Blueberry Boys, by Vanessa North
Riptide Publishing (November 30, 2015)
Rating: 4 out of 5
* I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. *
Connor Graham is a city boy—a celebrated fashion photographer in New York. When his uncle’s death drags him back to the family blueberry farm, all he wants to do is sell it as quickly as he can. Until he meets his uncle’s tenant farmer.
Jed Jones, shy and stammering, devout and dedicated, has always yearned for land of his own and a man to share it with. Kept in the closet by his church, family, and disastrous first love, he longs to be accepted for who he is. But now, with his farm and his future in Connor’s careless hands, he stands to lose even the little he has.
Neither man expects the connection between them. Jed sees Connor—appreciates his art and passion like no one else in this godforsaken town ever has. Connor hears Jed—looks past his stutter to listen to the man inside. The time they share is idyllic, but with the farm sale pending, even their sanctuary is a source of tension. As work, family, and their town’s old-fashioned attitudes pull them apart, they must find a way to reconcile commitments to their careers and to each other.
This is a story about two men from the same small town who ended up on very different paths, but still managed to find each other in the end. It’s beautiful, with a slow-build romance and a potential for heartbreak that lingers over every page.
“No, I mean, may I take your portrait?”
Jed’s face shuttered. “W-what for?”
“Because the first hour after sunrise, the world turns gold and gorgeous. Any minute now, the light is going to catch every bush here on fire– it’s going to be amazing. You’re here, you’re part of it, and I’d like you to be in the photograph.”
Connor escaped the small town of his youth as soon as he was old enough, heading for New York City and his dreams of becoming an openly gay fashion photographer, and never looking back. Jed, on the other hand, is everything that Connor is not. He’s deeply religious, in the closet, and has never strayed far from the town he was raised in.
The relationship between Jed and Connor was gorgeous, lyrical, and I loved the way they were able to understand each other’s world. Connor’s photography, and the way he views everything as art, and Jed’s ability to understand emotions even when he can’t speak them properly, both were really beautifully written. The relationship was organic (like Jed’s blueberry crop!) and read almost like poetry at times.
The first time I read it, I didn’t think the conflict in the story held much weight. The impending sale of the farm, and the effect it would have on Jed, lingered in the background like a lurking monster, but didn’t really seem to have much impact on the story. I was hoping for more drama, more angst, to help drive the plot and the emotions.
After reading the book a second time, though, I decided to bump my rating up. Jed is really such a fantastic character, and the book is just so lovely that I realized it doesn’t need conflict.
The story was really beautiful. I can’t say that enough… every scene was like an artistic photograph, and the relationship was exceptional.
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