The Boys and the Bees, by Mari Donne
A truly gentle and romantic romance
The only interesting thing about Why Yell, Iowa, is its name, so when Mark Johansen left for college, he didn’t plan to return. But his family has other ideas: his father manipulates him into a job he hates and his mother uses him as a patch for coping with his siblings’ problems.
When Mark runs into Jamie Novotny after a particularly bad day at work, he’s surprised to find the quirky kid he knew in high school has grown into a driven eco warrior. But the shock of finding Jamie working in the local co-op pales compared to his astonishment when Jamie confesses he’s had a crush on Mark for years.
Their first night together leaves Mark happy but disoriented, but their second leaves him bereft. He’s unable to find Jamie because he refuses to use cell phones, fearing their environmental impact. Mark’s usual stoicism splinters, and he can’t stop himself from tracking Jamie down. When their lives collide, Mark makes room in his heart and his house for Jamie—but what Jamie really wants is for Mark to man up.
Review by Gerry Burnie
I must admit that it was the cutesie title, i.e. The Boys and the Bees, by Mari Donne [Dreamspinner Press, November 28, 2012] that first caught my attention. I also must admit that I expected it to be more erotic than it is—but that’s a good thing. Between plot and sex, plot wins with me every time. In fact, The Boys and the Bees is a very gentle love story devoid—for the most part—of angst, archenemies, and anxious soul-searching.
However, editorially speaking, Mark frustrated me. It wasn’t for lack of development, because he is quite vivid; rather, it was because he was such a ‘milk toast—everyone’s patsy—especially his usurious parents and siblings. Of course, I understand why the author chose to characterize him this way. She needed some room for him to grow when he meets Jamie, and that’s fair enough.
I liked Jamie, even though I generally dislike over-zealous ‘causers’ of any kind, but I thought he exhibited a nice balance. After all, he did work at the local co-op. The pace was appropriate, too, which suited both the story and the small town setting.
So, I guess my only quibble is the lack of an original plot. As well-written as this story is, and it is, it seems the last three books I’ve read have all had a similar theme: Small town boy returns to find his high school friend, BFF, crush, etc., still there, and after some business (ranching, etc.) they settle down happily ever after.
Now these are books I selected at random, and from different sources, so it is not as though I went looking for a particular genre. Nonetheless, individually, they are all good reads.
That said, I recommend The Boys and the Bees as a truly gentle and romantic romance. Three and one-half bees.
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