Family, Book # 4
Heat Factor: Starts blazing and does not quit
Character Chemistry: The perfect calm one / high strung one pairing
Plot: Take a chance on love, build a family
What do you look for when choosing a book by an author new to you? The cover or title is usually the first thing that draws me in, but I only read romance these days, so if it seems like it might be fiction the library just decided to categorize as romance, I’ll usually give it a pass. If it seems like it might be interesting, I read the blurb and then make my decision. A very careful vetting process, to be sure.
This was how I selected The Half of Us. I’m not sure I ever would have found it except for aimlessly scrolling through pages and pages of library books on Libby. I am SO glad I did.
Synopsis: Jason Garcia is a high strung, divorced cardiothoracic surgeon who uses hookups to relieve stress. Abe Green is out celebrating his birthday when he gets picked up by Jason. He’s quiet and more interested in relationships than hookups, but he looks into Jason’s lonely eyes and decides to give himself a birthday present. It’s supposed to be one night only, but then it becomes another night. And then Jason, who hasn’t been monogamous, like, ever, thinks he maybe would like to see a little more of Abe. But life is complicated, and for Jason to allow himself to take hold of the life he wants, he has to get through some serious emotional growth.
Everything else: What is so great about this romance? Everything. I could take or leave the sex, which is frequent and explicit. Don’t get me wrong, I love books with sexual relationships that are part of healthy emotional relationships. For me, they’re better than books with a one-off steamy scene because, I mean, kinda the whole point of the sex in the romance is that there’s nothing wrong with, and there’s a whole lot right with, a healthy approach to sex and sexual relationships. Right? So I find the emotional connection much more compelling than the sexual connection. When it’s done well in combination, I can totally get behind that. That’s what C. does here, and it is sexy, yes, but also playful and loving and swoon-worthy.
Jason is just wallowing in feelings. He had a picture of how his life was supposed to be, and he tried to reach for it and failed SO HARD. He knocked up his ex wife while they were in med school and convinced her to marry him and tried to have this picket fence life but, um, he’s gay. And totally horny. So, class, what do you suppose happens when your needs aren’t being met in your relationship but you aren’t prepared to be honest with yourself (or your partner) about that? That’s right. Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater.
I liked how C. played with Jason’s feelings about the fundamentals of male-male relationships. One of the reasons Jason has hookups and isn’t monogamous is because he doesn’t think that such a relationship would work. His feelings are well outlined when Jason is visiting his cousin Asher (apparently a protagonist of Family Book 1).
“Look, I know it’s not popular to say it with everyone shouting about equality this and marriage that, but the reality is, you and Daniel aren’t going to have kids, you aren’t going to limit your sex life to just each other, and you’ll be lucky if you’re together for five years, let alone fifty. There’s no woman pushing for a ring.” He shrugged. “Why bother?”
Hellooooooooo Mr. Cynical. Abe is coming from a completely different place. His background is conservative (Salt Lake City), so he’s grown up around many long-term relationships and knows that’s what he wants. Unlike Jason, he’s sure he can find it with the right man, he just hasn’t yet. When he realizes that he’s not going to be with someone forever, he ends the relationship, which is a sentiment I completely understand. I have never understood the point of dating just for the sake of dating. It’s the only way I identify with Abe, because this young man has an EQ off the charts and is patient and kind and knows just how to supportively push back against Jason’s much more high-strung, emotionally reactive personality. Short story, the relationship between Jason and Abe is amazeballs. Just read it for yourself. (Skip the sexy bits if you’re not so into those.)
The other thing I liked to see C. play with was gender roles. Jason has these ideas about his life and family and what that’s supposed to look like, and he feels like he’s failing. If we’re being particularly harsh, he is, but not for the reasons he thinks. You see, Jason knows his ex-wife is an amazing doctor, and he loves her and he supports her, but when it comes right down to it, he falls into old gender stereotypes. All of his context is really wrapped up in this picture of a family that I envisioned as coming straight out of the 1950s, so of course as the father he’s distant and of course being in a committed relationship with a man doesn’t make sense. Family comes into play a lot in this book, so I don’t want to give away spoilers, but at one point Jason and his ex need to talk about their kids. She has the kids almost all the time, and she’s tired and stressed about the problem they’re discussing, and Jason’s all fired up because he didn’t know about it, and she basically tells him if he wants to know he has to spend time with them. She says:
“You took them for a week once.” She set her glass down and leaned forward. “And that’s the longest period of time you’ve spent with them consecutively both before and after our divorce.”
“That’s because I have to work!” Jason said.
“So do I!”
“Dammit, Angela, it isn’t the same and you know it.”
“No, I don’t know it. Why isn’t it the same?” she asked. “Please enlighten me.”
And I’m over here like, Cardeno C., you just keep writing because DAMN.
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