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I’ve always marveled at the contradiction of hundred of thousands of mostly straight sports fans stomping their feet and clapping to “We Will Rock You” as done by Queen, probably the gayest rock band in history with the gayest front man ever. Something about that just tickles me–until they slop beer down the back of my neck. But whatever chord Queen struck, it resonates to this day with both fans and authors. In his newest novel for Beautiful Dreamer Press, Now I’m Here, Jim Provenzano uses his knowledge as a fan and his skill as an author to tell the story of two small-town Ohio boys.
Joshua Lee Evans had a musical gift from the beginning, and was fortunate enough to have parents who encouraged him to use those talents. David Koenig lived on a pumpkin farm and had a hateful, alcoholic father whose wife left him because of his temper and bad habits. It was love at first fight. But the maturation of those feelings was a long road, punctuated by music lessons and farm work. When it finally came together, however, the boys knew what magic it was. A stupid school streaking stunt (popular during the mid-Seventies, when this takes place) puts David in a “rehabilitation” camp for wayward youth courtesy of his father as Joshua leaves town for the big time after graduation, a cover version of “Bohemian Rhapsody” in his back pocket. They will come together again, rest assured, but even reunions are fraught with frailty in this sweeping, epic romance.
This story will confound your expectations. If this were a standard M/M book, Joshua would be a tremendous success. But he’s sent back to Serene, OH with his tail between his legs, having not lived up to his promise in Los Angeles. David fares better with life on the farm, but it all seems hollow after Joshua. You keep waiting for their reunion, and you’re giddy with relief when it happens–as it would in M/M. But Provenzano has one last slap in the face for you, which I won’t reveal since I’d rather not indulge in spoilers. If you’re looking for a HEA, however, forget it. And that’s fine with me. Life does not always have happy endings, and sometimes we have to work to find meaning when our characters are given a less-than-optimal finish.
All this would mean nothing in the hands of a lesser writer, but Provenzano has honed his craft and takes you on this dizzying ride with the able assurance of a pro. His rendering of the mid-Seventies is deadly accurate (and I should know, I was there too) and will bring a smile of remembrance to your face if you were coming of age then. He never missteps or falls short of the mark emotionally, either. The characters are all organic, built and embroidered on with well-chosen detail, and this never once feels false or contrived as many romances do.
So, even if you’re not exactly a Queen fan (and why not, I wonder?), you’ll enjoy this supremely well-plotted and populated romance. Highly recommended.
© 2018 Jerry L. Wheeler