressive pectoral muscles. “Welcome to Cozzi Cove!”
As he entered the front porch, his dark eyes glistened in the morning sun. “I’m Carlo. I’m looking for Michael Rodgers.”
Cal shut the door behind him and shook Carlo’s hand, noticing the bulge in Carlo’s black slacks. “Please come in.”