Title: Imperfect Match
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Length: 162 Pages
At a Glance: This isn’t a story of two people building a relationship; it’s the story of a man realizing he’s not imprisoned by circumstance and then constructing a new life where there’s now the potential for a relationship, and it works perfectly.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: A man whose future is assigned – A heart that yearns to be free.
Lee Kennedy’s destiny is controlled by the Algorithm. It’s the reason he’s still in college, regardless of his good academic performance. He’s switched his major repeatedly and stalled on his Master’s thesis, but there’s only so much longer he can hold out. Because once he graduates, the Algorithm must be triggered.
Everyone in Lee’s family has allowed the Algorithm to match them with a spouse. As has everyone on his block. His neighborhood. In fact, everyone he’s ever known. Pairing with his own chosen match seems inevitable…until, at his sister’s wedding, he meets Roman.
The waiter lives in the Taxable District, a run-down neighborhood that’s only a brief train ride away, but feels like another world. The seedy District is governed by different standards—different expectations—so it’s not exactly a surprise that Roman isn’t married. But it’s definitely a shock to taste his lips.
One forbidden encounter has Lee reeling. He questions everything. His past. His future. And especially the Algorithm. He longs for the freedom to choose not only his own partner, but his own destiny.
When defying the Algorithm will cost everything—family, home, and even livelihood—is Lee strong enough to take another path?
Review: One thing author Jordan Castillo Price delivers on in a consistent basis is a story where the relationship of the characters to their settings and, conversely, the relationship of the settings to the characters is as integral as the plots themselves. Whether it’s a medium in ghost-ridden Chicago, a drifter vampire and his moody lover who’d meant to hunt and stake him, or a reality show about magicians staged in a mansion, there’s always an extra layer of something just that little bit different that elevates Price’s books above their romantic elements. In the case of this latest novella, Imperfect Match, it’s the post-plague, distant futuristic setting which is integral to the division between Lee Kennedy and Roman Sharp and also makes a few relatable statements that coincide with their opposite side of the tracks relationship.
Lee has made a professional student of himself at nearly thirty-years-old, not because he is addicted to studying and furthering his education but to avoid the inevitable consequence of graduating. Lee will be forced to trigger the Algorithm that will introduce his destined mate. His destined female mate. Which is a problem because Lee is gay, and being gay in the Benefits Sector where the default heteronormative married, 2.2 kids and the white picket fence composite house leaves him an outlier, not to mention fearful of his future, and meeting Roman was, by turns, one of the best and worst things to happen to him. I love the subtle nuances imparted on Lee—the fact that he’s a student of language but often finds himself without the right words; the fact that he’s a student of language who often manages to say the wrong thing; the fact that he has a tendency to apologize for lack of anything better to say; the fact that he’s a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. How much he cares that his sister is about to marry a stranger. It’s the little things which stand out in that they aren’t glaring and yet are recognizable as part of his characterization.
Roman, on the other hand, is the guy from the wrong side of the tracks who knows exactly who he is and is entirely comfortable in his own skin. Less flatteringly coined a Tax Rat, Roman is a cater waiter from the Taxable District, which, in more relatable terms, would be the seedier part of town where the working poor struggle to get by and are virtually ignored. The difference in his and Lee’s lives is quantified by so much more than a simple cross street that divides Sector from District; they’re separated by privilege, by opportunity, by Lee’s ignorance of what life in the District is truly like for its residents—a place where currency comes in the form of contraband not coin. Their initial meeting isn’t as antagonistic as it could have been, but it isn’t simple either. Lee’s fears and insecurities and awkwardness as well as the fact that he can’t mask the obvious markers which identify him as a Boomer, much to his embarrassment, make their first attempt at intimacy a bit of a disaster. But it also triggers a longing in Lee, one that he can’t allow himself to hope for, because to hope would be to do harm to someone he doesn’t even know.
For an opposites attract story to work, the characters must be either complementary opposites, or they have to find a way to meet somewhere in the middle—to reach a compromise without compromising who they are—and I love the way Lee evolved in this story. Lee didn’t change who he was, he just became who he was always meant to be, and it works perfectly. This isn’t a story of two people building a relationship, so don’t go into it looking for romance. This is the story of a man who is offered an unexpected gift, that of realizing he’s not imprisoned by circumstance, and then he goes about constructing a new life in which the potential now exists for the relationship he wants. Not with his assigned wife but with a man he could definitely love, someone Lee chooses, someone who may not be perfect but who is a perfect match for Lee.
You can buy Imperfect Match here:
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