Jesse’s Diner (Hope #2), Cardeno C
Publisher: The Romance Authors
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Older/Younger MCs, Contemporary, Standalone Series
Length: 30,000 Words
Reviewer: Kazza K
Two men with a shared history and a mutual attraction must be honest with themselves and each other so both their dreams come true.
Quiet, unassuming Tanner Sellers spends his time running a diner in Hope, Arizona. Not particularly social, twenty-two-year-old Tanner keeps to himself and enjoys his simple life, but he longs for someone to call his own. In his most secret fantasy, that someone is sexy Steve Faus. But Steve is his friend’s father and mentor’s widower and therefore off-limits.
Despite some challenges, thirty-nine-year-old Steve Faus has had a good life. He’s extremely successful at work, has a great relationship with his college-age son, and lives in a wonderful town. Eighteen months after losing his partner, the one thing Steve lacks is someone to share his life. If Steve is honest with himself, that someone is the young man he has known and cared about for years. Steve and Tanner want one another, all they need is a little push in the right direction to make both their dreams come true.
Tanner is twenty two and has inherited a diner from his boss, Jesse, who died eighteen months ago. Much like Jesse’s Diner, the quiet and staid Tanner needs a bit of changing up. His best friend, Mike, Jesse’s son, tells him his other dad, Steve, has been asked to take time off from his work because he’s down. Mike’s in Nevada and needs Tanner to check in on him. Like the good person Tanner is, even though he is really nervous being alone around sexy Steve – the man of his six year crush and fantasies – he takes food from his diner over to his house.
Mike was the closest thing I had to a brother, so I’d never had so much as an ounce of attraction to him. Or maybe that was because I’d used up all my attraction tickets on my unhealthy obsession with his dad.
I used the quiet time to remind myself that I was doing my friend a favor by helping my mentor’s partner; I was not going to ogle a hot guy.
From this point, Jesse’s Diner is about the slow-ish burn relationship between Tanner and his best friend’s dad. Not to mention the issues with the fact that Jesse was his mentor and he left Tanner the diner – Steve has a good job, Mike is at college, and Tanner fits the town and the diner so it was a good choice. Tanner sometimes worries about that choice. Feels bad about desiring Jesse’s (now widowed) partner. Is clueless to the fact that Steve has developed feelings for Tanner and would like to take their friendship to another level.
I could do this. I could be Steve’s friend. We’d both lost someone important to us when Jesse passed and we both missed Mike since he’d moved away.
Tanner is a virgin. A twenty-two-and-never-been-kissed virgin. Steve is older at thirty nine and, like I mentioned before, his best friend’s dad. I think these couple of areas alone will make quite a few people want to pick up the book as they’re hot buttons for some in the genre. But I would have to say while it is sexy it isn’t Cardeno C’s most erotic or scorching writing. No complaints from me as the overall package is enticing – somewhat quieter characters, a narrative by an introspective and clueless MC, humour, heart, and no fuss. Also, there’s this –
Steve was wilder and, typically, carefree when he was younger, and he contracted HIV. He went into (what would end up) his twenty year relationship with Jesse knowing this. They raised a son together. So he’s an HIV+ (family) man looking at going into a new relationship and the way Cardeno C handled this impressed me. It’s a 30,000 word romance novel so, you know, it’s not meant to be the HIV serodiscordant relationship ‘manual’. PrEP was discussed, as were condoms, current viral load, and research, but I liked Tanner’s no fuss acceptance and the lack of drama and stigma attached. It was a part of the overall book, much like HIV+ status is part of a person, but not all of them. The less stigma, the more rational the handling of the topic, the better. Because it is a part of the community I was glad an author made it part of their book without making it about shock value.
While Jesse’s diner is somewhat sexy, it’s not particularly steamy. It isn’t angsty. It isn’t dramatic. There’s no big alpha hero or really over-sexed twink. What Jesse’s Diner is, is humorous, light-hearted and sweet, with some social commentary. Tanner, the primary voice, is guileless. I like guileless. He’s not a complex character – he’s accepting of his life, he likes his own company, is socially awkward, works hard, is respectful, likes where he lives, and is not too keen on broadening that horizon, and even when he fantasised about Steve prior to Jesse’s passing, he would never ‘cut someone else’s lunch’. All good qualities, in my opinion. Likewise, Steve is a decent, straightforward and patient guy. He’s honest about his status, prepared to give Tanner time to digest it fully, particularly given he’s never been with anyone else, and he’s kind. Cardeno C has written a gentle novella here and I think anyone wanting to spend a few hours relaxing, or maybe cheering themselves up by reading something hopeful and sweet, will enjoy Jesse’s Diner. One more thing, I don’t know if the dedication at the end was for someone in Cardeno C’s life but it was incredibly moving. 4 Stars!
ARC supplied by the author in return for an honest review