Anthony Ashley's Reviews > The Cranberry Hush

The Cranberry Hush by Ben Monopoli
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's review
May 01, 2011

really liked it
Read from April 30 to May 01, 2011

The self-publishing bubble has not only created some new names as surprising best-sellers, it has also loaded genre lists on Amazon and B&N with a whole lot of crap. I've been burnt so frequently since buying my Kindle that I won't buy anything anymore if I haven't previewed it. So, yesterday, I was doing a whole lot of previewing when I came across this story, and I was pleasantly surprised. Only my glancing up at the clock at 1:00am last night prevented me from reading it in one sitting.

If you read reviews about this book, you'll roll your eyes and think, "Okay, typical gay male fantasy - gay guy falls in love with straight guy - things happen, and they live happily ever after (or at least have a really hot roll in the hay)." Author Ben Monopoli knows that's what you're going to think, so you spend the first several minutes getting to know the protagonist - Vince, a geek out of college a few years, managing a comic store with two other geeks, one with whom there seems to a romance in the making. At the pace Vince starts his day and lives his life, you get the feeling that any romance he might be contemplating will probably pass him by before he acts on it. And, then someone comes dragging up a snow-filled street, someone he thought he had buried in his past, and in his heart - forcing Vince to confront a desire that was holding him back from getting on with his life.

Vince, of course, being half-gay, is a person well in touch with his emotions - slightly. He feels things deeply, interprets everything emotionally - but, if you knew him in real life, he would never let you know it. There's a stoic wall around him, and he's been hurt enough not to trust anyone near his heart - even the guy that always seemed like he might be "the one."

For fans of gay or m/m romance, this is not a "fantasy boyfriend rides up on white horse and saves the day" book. It is real. It is gritty. The emotional maturity of the characters seem slightly more evolved than the average twenty-something (for some reason, they always popped in my head as youngish thirty-somethings), but it is impossible to dwell on that - the mental torment Vince puts himself through with the men he wants, the men who want him, and the man he can't have ... it will leave you feeling emotionally spent, and never wanting to be reading too much of it without tissues nearby. It's like Brokeback Mountain without cowboys or the Nicholas Sparks ending.

This book succeeds where so many among the new emerging self-pubbed authors fail. This was not written by some hack who vomits out 12-15 books (should I say "booklets?") a year without the benefit of a second draft, or an editor. Ben spent time with these characters, with this story, and I for one will sit in eager anticipation for the next book that leaves his mind, his heart, and his fingertips.

This book was a JOY to read, and I happily recommend it!

"I have learned ... that memories aren't things that have to pile up and overwhelm you. They're just colors ... that shade all the new things you feel." (Ben Monopoli, The Cranberry Hush)
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