The Nothingness of Ben, by Brad Boney
A worthy debut novel
Story blurb: Ben Walsh is well on his way to becoming one of Manhattan’s top litigators, with a gorgeous boyfriend and friends on the A-list. His life is perfect until he gets a phone call that brings it all crashing down: a car accident takes his parents, and now he must return to Austin to raise three teenage brothers he barely knows.
During the funeral, Ben meets Travis Atwood, the redneck neighbor with a huge heart. Their relationship initially runs hot and cold, from contentious to flirtatious, but when the weight of responsibility starts wearing on Ben, he turns to Travis, and the pressure shapes their friendship into something that feels a lot like love. Ben thinks he’s found a way to have his old life, his new life, and Travis too, but love isn’t always easy. Will he learn to recognize that sometimes the worst thing imaginable can lead him to the place he was meant to be?
About the author: Brad Boney lives in Austin, Texas, the 7th gayest city in America. He likes to tell stories about the hot boys in his neighborhood near the University of Texas. Brand new to M/M fiction, he plans to set all of his books in Austin and hopes to become an ambassador for his city. He grew up in the Midwest and went to school at NYU. He lived in Washington, DC and Houston before settling in Austin. He blames his background in the theater for his writing of all time is 50 First Dates. His favorite gay film of the last ten years is Strapped. He has never met a boy band he didn’t like. The books he’s rated say a lot about him.
Review by Gerry Burnie
Ordinarily I don’t read contemporary western novels. They tend to be little more than gratuitous romps in the sack, barn, hayloft, bunkhouse, or any other place where they can get horizontal, with a bit of narrative thrown in as a makeshift plot. Happily, The Nothingness of Ben, by Brad Boney [Dreamspinner Press, 2012] is an exception. Oh, it is sexy enough, but it also has a plot and some decent writing going for it.
Gay Lawyer, Ben Walsh, is a young, upwardly mobile person; typically ambitious and self-centred, and in accordance with Maslow’s Theory of Hierarchy, he is far removed from his modest Texas beginnings. That is, until tragedy calls him back as guardian of his three younger brothers—the youngest being in the midst of his difficult, teenage years.
Decently (I think) he responds to the challenge, and that is when he meets Travis Atwood, a self-taught tradesman and Ben’s social opposite. Travis is also ‘straight’ (meaning he’s had no previous homosexual experience), but inevitably he and Ben hit it off sexually as well as otherwise.
The plot then winds its way through some minor challenges until is arrives at a happy resolution.
To that extent it is a nice story, and as a debut novel it is better than many: The writing is solid; the characters are interesting and well defined; and the plot and pace are both progressive. In other words, it can take its place on bookshelves or in ebook libraries quite unashamedly.
Nevertheless, I have some quibbles. For one thing the plot is far from unique. City boy (or ‘city-oriented boy’) ends up in a rural setting where he meets a handsome local and falls in love. Off hand, I can think of half-a-dozen novels with approximately the same theme, so it is becoming just a bit trite. I also agree with some other reviewers who found it a little Utopian and short on angst (contrast). On this point, however, I must admit that I hate to knock my characters around as well, but even taffy requires salt.
Nonetheless, I will say categorically that the strengths of Boney’s writing outweigh the shortcomings. Besides, as I always say, your tastes may be different from mine. Three and one-half bees.
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