Music Box

John C. Houser
Music Box
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Release Date
January 2014
Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ

When bullies chase Jonah Winfield to the front step of Avakian Music, owner Davoud Avakian intervenes and offers Jonah sanctuary among the lush chords of the Music Box's Steinway Grand. Jonah's sexuality isn't a problem for Avakian, but it's an issue the kids at school won't allow Jonah to forget—whether he's ready to deal with it or not. When the bullying escalates to violence, Jonah's favorite music teacher, Mr. Gaston, wants to take the bullies to the principal.

Speaking up for his favorite student may bring Paul Gaston's own sexuality up for debate, and with budget cuts looming, he's already on shaky ground. Forcing Jonah to do anything will only make matters worse. Getting Jonah's cooperation requires earning his trust and helping to preserve the sanctuary of the Music Box. But the generations old music store handed down to Davoud is on the verge of bankruptcy. If Paul and Davoud can't figure out how to turn the business around, everyone will feel the loss.

Book Review by Pat Henshaw (author,reviewer)
Feb 09, 2014   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
158 people found the following review helpful
Rarely are gay romances about men in middle age, so this interesting, well-written gem, despite its themes of bullying, gay bashing and suicide, shines.

When musical prodigy Jonah Winfield is bullied by two jocks outside Avakian music store, its owner Davoud hauls Jonah inside. There, Davoud learns that Jonah is a musical genius when Jonah sits down at the piano and plays a classical piece after only hearing it once on the radio.

Davoud is incensed about Jonah being bullied and talks to Jonah's high school music teacher, Paul Gaston, who passes on the message to the school principal. But since Jonah won't name his assailants and Davoud doesn't know the boys, there's nothing anyone can do until they either catch the boys in the act or Jonah reveals their names.

Like all high school kids, Jonah knows that stopping his assailants isn't possible through suspension or expulsion. So when he finds "faggot" written on his sax case, he decides to come out not only to the kids at school, including his friend Billy, but also to his parents, who take the news well.

But the bullying doesn't stop, and it takes Davoud and Paul, both gay men who in midlife aren't in relationships and have lost hope of ever finding love, Davoud's extended family of musicians, and Jonah's parents to protect the boy.

John C. Houser uses a gentle hand in telling the story, making Davoud and Paul the kind of men to get involved in the problems of a troubled teen even though neither knows the boy or each other well.

Davoud has his own problems with the music store located in the Music Box building, an old hotel that his family owns and turned into a residence. The store is losing money, the building is falling down around him, and his mother and brothers are coming home from their music tours for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Davoud is the reliable one, the one the family counts on to keep the enterprise going even during hard times without their financial help. Jonah and Paul are just the ones to wake him up and make him believe that he deserves more out of life.

Paul is equally likeable as the dedicated teacher who, during cutbacks and reassignments, works to stay on because he cares about his students. He wants his school to be better than the high school he attended where bullying and gay bashing were the norm. Like Davoud, he goes out of his way to help Jonah survive and flourish.

Along with a gentle, believable romance, Mr. Houser asks hard questions about how non-tolerance policies should be upheld and what people both inside and outside the school environment can do to stop practices that are harmful both to individuals and the community.
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