Tanner Sellers runs Jesse’s Diner in Hope, Arizona. The diner was left to him by Jesse himself, and the man was his close friend and mentor before his sudden death a year and a half ago. Tanner is a quiet, simple guy who is happy with his life, though he can’t help his incredible attraction to Steve Faus. The problem is that Steve is also the father of Tanner’s best friend, Mike, not to mention Jesse’s widower.
When Mike asks Tanner to look in on Steve, who seems to be having some stress at work, it is all Tanner can do to handle such close contact with the man who has been the subject of his fantasies since he was a teen. But Tanner is determined to help out and stops by with dinner for Steve. One night turns into more, as the two men spend time together and get to know each other better. Soon it becomes clear that Tanner isn’t the only one with a strong attraction, and as the emotional and sexual connection between them grows, Tanner and Steve might find long term happiness together.
Jesse’s Diner is a sweet, romantic, and sexy story. I was in as soon as I heard shy, virgin hero paired with a guy 17 years his senior. Totally catnip to me, and this story handles that trope so well. Tanner is so quiet, shy, and unassuming. He had a rough upbringing, has never had many friends, and is content with a simple life. But at the same time, he has harbored this intense attraction to Steve for years, a guy he thought he could never have. Then we have Steve, who settled down young with Jesse and knows what it is like to be with an older man. A young widower at 39, Steve is ready to find someone else to share his life with. Steve is patient, kind, and sexy. I enjoyed the interplay between them. Steve is all about taking it slow and giving Tanner time, and Tanner is ready to finally get his hands on this hot man he has been lusting after for so long. They are a nice couple, and story really focuses on the development of their relationship and falling in love.
One of the things I enjoy about Cardeno C’s writing is most of the author’s works are sweet, sexy, romantic, and fairly angst free. And this story definitely falls into that category. However, at times that can translate into things being too neat and simple, and I found that here to some extent as well. The biggest issue for me is the fact that Steve is dating his son’s close friend, and yet Steve and Tanner never address it. It is like this elephant in the room, and I kept waiting for someone to bring up the issue that maybe Mike isn’t going to be so thrilled to find his good friend dating his dad, especially when his other father died only 18 months ago. Yet it never comes up, and to be honest, it made me wonder a bit about Steve that this was a total non-issue for him. Even if they ultimately decide to get together anyway, I wanted to at least see them take a moment to discuss it. I also found that these guys are in love awfully fast. First off, their friendship turns into full on love and commitment in about a month. I can kind of see Tanner’s attraction making way to real feelings that fast given how long it has been going on, though there is a difference between fantasizing about an older guy and actually knowing him as a potential partner. But Steve seemed awfully fast to go from widowed to in love with his son’s friend, even if we accept that he has felt a connection to Tanner since before Jesse’s death. I would have loved to understand more how Steve made this transition from parental figure to a young man who grew up with his son, to finding that same young man attractive in a romantic kind of way. Not to mention that the ending is so pat and tidy as to be almost over-the-top, though still adorable.
The thing is, despite these issues, I still really enjoyed this story. Yes, I can’t help but point them out, but I also didn’t really care that much. This story is about the dreamy romance, the fantasy of having the man you have been pining for suddenly really see you and want you. The fantasy of getting a second chance at love, of finding a second person with whom you can build a life. And that is where this story works so well, and sometimes that is just what I want. Sweet, super sexy, mushy, and romantic. And if you are in the mood for that type of story, I can definitely recommend Jesse’s Diner.