Today we welcome Jose Cosentino with
With his ten-year high school reunion approaching, Harold wonders whether Mario will be as muscular, sexy, and tantalizing as he remembers. As a teenager, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again, will the old flame reignite, setting Harold’s comfortable life ablaze? How can Harold be happy with Stuart when he is still infatuated with his Adonis, his first love, Mario? Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.
One Friday afternoon I accidentally ran into my hero in the boy's locker room. I’d had enough of the big guys banging me into gym lockers, pushing me into cold showers, and hanging me from the gym ropes. So I was on my way to give Mr. Adoni a note from Dr. Dlorah excusing me from gym class for the remainder of the school year (due to my highly contagious disease being studied by my doctor in Guatemala, where he could not be reached for the next year).
The locker room smelled of an odd combination of soap, cologne, sweat, and desire. Mario was getting ready for football practice, standing at his gym locker without a combination lock on it. Nobody would dare to break into it (Except for me that one time I smelled his jock strap. Okay maybe it was a few times, but not more than ten.). Mario slid his T-shirt (red today) over his thick, black hair and threw it on the nearby bench. No longer harnessed by cotton, his arm, back, chest, and neck muscles swelled to full size. I was half hidden behind the adjoining row of lockers, wearing my usual green and blue flannel shirt and brown corduroy pants. Mario, who wasn’t looking in my direction, said something really beautiful to me that I will never forget. “Hi.”
“Did you just? Oh. Hi. Hello. Good afternoon. Nice to see you. I mean, change with you.” I looked down at the floor (but cheated a bit) as Mario kicked off his boots, slipped off his jeans then threw them in the lucky locker. His red underpants (briefs) revealed ample manhood. This is better than the newspaper’s underwear ads!
“Good gym class today with Mr. Adonis, I mean, Mr. Adoni.” Did I just say that? “Harold High.”
“High.” How can I get my pulse down to 260?
“Hi.” Mario reached into his locker for his sweat clothes.
Shouldn’t people be doing that for you? “Oh, my last name is High. Like a kite.” How can I stop my arms from waving like an airport flagger on speed?
“Mario Ginetti. Like nothin’ else imaginable.” Mario smiled, revealing a row of perfectly white teeth, and held the sweat clothes in his hands as if he was mortal.
“I know. I watch your body play.” Why can’t I stop talking? “I mean, I watch you play … football … on the field … in your football outfit.” I feel like Michelangelo with his David!
As Mario put on his sweats, I continued to sweat.
“I'm voting for your body … I mean I'm voting for you for president of your … our … the student body.” I need my jaw wired shut. “I’m your lab partner in Chemistry class. Ms. Hungry’s class … I mean Ms. Hunsley’s class.”
His olive-colored face glistened as Mario’s face registered recognition—of me! “I thought I knew you from somewheres. Hey, thanks for doing the lab reports.”
“It’s my honor … I mean my pleasure. It’s fine. If you need help putting up posters for your campaign, I can … ”
Having just tied the laces of his sneakers, Mario stood absolutely still. He looked at me as if he was staring into my heart and somehow knew what I was feeling. “I gotta take a wicked piss.”
Can I watch?
“Thanks for helping me out, Buddy.” He slammed the locker door and left.
He called me, Buddy! My heart was as soft and silly as putty that Mario held in the palm of his hand like his soap on a rope.
What if we'd given love a real shot way back then?
What if he'd have been brave enough to try?
What if he'd never gotten married?
What if *I'd* never gotten married?
This book doesn't actually come right out and ask those questions, but they're on the reader's mind from early on in the book.
The story was not at all the story that I'd expected when reading the blurb. What I expected was cheating and deceit, lots of sex and angst, but the story that I read was most definitely not *that*. Which was pretty great.
From the first few pages, I had a feeling that this book was going to be entirely different than your typical M/M read. And it was.
My jaw literally hit the floor when the main character, Harold, was speaking to the reader about his infatuation with the other main character, Mario, but is interrupted by Stuart, his *husband* of 19 1/2 years, to remind Harold not to forget details about his relationship with *another* man. His first love, Mario.
But here's the thing. I know the story began in high school and aborted relationships that never came to fruition don't normally feel very deep in retrospect. But I never, not once throughout the book, felt that what Harold and Mario had way back then, or even later in the book, was an infatuation.
It was love. Plain and simple.
Well, simple is probably the wrong word, as homophobic family members and friends ultimately get in the way, but the feelings of love were right there on the page. Whether spoken or unspoken, in my mind they were real.
Mario: “Harold, you still love me?”And that's a bit how I think of Harold and Mario's relationship. Something that would begin with, "Once upon a time..."
Harold: I squeezed his hands. “Like I love every fairy tale my mother ever read to me as a child.”
The story spans from the time when Harold, the smart, witty nerd first speaks to Mario, the attractive, arrogant football player at age 17, until 20 years later.
Over the course of the story, we see the almost immediate connection between Harold and Mario, then they lose touch (as Mario flees to the relative safety of his closet, repeatedly) and then reconnect several times throughout the years.
“Harold, it’s really good to see you. I’ll give you a call.” He ran away.But each time that they are actually together, you can feel the connection, again, whether the actual words are spoken or not.
You don’t have my number. But I have yours. And it looks like it hasn’t changed.
It really is a great story, with lots of humor (from Harold's *constant* blurting and snarky inner monologue), genuine feelings and even a few tears from and for both of our would-be heroes.
There are some extremely unexpected plot twists, which do actually serve a purpose, so they do not come across as feeling gimmicky. Some of them I really enjoyed and some of which made me want to cry for what might have been.
Mario: “Harold, this reminds me of that poem you taught me about in high school by Robert what’s his name. Remember the red, red rose? Even though it goes away, after the snow and shit clear up, it comes back again in June… every ten years. Even though we can’t be together, Harold, you’ll always be my red, red rose.”And for those of you who avoid cheaters like cats avoid water, this is my official thumbs up that this book shouldn't affront those particular sensibilities.
Harold: I told you he was the best.
The author also did an amazing job of avoiding the 'angsty read' trap.
I highly recommend this very heart-felt, low-steam read with both its bittersweet *and* HEA ending.
4 1/2 stars for this tale of "what if's" and "the one that got away."
This book was provided to me by the author for a fair, unbiased review.
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After reading, Todd had some questions for Joe, who graciously provided the answers below:
Have you considered writing a shorter '1.5' companion story from Stuart's perspective, with what he was going through in his head over the 20 years that his husband held an old flame so closely in his heart? (If the book was missing anything, it was a bit more depth to Stuart's character and, being the MC's husband for two decades, that would have been nice to have.)
Todd, I’m thrilled that you and so many other readers liked AN INFATUATION. I’ve gotten lots of posts telling me the story made people laugh, cry, feel romantic, and stayed with them for some time. The novella is so personal for so many readers, and I’m told reading it changed their lives. As the author, this makes me glow with pride.
While the situation in AN INFATUATION is fictitious, Harold is based on me, so it isn’t surprising that the story is told from Harold’s perspective. AN INFATUATION is definitely Harold’s story. Like me, Harold has an unusual sense of humor. I really admire Harold’s resilience, honesty, intelligence, and ability to keep going in trying situations. His heart may be broken, but his spirit always stays intact. Harold’s devotion to his spouse, Stuart, is admirable, as is his honesty about his teenage infatuation with Mario. I love that the story spans twenty years so we see Harold (and Mario) develop and mature.
Stuart was great fun to write, because he is based on my spouse who is totally organized and a real list maker, but also sweet, creative, and caring. He creates an itinerary for our trips in ten minute time blocks! Perhaps one day I will do as you recommend, however, my take on it is that Stuart loves Harold more than life itself. He knows Harold is equally devoted to him. Stuart lets Harold play out his infatuation with Mario, knowing full well Harold’s heart will stay with him (Stuart). Stuart is that secure in his marriage and in his mutual devotion with his spouse.
Was there any particular reason why Stuart's character was written to be so very anal? All of that planning down to the minute was bordering on chronic and debilitating OCD.
Like Stuart, my spouse makes lists of his lists. I think it gives him a sense of security and control. It’s great for me because his time spent planning allows me more time to do all the things I do. I love Stuart’s reliability and structure. I think it makes Stuart feel safe, and makes Harold feel protected and loved. If you remember in the novella, Harold’s father was also quite an organizer. They say men marry their fathers.
There were several aspects of Harold's infatuation that I would have never thought to write, and my imagination is pretty vivid. Did you by chance have your own personal 'Mario' from which some of those unexpected plot points were drawn?
Many readers have commented positively on the unexpected twists and turns in the story. Mario is a combination of many guys I’ve known over the years as an actor. I incorporated bits and pieces of their stories into Mario’s story. I was thinking back to my high school days, and how difficult it was back then for a gay teen before GLSEN, PFLAG, and Will and Grace. Lab partners, gym locker rooms, and club meetings where super important. At my high school reunion, I realized things weren’t what they seemed back then. A story was born. It began as a one-act play then morphed and grew into the novella.
I know that some of our readers will want to ask, "Where was the sex?" Why did you choose to omit all on-page sex, even between Harold and his husband?
I think it is important that Harold and Mario come close on a few occasions but never actually have sex. As Harold realizes in the story, Mario is his infatuation, and Stuart is his husband. Harold and Stuart are affectionate but never have sex in the novella since it is primarily Harold’s story about his infatuation with Mario.
Any plans to turn this book into a series, possibly focusing on Harold and Mario 2.0, the twins?
That’s an interesting idea. Maybe someday.
I currently have two novel series. Whiskey Creek Press is publishing my Jana Lane mystery/romance series beginning with PAPER DOLL releasing March 5. PORCELAIN DOLL will follow in about six months. It’s about an ex-child star (now grown up) who has to solve the mystery of who attacked her on the studio lot at eighteen and who is after her now at thirty-eight. While the leading characters are straight, many of the supporting characters are gay.
Lethe Press is publishing my Nicky and Noah comedy mystery series beginning with DRAMA QUEEN releasing this summer, and DRAMA MUSCLE releasing about six months later. It is about a gay college theatre professor solving murders on campus while finding love. While it isn’t erotica, there are MM sex scenes in the Nicky and Noah series, so I hope you read it.
Since I was an actor and playwright, I hope all of my books will become movies. I want to play Mr. Ringwood in the film version of AN INFATUATION. So come on film producers, make me an offer I can’t refuse!
Thanks again, Todd, for the great review, and for your thoughtful questions about AN INFATUATION.
And then, because we're nosy, we asked some more questions:
What inspired you to start writing?
When I told my mother I wanted to be an actor, she said, “Take this knife and stick it through my heart.” I did it anyway, and acted on stage and screen with stars like Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Holland Taylor, Jason Robards, and Nathan Lane. It occurred to me that acting is storytelling in the same way that writing is storytelling, so I decided to give playwriting a try. When I told my mother I wanted to write fiction, she said, “Don’t you have anything better to do?” I wonder if Shakespeare’s mother said that? I knew my first novella would be a bit autobiographical, but have a universal theme.
What inspired you to write AN INFATUATION?
Hasn’t everyone been infatuated with someone? Think about your first infatuation. There’s nothing more powerful. I was thinking back to my high school days, and how difficult it was back then for a gay teen before GLSEN, PFLAG, and Will and Grace. Lab partners, gym locker rooms, and club meetings where super important. At my high school reunion, I realized things weren’t what they seemed back then. A story was born.
How long did it take you to write this novella, and what did you do the day that you finished it?
It began as a one-act play, which I expanded and morphed into a novella. So it took many months to write. The story is personal and important to me, so I wanted to get everything just right. Once I was confident that I had achieved just that, a la God, I announced to my spouse, “It is finished!” I have not had a better night’s sleep before or after that night—until I saw the gorgeous book cover!
Who is your favorite character from your novella? And why?
While the situation is fictitious, Harold is based on me, so it’s a no-brainer! Actually, I really admire Harold’s resilience, honesty, intelligence, wit, and ability to keep going in trying situations. His heart may be broken, but his spirit always stays intact. Harold’s devotion to his spouse, Stuart, is admirable, as is his honesty about his teenage infatuation with Mario. I love that the story spans twenty years so we see Harold (and Mario) develop and mature.
Which one of your characters was the hardest one to write? And why?
It is always hard for me to write homophobic characters. How nonsensical is it for someone to spend his/her time, money, and energy trying to hurt, belittle, or take away the rights of someone else? In most cases, the homophobic person is gay him/herself, and due to internalized homophobia, is battling with him/herself via the gay target. That is the case with the two homophobic characters in my novel.
Which one of your characters did you enjoy writing the most? And why?
Stuart was great fun to write, because he is based on my spouse who is totally organized and a real list maker, but also sweet, creative, and caring. He creates an itinerary for our trips in ten minute time blocks!
Is Mario based on anyone?
Mario is a combination of many supposedly straight, perfect guys who gay guys so easily become infatuated with every day. I love that Harold and Mario come full circle at their high school reunion.
Is AN INFATUATION your first novel?
It is my first novella. My first novel, PAPER DOLL (Jana Lane mystery 1), is published by Whiskey Creek Press. It is a mystery romance novel about an ex-child movie star. Since I was a professional actor, I was able to use my knowledge of show business to create a captivating, humorous, romantic, mystery with lots of plot twists and turns, leading to a surprising ending. Though the leading characters are straight, there are many terrific gay supporting characters, including an M/M romance.
What are you working on now?
I am currently writing a sequel novel to PAPER DOLL, entitled PORCELAIN DOLL. I am also working on an M/M comedy mystery series set in the world of academia. Since I am a college professor, I know that world quite well. Happily, nobody has been murdered at my college—yet. I am finishing the first three novels, DRAMA QUEEN, DRAMA MUSCLE, and DRAMA CRUISE. DRAMA QUEEN will be released by Lethe Press this summer.
Who is your favorite author to read?
Armistead Maupin has an amazing flair for writing eccentric, loveable characters with engaging and realistic dialogue.
What books have you read?
I’ve read all nine TALES OF THE CITY books by Armistead Maupin, every Agatha Christie novel and short story, and all of Greg Herren’s MM mystery novels. I also love the three Rainbow Boys gay young adult novels by Alex Sanchez.
How was the writer inside of you hatched?
As a kid I played make believe constantly. “Let’s put on a show!” was my motto. I played all the characters—male and female. Hm, that explains a lot. Thankfully my parents and teachers indulged me rather than committed me. I always enjoyed improvisation as an actor, and I see writing as an extension of that. It also keeps the mind sharp, which is much appreciated as I get older.
What genres do you work with as a writer?
Humorous, engaging, complex characters in interesting locations captivate me. Every one of my characters has a secret! I have used my knowledge of show business and the gay world to tell shocking, riveting, and entertaining stories.
As a reader, what elements of a story do you look for?
When I read a great piece of fiction, I feel as if I am the leading character, going through the story and experiencing all of the emotions right along with him/her. A terrific novel or novella lays out the plot and culminates with only one possible ending, unveiling various secrets along the way. I don’t appreciate novels, where authors lay out a story then arbitrarily pick an ending. The end must justify the means. And it needs to be fun, sexy, and tantalizing along the way.
Would you like to say anything to our readers?
I know this story will touch your heart, because it’s everyone’s story. We’ve all had an infatuation, and this novel is a testament to that. Please email me via my web site and tell me about your experience with the book. I also love answering questions about the novella, so let them fly.
Do you have a specific writing space at home?
I have a cozy study with a fireplace, window seat, and a cherry wood desk.
When do you write?
Since I am a college professor and busy during the day, I write late at night. I find being a little tired helps me not to stifle my thoughts, and allows for open creativity. Sometimes I’m surprised the next day at what I’ve written!
Is there a message in AN INFATUATION?
I love the anti-bullying message in the novella. I also think a theme is that it’s okay to fantasize about someone. Who designed the cover for AN INFATUATION?
Isn’t it terrific? Christie Caughie is the artist. I love how well she was able to capture the two leading characters. Let’s make the movie!
Where do you see yourself in five 5-10 years?
Winning an Academy Award for Best Screenwriter and Best Featured Actor (Mr. Ringwood) for AN INFATUATION. (You have to dream big)
About the author:
Joe Cosentino is the author of AN INFATUATION (Dreamspinner Press), PAPER DOLL Jana Lane mystery 1 (Whiskey Creek Press), DRAMA QUEEN Nicky and Noah mystery 1 (Lethe Press--releasing this summer), and THE NUTCRACKER AND THE MOUSE KING (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, INFATUATION and NEIGHBOR, were performed in New York City. He wrote "The Perils of Pauline," available on CDROM (through Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe received his MFA from Goddard College in Vermont, and MA from SUNY New Paltz. He is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York.
Think back to an infatuation you’ve had in the past. How old were you? How did you feel? What happened? Post a paragraph describing your experience with your email address and preferred electronic format. We at this blog will select the comment that tickles our libido the best, and forward your information to the author who will email the winner an electronic copy of AN INFATUATION.
The contest ends at midnight on March 6th, 2015.
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