Rating: 4.5 stars
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Zach hated growing up in Emile City. He left at age eighteen to move to Los Angeles and never turned back. Zach makes no apologies for who he is – openly gay, flamboyant, and outspoken – especially now that he is returning to his hometown. When he first heard of his mother’s passing, he wasn’t planning on returning home, but the desperation in his brother’s voice made Zach’s choice for him. Zach and Dean have never been close, and Zach doesn’t know what to expect, but he agreed to return home if only to meet his nephews.
Being back is not what he expected. Spending time with Dean and his family is not horrible; in fact, it’s nice…most of the time. But the highlight is Dean’s best friend, Aaron. Aaron Paulson, the sweet and seemingly innocent man who single-handedly saved Dean and his family when they were first starting out. Aaron is everything that Zach would want if he wanted a relationship that lasted longer than getting off. Zach mistakenly pegs Aaron for straight at first, but is quickly proven wrong in the bathroom of a club.
Zach’s attraction to Aaron is immediate and strong. He wants things with Aaron that he has never wanted with any of this other hookups, namely a relationship. But Zach isn’t sure that he can give Aaron what he wants. And he certainly has no plans to move from Los Angeles back to Emile City, but something about Aaron has Zach wanting to be a better person. Zach isn’t sure that he can be a man who will ever worthy of Aaron, but he has to give it a shot.
It’s no secret that I am a huge Cardeno C fan. So it will come as no surprise that I loved He Completes Me when I first read it, and the second time, and the third…well, you see where I’m going with this. With He Completes Me, Cardeno C takes angst out of the equation and gives readers a story worthy of fairytale status. The outcast, black sheep of the family meets and falls in love with the white knight and in turn becomes a hero himself. It would be very poetic if not for Zach. He would say screw the poetry and find some vodka. Not one for waxing poetic, that Zach.
We all know that one couple that is so perfect for one another that you get a cavity by just being in the room with them. Well, that’s Aaron and Zach, except Zach definitely adds a lot of spice to that sweet. I love Zach. First and foremost, he is hilarious. He’s sarcastic and rarely has a brain-to-mouth filter. He has an inner strength that is powerful, yet he is full of insecurities and vulnerabilities that he hides well. I love that he knows who he is and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He is not perfect, and he makes mistakes, sometimes on purpose. But his imperfections make him perfect. And then there’s Aaron. Aaron is a wonderful man, a man of moral character. He’s giving and forgiving and supportive to a point where others tend to take advantage of him. He’s innocent and pure, but there are also times that he’ll surprise you with his candid talk. He’s the polar opposite of Zach which makes them so perfect together. Here is one of Zach and Aaron’s first scenes together. It’s one of my favorite moments in this book:
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Normally, I would’ve made a flippant remark, pretending nothing was wrong, or been outwardly hostile. But he was looking into my eyes, no, he was looking through my eyes. It felt like he could see me, really see me. That should sound frightening, but it wasn’t. It felt good. And, suddenly, the words started tumbling out.
“They hate me. I mean, they really hate me. I’ve never done anything to them. I haven’t even seen or spoken to them in ten years. And they’re my family. They’re supposed to love me, right? But they don’t. They never have, and they never will. The dumb fucking thing is, I still let this shit hurt me. I thought I was past all of this.”
You know, how sometimes when you’re hurt or upset, you’re able to hold it together until someone is nice to you, and then you just lose it? Well, that’s what happened. Aaron didn’t even say anything. He just gazed at me in a way that no one else ever had. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It seemed so intimate, so… loving. And the next thing I knew, I was bawling, and Aaron’s arms were around me. I’m not sure how long I was wrapped in Aaron’s arms, crying my eyes out, but I managed to fall asleep.
When I woke up, we were both lying on the bed. I was on top of Aaron, with my face on his chest. His shirt was damp from my tears and smudged with my eyeliner. He was rubbing my back with one hand and stroking my hair with the other. I felt safe. For what I’m pretty sure was the first time in my life, I felt safe. And that scared the ever-living shit out of me.
I shot up off of his body and jumped off the bed.
“I’m sorry. I, ummm, I….”
I didn’t know how to finish my sentence or even what I was planning to say. And then I heard the doorbell.
“That’s Luke. I have to go. Thanks.”
I was out of there before Aaron could respond.
This story as a whole is so sweet. I love the inner struggle that Zach suffers throughout this book. From accepting who he is to his certainty that he will never be good enough for Aaron, from his independence as a man without family to his newly found family. This book is really about Zach’s growth, his forgiveness and acceptance of his family. It’s a sweet, sweet story of finding love in an unexpected place and time and the growth of that love. And it also has a good bit of humor. It’s a wonderful, feel good story.
I love this story, and yes, it can be overly sweet at times, but overall, its’ a great story with wonderful characters. It’s funny and precious. I love this series as a whole. I highly recommend He Completes Me by Cardeno C.