Reviewed by Dan
TITLE: An Infatuation
AUTHOR: Joe Cosentino
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 106 Pages
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.
A Bittersweet Dreams title: It’s an unfortunate truth: love doesn’t always conquer all. Regardless of its strength, sometimes fate intervenes, tragedy strikes, or forces conspire against it. These stories of romance do not offer a traditional happy ending, but the strong and enduring love will still touch your heart and maybe move you to tears.
When we first meet Harold, it is current day, we learn he has a partner of nearly twenty years named Stuart and they are blissfully happy. We are also taken through a brief overview of their very structured lives. Up at 7am, dinner at 6pm, bed at 11pm, the full month’s menu on the refrigerator, with everything, including their volunteer hours on Saturdays, totally structured and scheduled. I always thought I was anal retentive, but after reading about Stuart, I realize I’m totally disorganized!
Harold is sitting down to write a story about his infatuation. Stuart reminds him to start the story twenty years ago so that the readers understand, and we’re off.
Next scene, we’re twenty years in the past and being introduced to Mario. Mario comes into Chemistry class late, and the teacher assigns him to be Harold’s lab partner. Only later in the book do we find out she had an ulterior motive.
Mario and Harold couldn’t be more opposite. Mario is a football player, the class president, and one of the popular crowd; and Harold is a red haired, tuba playing, nerd, and just happens to be gay…although he isn’t out and assumes no one knows.
When Mario asks Harold to help him with some of his courses, the plot thickens. Harold quickly develops feelings for Mario, but are they returned? Over the course of the story, Mario appears to get more and more drawn to Harold, who by this time is tutoring him in all his classes, as well as writing his college entrance essays for him.
Things start to fall apart though when Harold is attacked by a couple of Mario’s football buddies and almost raped. The only reason he isn’t raped is that Mario and Harold’s friend Hannah interrupt the potential rapists just as anal insertion is about to occur. The two guys get a one week suspension and then are right back at school, although they are thrown off the football team. The school principal brushes it aside by telling Harold that guys like Harold and he need to keep their heads down and not draw attention to themselves.
Harold’s heart is broken when Mario suddenly decides he is in love with the head cheerleader, and that they are going to get married eventually and what he and Harold have is unnatural and only a phase according to his priest. This has been driven home by Mario’s father telling him his uncle was gay and committed suicide by gassing himself in a car in a locked garage years before and that it was for the best because he was better off dead. The father also told Mario if he was like that he should do the same thing. This man also regularly beats his kids, so he is obviously a font of wisdom.
From there we are taken on a journey through the years, stopping at key events like a high school reunion to catch up on the boys. Harold is ever increasingly happy, Mario is the opposite. I’m not going to say any more, because it would be too easy to give away too much of the story.
I really enjoyed this book. Though I would be remiss if I didn’t say shame on you Mr. Cosentino for making this grumpy old bear get teary eyed at the ending. Great job! I recommend this book to anyone reminiscing about that one that got away.