Title ~ Walk With Me (Home Series #7)
Author ~ Cardeno C
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 7th February 2014
Genre ~ M/M Romance
Rating ~ 5 Stars
A Book in the Home Series
When Eli Block steps into his parents' living room and sees his childhood crush sitting on the couch, he starts a shameless campaign to seduce the young rabbi. Unfortunately, Seth Cohen barely remembers Eli and he resolutely shuts down all his advances. As a tenuous and then binding friendship forms between the two men, Eli must find a way to move past his unrequited love while still keeping his best friend in his life. Not an easy feat when the same person occupies both roles.
Professional, proper Seth is shocked by Eli's brashness, overt sexuality, and easy defiance of societal norms. But he's also drawn to the happy, funny, light-filled man. As their friendship deepens over the years, Seth watches Eli mature into a man he admires and respects. But when Seth finds himself longing for what Eli had so easily offered, he has to decide whether he's willing to veer from his safe life-plan to build a future with Eli.
The books in the Series are stand alone and can be read in any order.
We all have auto buy authors and Cardeno C has recently become one of mine so when I saw that his latest, but sadly last, in the Home series was up for grabs to review, I was first one in the queue shouting: Me! Me! Me!
Walk With Me was just what I wanted it to be. Sweet, sexy, funny and engaging. Done in a sort of "When Harry Met Sally" style, it charts the friends to lovers story of Eli Block and Seth Cohen over a period of thirteen years but Eli actually falls in love with Seth, way before the book starts, as he reminisces about the first time he first set eyes on him at summer camp when he was eleven and Seth was a youth counsellor but when we first meet Eli, he's eighteen, happily out and proud to his parents and making one of many outrageous, open plays for twenty seven year old Seth when he arrives in Emile City to continue his Rabbi training under Eli's father, Rabbi Avi Block.
Secretly Seth is just as taken with Eli, in fact the first time he sees him, this beautiful, shamelessly flirty young man takes his breath away but Seth isn't ready to admit to any possible feelings of attraction to another man, even though he's had them before. In essence it becomes clear if you're going to put a label on him, Seth is Bi but he shy's away from his feelings for men and just dates the odd girl. This isn't really a GFY trope, more a will they/won't they romance because over the years they constantly fight their feelings for each other, whilst settling into a deep friendship that you know one day will have to come to a head because no one can fight true love when its staring them in the face!
"So I was a serious guy who had never seriously fallen for anyone. And then Eli ran up.
He was holding a skateboard.
His hair was too long.
His jeans were too fitted.
His shirt was nonexistent.
He was my boss's son.
He was way too young.
And he was a he."
So that's the basis but like all good stories its how you get there that makes this such an enjoyable book. On the way Cardeno puts a lovely little twist on it by heading each chapter with a printed wedding invitation header that includes a great quote, theme of the wedding, couples names and the date, so through those, as milestones, we go on a journey that's not only funny, because those themed weddings don't always go to plan as poor old Seth finds out, and I got more than one giggle from them along the way, but they also highlight each stage of their relationship as it progresses from early (uneasy on Seth's part) crushing...through burgeoning solid friendship...to unavoidable hot for each other romance. Told from both POV's it shows how the misconceptions that tend to happen in this type of plot fuel the storyline and even though that's nothing new, because the two of them are so endearing it draws you in and you're caught up in all the hooha, urging them on to that foregone conclusion that we can see coming but for a long time eludes our lovely boys.
Now the thing is, if you're a fan of Mr C then you'll know that this writer is no slouch in the love scene department. This man writes HOT sex scenes and I mean HOT!!! Its part of what I love about his books. The connection and chemistry never fails to sizzle and many a time I've got pretty hot under the collar. But this story is really quite different in so much as sex doesn't actually happen until just over half way, because of course the whole idea is based on the long drawn out sexual tension that builds over the years as they dance around each other, and do you know what? I liked that just fine because when the long anticipated inevitable finally happens, OMG! its soooo worth the wait and the love scenes that follow are ultra sexy and high voltage electric. In fact between the sheets Seth is nothing short of surprising!! Shallow or not, that's partly what bumped it up to 5 stars and it wasn't just the sex, it was because suddenly all that build up exploded into some awesome on page chemistry that was palpable and I could really feel the love that had been simmering so long.
Eli is one lucky boy and I became one very satisfied reader!
One constant thread throughout the book is of course that its set in and around the Jewish faith and three of the characters are Rabbi's but never once did I feel I was reading a 'religious' book. Neither did the religion result in any negativity towards the gay aspect of the story which you tend to get in most books that mix the two together. Is the Jewish religion more forgiving? I honestly don't know but I do know one thing, it was a refreshing change to see their sexuality embraced and accepted by religious figures in a m/m romance! This isn't an angsty book as such, most of the conflict comes mainly from the pulling and pushing between them and apart from one slightly bigger misunderstanding, most of it is Seth's reluctance to give in to his feelings for Eli so the overall feel of the book is light and hopeful rather than dark and morose and I loved it.
There were guest appearances from the guys we've grown to love from the other books in the series and the ending was just perfect. Satisfying and truly romantic. If Cardeno had to wrap up this series then this story is a fitting end. Sad to see the last of Emile City but let's be honest if you keep your books like I do they're only a second away on your kindle or bookshelf, so you can revisit them all again and again and I intend to do just that. I've read and fallen in love with all three books in his Family Series so now its on to his shifters which have been waiting patiently, but far too long for their turn to hook me in!
Interview with Cardeno C
Macky: Hi Cardeno, thank you very much for gracing us with your presence on the blog today. Its lovely to have you here, talking about your new book. You've said that Walk With Me is the final book in your brilliant Home series which must be quite sad for you. What made you decide to put an end to the series now and how hard was it to make the decision?
CC: Hi, Macky. Thank you for this interview. It’ll be fun! The reason I decided to end the Home series is that I didn’t want it to drag. I started writing with these books and they hold a special place in my heart, so it was really hard to say goodbye. I hope to write a freebie short now and again to post on my website as a way to visit the characters, but I think more than seven books in a series of novels is probably too long and I want to end the series while it’s strong.
Macky: Some of my favourite parts in the book are the quirky wedding invitation chapter headers. I thought they were a genius way of charting Seth and Eli's romantic journey over the years, I laughed out loud at some of them and others really touched me. Did you start the story knowing that you were going to use them or were they an inspired afterthought?
CC: Thank you! The wedding invitations in Walk with Me came first. I do a rough outline of my books before I start writing them and for this book, that included coming up with drafts of each wedding invitation and the weddings that would go with them. I ended up moving a couple of them around during the writing process, but for the most part, things stayed according to plan. Paul Richmond, the artist who did the covers for the Home series books, took my text for the invitations and put it into actual invitation formats. (Did you see the great way he showed the zombie wedding?)
Macky: How did the idea for Eli and Seth's story come about? Do the characters 'speak' to you and if they do, how insistent are they until you finish their story
CC: Eli and Seth first made an appearance in He Completes Me (which is the second book I wrote in the Home series) and I knew at that point that they’d get a book. I have a lot of characters talking in my head and I decide which story to write based on when the last story in a particular series was published. I don’t like to go more than a year between books in a series so that’s one way to know what series is coming next. I like to alternate paranormal with contemporary when I’m writing, so that’s another thing that impacts what book I write next. And as far as Seth and Eli, I adore them and I wanted them to end the Home series. This way, readers have gotten glimpses of them along the way and the characters’ connections makes sense.
Macky: Both Seth and Eli's fathers are Rabbi's, who I believe are revered figures in the Jewish community but in the book there's no negative reactions from either of them regarding their son's sexualities, in fact they're extremely open, warm and loving, especially Eli's parents. Does that mean the Jewish faith is more accepting of homosexuality or was that just your own vision for the story?
CC: I can only speak to my experience with my religion. I’m Jewish and I go to a reform congregation (which is one branch of Judaism). The Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism devotes resources to LGBT rights (http://rac.org/advocacy/issues/issuegl/). Rabbis are considered teachers in Judaism. The reform rabbis and congregations in my community are absolutely as open to gay members as those I portray in my books. In fact, one congregation where I live has a gay rabbi who was recruited along with his husband and child, another has a lesbian rabbi who had a child while serving as the rabbi of her congregation, and yet another has a straight rabbi who does work with the Human Rights Campaign, has helped family members find resources for a transgender child to flourish, and presented an “It Gets Better” sermon on Yom Kippur, which is our holiest day of the year and the day most people attend synagogue. Hundreds of people of all ages sat together and repeated his message of “It Gets Better”. In case you’re interested in one rabbi’s take on this issue, here’s a link: http://www.reformjudaism.org/blog/2013/06/24/judaism-homosexuality-and-supreme-court.
Macky: Let's talk about sex! She says blushing slightly. My inner smut monster has to ask about your awesomely hot love scenes. Do you find them easy to write and how important are they to you in your own novels? In Walk With Me you keep us waiting quite a while for some smexing but I must say when it finally arrives its WELL worth the wait! **fans self** Were you not itching to get them together sooner though?
CC: Yes! I like writing sex scenes and mushy lovey-dovey scenes. They’re my favorite scenes to write, actually, so when the trajectory of a book doesn’t call for those scenes until later, I grumble the whole time I’m writing. (Me: “Damn it. They’re never having sex. This is ridiculous. The next book I write will be all sex. I mean it. Really.”) But depending on the characters’ relationship, as much as it pains me to admit it, the sex can’t come until later in the book so, alas, I have to suffer through relationship building before I can get my guys naked and sweaty.
Macky: Okay, probably a hard question but out of all the couples from the Home series, who has been your favourite? Or is that being really cruel? Like asking you to choose your favourite child! *evil grin*
CC: I absolutely cannot answer that question and it’s not even because I don’t want to admit the answer, but it’s because there is no way for me to choose. I can’t write a character unless I know him. Before I write my books, I live with the guys in my head and learn who they are and why they do what they do. I genuinely like my characters (even the ones with more flaws than others) so it’s impossible to choose a favorite. There might be some who I’d spend more time with than others in real life, but at the end of the day, I like them all or I wouldn’t live with them in my head long enough to write their books.
Macky: Alongside the Home books you've also been writing the Family and Mates series' and quite a few standalone short stories and novellas. Do you tend to concentrate on finishing one book before you start a new one and dare we ask... are there any new projects on the horizon?
CC: Yes, I write one book at a time. My brain is pretty linear and when I say I live with my characters in my head when I’m writing them, I mean it. To me, my characters are different from book to book and their voices and personalities are different. This is especially true for books I write in the first person, though it applies to third person too. That means I have a couple of characters at the front of my mind when I’m writing their story and I’m going through the path of their journey. Interrupting that journey with other characters would really throw off my writing voice.
As far as new books, I have a shifter novel I co-write with Mary Calmes being released in April; it’s called Control. Then in May I have a standalone novel about a rock star and a bartender/adventure seeker/accountant; it’s called Perfect Imperfections. And I just finished the next book in the Mates series.
Macky: And how on earth do you manage to juggle working, volunteering your time to gay rights organisations AND writing? That’s multi tasking at its best! Are you hoping that one day you can give up your day job and just concentrate on being a successful author! *Winks*
CC: Finding a way to juggle everything is always a challenge. I never have enough time to do as much as I wish I could, but staying organized helps (lists, charts, calendars – yes, I’m that nerdy). Writing full time would be wonderful but I don’t think it’ll ever happen for me. What I aim to do is find more writing time in my day (and night – damn you, sleep, leave me alone!) so I can write more and that’s been working so far, which makes me very happy.
Macky: Have you always wanted to be a writer and was M/M a genre you knew well before you decided to write within it?
CC: I never considered being a fiction writer until about the time I sat down and wrote my first story, which was Where He Ends and I Begin. I hadn’t read romance novels at that point and I had no idea there were gay romance novels out there. What drove me to write the book was a sense that so many movies and shows I saw had gay characters who were killed or hurt or deeply miserable and after seeing this over and over again, I started feeling like it was a punishment, like these people weren’t allowed to be happy and healthy and strong AND gay. And I’m talking about movies where the gay characters are the main characters, movies targeted toward a gay/welcoming audience. That vision of life doesn’t match what I see in the world around me.
Yes, there are tragedies and sadness and family trouble. I know. Those things are real and true. But my life experience is that people as a whole are resilient and strong. I see people move past the hard times and make their own happy futures. I see people learn and grow and build lives and communities and families around them. I see people who use their experience and wisdom to make choices that allow them to live the kinds of lives they want on their terms and to be satisfied and happy with those lives. That’s my reality and I wanted to share it.
My first step on that path was writing the beginning of Where He Ends and I Begin and publishing it on a free website. When I got notes from readers telling me they liked it and to write more, I did. After that story came another and then readers suggested that I try my hand at publishing the online stories into books. They told me about Dreamspinner Press so I went to their website, bought a few books, and then submitted my own.
Macky: I love how you say you're a hopeless romantic and it really shows in your stories but do you really believe in love at first sight or insta love as we tend to call it in book speak. Its something you use quite a lot in your stories.
CC: I believe in instant attraction. I think there are some relationships that are built over time and don’t start out with any attraction, but, personally, I think those are the minority. I think the more common experience is something clicking right away, a spark, a feeling that we want to spend more time with a person. If we have that spark on the first date and the other person feels the same, then we have date two, and then date three, etc. Those things build and grow into a relationship but they started with that moment of initial attraction. They start with that first date that we leave and call our friends and say, “Oh my god, he was so great!”
Macky: As a writer of gay romance does it bother you that LGBTQ authors and fiction don't really get the recognition they deserve in the mainstream book world and do you envisage that ever changing?
CC: I’ve never given that any thought. I write the stories I want to write with the messages I want to send for the readers who enjoy them. Doing that is an amazing honor for me and all I can feel about it is good.
Macky: Which writers have inspired you, and within the genre of M/M who are your own personal favourites?
CC: I’m inspired by all sorts of writers – some of them write books, some write news articles, some write blogs, some write Facebook posts, some write wedding invitations, etc. Life is inspiring. People are inspiring. I hope I’m learning and growing from all those things.
Macky: If any of your books could be made into a film, which one would you choose and do you have an idea who you would pick to play the leads? In fact when you're writing your guys do you base them on real people in your head?
CC: Oooooh, a movie. Wow. That would be the most amazing thing ever. Hmmm, which book? Movies often need fight scenes so maybe one of the Mates books? Or maybe movie watchers would enjoy hearing Zach from He Completes Me tell them to fuck off? Or maybe watching Ben’s journey to find himself and build his family in Just What the Truth Is would resonate with movie goers who like to see someone improve himself? Or maybe people would just want to see Emilio from Strong Enough naked? Is that just me? Okay, moving on.
Oh, and the characters are real in my head, but no, they’re not based on any particular person.
Macky: Well Cardeno its been an absolute pleasure having you with us today on Sinfully Sexy. I've had the best time reading and reviewing Walk With Me, which I loved but getting the chance to interview you has been the icing on the cake! So from myself and all your fans, I'll end by sending you a huge hug and a heartfelt thank you! Please keep writing because we'll definitely keep reading! Oh and thanks for helping me pop my interviewing cherry... Couldn't have done it with a nicer person! Lol.
CC: Hahahah! Thanks, Macky. I loved this interview and I’m glad you liked the book (really, super glad).
About Cardeno C
Cardeno C. - CC to friends - is a hopeless romantic who wants to add a lot of happiness and a few "awwws" into a reader's day. Writing is a nice break from real life as a corporate type and volunteer work with gay rights organizations. Cardeno's stories range from sweet to intense, contemporary to paranormal, long to short, but they always include strong relationships and walks into the happily-ever-after sunset. Cardeno feels that characters write their own stories and just hopes to find enough time to get those stories on the page.
Cardeno's Home, Family, and Mates series have received awards from Love Romances and More Golden Roses, Rainbow Awards, the Goodreads M/Romance Group, and various reviewers. But even more special to CC are heartfelt reactions from readers, like, "You bring joy and love and make it part of the every day."
Cardeno will be gifting one very lucky reader an eBook of Walk With Me… all you need to do is leave a comment and enter the Rafflecopter below.