Blueberry Boys: These blueberries will leave their mark…
Welcome to 2016 and this year’s first review: Blueberry Boys by Vanessa North. Quick recap for those who haven’t read any of my reviews yet and don’t know how I work. I find something nice to say about a book or you won’t see me review it. But to be quite honest with you, I like most of the books I read, I really do, even if sometimes they force my hand, challenge long held preconceptions or teach this old dog a new trick or two.
I don’t read a lot of romance novels. I don’t need an escape from a dreary life. I’m happy. Yes, I like a happy ending, but romance? The genre is simply too predictable (person meets person and they’re put through hell until they get their happily ever after.)
So why did I read Vanessa’s book? Three reasons, well four actually: 1) the book has been very highly rated in my circles which piqued my curiosity, 2) I have made myself a goal to read all authors I know personally, and I’ve met Vanessa last fall at GRL and 3) I can’t resist blueberries… The antioxidants? Wow! Oh, and 4) did I mention that Vanessa’s hair is blueberry blue? Oh yes! Totally…
The plot is, in short, very standard M/M Romance, which means “boy meets boy and they’re through hell until they get their happily ever after”. However, the setting of the book, New England blueberry farm, the two protagonists, overweight photographer meets farmer, and the craftsmanship of Vanessa’s writing, make for a very interesting setup. Besides, I really did enjoy the fact that the main protagonists aren’t your typical romance pretty people. I’m not surprised that this book is so highly rated and appreciated. It’s very well deserved.
So what’s the “hell” they’re put through? Well, it’s America, so it’s gotta be religion somehow, and the acceptance of being gay in a religious environment, at least for one of our two protagonists. Photographer has already left that life behind him and is “out and proud”, not to say he doesn’t have demons to battle. And while the whole religious angle is “old” and a bit “meh” if you’re me, I get how important this still is for many Americans. Vanessa stays clear of turning Jed, the farmer, into the victim of a vicious clan (his family aren’t Duck Dynasty if you catch my drift, but normal decent people.) As for Connor, the photographer, his demons are more about his troubled relationship to his brother and the uncle who passed away and prompted the return to the family farm.
There is a gritty realism in Vanessa’s writing. It’s edgy, urgent, pulsating with life, contemporary and very believable. As a gay man, I like books where the characters might actually exist, and Vanessa’s Connor, Jed and the others, definitely came to life before my inner eyes. That is something not every author out there accomplishes.
As an author, I think the highest praise we can get is if we move people to tears. Making people laugh is relatively easy (stand-up comedians might disagree), but making people cry, that is hard. We live in a society where tears are still seen as a sign of weakness. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more.
Tears are the physical manifestations of our soul, and to shed them is the ultimate sign of strength.
When you cry, because of laughter or pain, you make yourself vulnerable, and only strong people are vulnerable. Weak people put up defenses, they shield their emotions from others and mostly themselves from anything and everyone. As an author, I pride myself in every tear my readers shed, and nothing pleases me more than the many letters I receive from people who curse for having bawled their eyes out! I can proudly say that I shed some tears reading Vanessa’s book.
Thank you Vanessa for sharing this story with the world. I look forward to seeing you again soon.
Blueberry Boys is available from Amazon as e-book or paperback or directly from the publisher.
Please come back on Monday as I take on editors… If you are an editor, you may not want to miss this!
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Have a wonderful weekend.