'In, out, done.’ That’s the motto of Jason Garcia, the moody, self-confident heart surgeon in The Half of Us. I love a bit of romantic fiction and, imagining the book to be a little like a Mills and Boon for a gay audience, I expected my take on it to be pretty much like his take on men – pick it up quick, finish it fast, and, in my case, write a review. Over, done and dusted.
Having read the book in an afternoon, I did finish it fast. But, instead of the sweet, unrealistic love story I imagined, I found the novel to be a super enjoyable, modern, thought-provoking take on the evolution of a relationship between two adults, both of whom bring their own characters, problems, and, sometimes selfish, needs to the table.
But with Jason comes baggage - a hectic career, part-care of his daughter and his increasingly aggressive son, and a whole bag of mixed emotions, anger and unresolved guilt over his cheating ways and failed marriage. Can Abe, the sweet, soulful teacher he can’t get out of his mind, be the one to help him rebuild his life and re-create the family he thought he’d lost forever? And can Abe finally trust a man enough to find the sexual fulfilment and expression he craves, as well as the emotional companionship he yearns for?
While the plot may not appeal to non-lovers of romantic fiction, the characterisation and style of writing really draw you into the story, making it a thoroughly enjoyable and absorbing read. In Jason and Abe, Cardeno C. has created two characters you care about from the get go, while the witty banter, hot sex scenes and the depiction of their everyday domestic life make you really believe and support them as a couple. Both go through quite dramatic transformations in the book, with Jason metamorphosing into the family man he has always wanted to be, albeit in a slightly different way. It was the depiction of Abe’s sexual awakening that I found one of the most powerful plot points however, and one that will resonate with a lot of readers, no matter their preference.
Having written three series of books and a large number of standalone novels too, Cardeno C. is a well-established author of gay romance who describes himself as a ‘hopeless romantic, who wants to add a little happiness and a few ‘awwws’ into his readers’ day’. Judging from The Half of Us, he is also a talented writer who succeeds in taking the standard tropes and turning them on their head, deftly dodging the expected clichés to create fresh, enjoyable stories that communicate and engage far more than your everyday romantic novel (and with more than a few ‘awwws’ along the way).