Rating: 5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon | All Romance
Charlie Rhodes first met Scott Boone at age 15 and it was pretty much lust at first sight. Scott was a gorgeous golden boy, handsome, smart, athletic, and incredibly sweet. From the day Scott moved into the apartment next door, the guys became fast friends. Charlie never thought that someone like Scott would be interested in a tiny, scrawny, flamboyant guy like him. He didn’t even think Scott was gay. But it turns out that Scott’s feelings were just a strong as Charlie’s and soon the young men were happily in love. Things were perfect between them, until life got in the way.
The end of that relationship was heartbreaking for Charlie and the love he felt for Scott is something he never expected to find again. Charlie counted himself lucky to have had one a true love in his life, even if it was over at such a young age. But as time went on, Charlie met another man to share his heart, Adan Navarro. Adan is different from Scott in almost every way. Controlled and closed off, cocky and confident that he knows what he wants and how to achieve it. At first Adan looks at Charlie as nothing more than a potential sexual conquest, someone so different from his usual type that for some reason Adan is strangely drawn to despite himself. However, over time more develops between them, and Charlie falls in love once again. But when that relationship also ends, again under painful circumstances, Charlie is sure he has had his chances at love and that there is no more to be had for him.
But as Charlie continues to move on with his life, his family, and his career, circumstances reunite him with his two lost loves. And as shocking as it seems, there may now be a place for him in both of their lives. But as much as Charlie still loves them both, and they him, he is wary about getting involved again. Losing these two men broke his heart and he is afraid to risk it once more. But for a chance at real happiness with the men he loves, Charlie must decide if it is a risk he is willing to take.
More Than Everything is such an engrossing and heartwarming book that I was totally captivated from the very beginning. Cardeno C creates such a unique story here, so different and creatively done, with characters I adored and a unique tone and structure.
First off, the whole set up of this story is really unusual. We begin with Charlie as our narrator who is in present day telling us the story of his family in flashbacks. He is putting together a scrapbook and each chapter begins with an introduction where he talks about a picture that captures a significant event in his life. Each chapter then focuses on the event of the picture or the surrounding time. The book is divided roughly into thirds and the first portion focuses on his relationship with Scott and Charlie is our POV character throughout all these chapters. Then the POV switches to Adan in the second portion, and finally to Scott at the end, although Charlie continues to narrate the introductions to the pictures in each chapter. It sounds really confusing, and when the POV first switched from Charlie to Adan it was a little bit. But honestly, it works really well here. Partly that is because Charlie is a fabulous narrator. I just loved his dialog and his inner voice. Here is his first introduction to Scott:
THE first time I saw Scott Boone, I knew the bisexual label I’d been trying on for size in my head was bullshit. I was gay. It wasn’t a total shocker or anything. I’d asked my parents for an Easy-Bake Oven for my eighth birthday. By the time I turned twelve, I knew asking for the Barbie Styling Head I actually wanted was a straight shot to strange looks and “Shh, he’s walking up” conversations, so I asked for money instead. Then I bought the hairstyling Barbie toy I actually wanted and hid it in my closet. Someone should put that story on Urban Dictionary as an example of irony. But I digress.
Scott Boone was everything I wasn’t. He was tall, broad-chested, athletic, überbutch, right-handed. Again with the digression.
Anywho, I was a scrawny fifteen-year-old, sitting in my bedroom in my mother’s second-story Brooklyn apartment—my father had moved out by then—and I was not teaching myself how to do a new french twist on the Barbie Styling Head, which I’d dyed an amazing shade of auburn, when I saw a truck piled high with furniture pull up out front and the most gorgeous guy I’d ever seen hop out.
I can’t say for sure, but I think I might have started drooling. I definitely sprung a boner. Because, here’s the deal: it was summer in the city, so it was hot as a motherfucker and Mr. All-American was wearing cutoff jeans, Pumas without socks, and nothing else. I almost broke my neck running to get my camera so I could snap a picture of the wet-dream-come-to-life who was moving into my apartment building.
So I totally adored Charlie. He is confident and sharp witted and determined to be himself. Despite the fact that he is picked on and bullied at school, he knows who he is, purple cashmere sweater and white skinny jeans and all. But Charlie is also the heart of the story, the person who ties the three men together, the one who is the nurturer and the caregiver and who is the rock that builds their family. And so it totally works for him to not only narrate the first portion of the book, but for him to be the thread that connects all three parts of the story.
As I said, the first section focuses on young Charlie and Scott and oh how I adored it. You guys probably know I am a sucker for young love stories, and Cardeno C gets it so right here. That sense of excitement and wonder and ultra focused intensity that comes from falling head over heels at a young age. The adorable fumbling and awkwardness of those first encounters. And the sweet earnestness of that young true love. Scott is the perfect first boyfriend. He is wonderful in just about every way and incredibly supportive of Charlie. Despite the fact that he is the popular golden boy of school, he adores Charlie and is never judgmental of Charlie’s more femme side. He loves and appreciates Charlie’s beauty and never asks him to be anything less than he is. Even though the end of this relationship is heartbreaking, we can also see how being with Scott helps to make Charlie into the man he becomes and gives him the confidence to be the person he really wants to be in life.
The second section is harder, both because as I reader I was so emotionally invested in Scott, but also because Adan is a much harder man to like. I think this was a really interesting choice by the author, and a good one. Charlie needs someone different than Scott for the story to work. And as readers, we needed someone different too. Adan starts out as sort of a callous jerk. He is attracted to Charlie (who he knows as “Chase”) but doesn’t want to be. He has a careful plan for success as a lawyer and to prove to his disapproving family that he can achieve great things, and a femme dancer and self proclaimed queen like Charlie has no place in his life. But Adan finds himself inexplicably drawn to Charlie, and while he first wants nothing but some easy sex, soon finds himself falling for Charlie despite himself. But even as it is clear that Adan loves Charlie, and Charlie loves Adan in return, Adan is still not really a likable guy. But their relationship shows us how much Charlie has grown over the years, how much confidence he has in himself and a determination to be exactly who he is. I love the small connection here from the lessons Charlie learns from Scott that he should never compromise himself, that Charlie then turns around on Adan when he wants him to be something other than who he truly is. I loved the way these two very different men play such a significant role in making Charlie the person that he becomes.
And the last portion of the book focuses on the three men reuniting. I will be vague on the details here to avoid spoiling some significant events, but I will just say the three men reunite and there is an opportunity for them to all three be together. Again, the author really shows us how far these three men have come over the years (it has been about 20 since the start of the book). All three have grown. Charlie has come into his own as a dancer and a choreographer. He knows who he is and what he wants out of life. Scott and Adan have both matured as well. Neither were ready for a real relationship with Charlie in the past. Scott was too young with too much of life to still handle. And Adan was too immature, too focused on appearances and other people’s opinions to realize what he really wanted out of life. Adan’s growth is the most significant, mostly because he has the farthest to come. And it is the author’s credit that I ended up loving him, despite his rocky start. The three men are fabulous together and all make a perfect family.
Ok, and yes, there is a highly improbably coincidence here that makes it work. And both Adan and Scott are very quick to be sure they want Charlie as part of their lives again. But this worked for me as well. Partly because there is a long, slow growth into the actual relationship between the three of them. And also because by then I was so emotionally invested in seeing these guys work that I wanted the payoff. I needed them to be together and I was thrilled have it happen, even if I had to just accept things on a little romance novel magic.
So I totally adored this story and it is my favorite for sure by this author. I loved the slow sweetness to the story. It is actually fairly light on the sex, at least by this author’s standards, but at the same time, the passion and intensity between these men when they are together is amazing. Just the smallest scenes are so heated and meaningful. They are so sexy and romantic and loving that I just adored them. I loved Charlie’s humor and narration, loved the way the story builds one relationship at a time until ultimately it all comes together. I just adored the whole thing. Exceptionally well done and highly recommended.