Author: Kaje Harper
Length: 10,000 words (35 pdf pages)
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
After the five years he spent with his last lover, Cade has come to regard Valentine’s Day as irrelevant – just another day when romantic chumps spend money they can’t spare to keep the chocolate and greeting card companies happy. But his lover, Lorin, has been dead for eight months. After struggling to get past his grief, and cope with his HIV positive status, Cade is beginning to think about getting on with his life. Joel, a young co-worker, is not the person Cade would have chosen to share his battered and tainted renaissance . But Joel may be just the man to unfreeze the romantic in Cade’s soul.
Yes, yes, a Valentine’s story in November. It’s not a huge role in the story though, so you can enjoy it anytime. Cade is not much into Valentine’s. His former lover had no use for it, and since that first fateful Valentine’s when he received nothing, he’s convinced himself he doesn’t care. Now that he’s been left HIV positive by his former lover, he doesn’t think there’s any chance of him ever celebrating anyway. However when the meds leave him dizzy, a young hot coworker, that Cade put out of his head as untouchable, especially given his status, offers to drive him home. Cade then takes a chance and invites him in and confesses his status, which no one at work knows. However Joel has a surprise, he may only be 22, but he’s been positive for four years, which starts Cade thinking maybe there could be something.
There is less here about the two men getting together, than about Cade coming to terms with his lover and the results of not only passing on HIV, but in dying and leaving Cade. Their relationship was on the cusp of breaking down, with Cade no longer content with their open relationship, but the diagnosis of Lorin kind of stalled them out until he passed away. It’s only been eight months since his death, and Cade’s not sure if he can or should move on. There is a lovely scene in the cemetery with an elderly woman which helps him to move forward.
You don’t find out much about Joel. He seems like a nice guy, but you never found out how he got the virus or much beyond the fact he is doing well and has a very positive outlook on life and is prepared to give Cade time. There is a cute epilogue where despite Cade’s assertions that Valentine’s is only a consumer rip-off, Joel’s special treatment brings out the romantic in Cade again.
I think it’s a very positive story of HIV folks. It doesn’t hide behind “all is perfect with meds now” as Lorin could not handle the meds and passed away and on the other hand Joel is perfectly healthy, and then there is the middle ground with Cade suffering from the side-effects of the meds. But it’s also not all gloom and doom, there is hope, there can still be love, that a diagnosis is not the end of your life. A well written story with a nice theme and worth a read, especially if you’re looking for stories with HIV positive characters.