I have had this title on my TBR list for quite a while and am a huge Amy Lane fan, so I was excited to have the opportunity to review the audio version.
Title: Behind the Curtain
Author: Amy Lane
Narrator: Hugh Bradley
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Story Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Narration Rating: 4.0 of 5 Stars
Overall Rating: 3.75 of 5 Stars
Dawson Barnes recognizes his world is very small and very charmed. Running his community college theater like a petty god, he and his best friend, Benji, know they’ll succeed as stage techs after graduation. His father adores him, Benji would die for him, and Dawson never doubted the safety net of his family, even when life hit him below the belt.
But nothing prepared him for falling on Jared Emory’s head.
Aloof dance superstar Jared is a sweet, vulnerable man and Dawson’s life suits him like a fitted ballet slipper. They forge a long-distance romance from their love of the theater and the magic of Denny’s. At first it’s perfect: Dawson gets periodic visits and nookie from a gorgeous man who “gets” him – and Jared gets respite from the ultra-competitive world of dancing that almost consumed him.
That is until Jared shows up sick and desperate and Dawson finally sees the distance between them concealed painful things Jared kept inside. If he doesn’t grow up – and fast – his “superstar” might not survive his own weaknesses. That would be a shame, because the real, fragile Jared that Dawson sees behind the curtain is the person he can see spending his life with.
My View – Story:
Dawson Barnes lives in a small Northern California town and leads a rather isolated life as a stage tech for the local college theater. When he literally falls at the feet of guest ballet professional Jared Emory, the two begin a sweet, long-distance romance with Jared making occasional trips up from Los Angeles to visit. However, as things begin to get more serious, it becomes apparent that Jared has baggage that he’s kept to himself – baggage that could easily break the dedicated dancer and end the romance before it’s truly begun. Dawson is determined to make the relationship work, but it will take more than that to convince Jared that he must overcome the ghosts of his past in order to be a part of the present and to have a future with Dawson.
This is a cute, lightweight story that centers around romance found in one of my all-time loves, the small theater. It was a pleasure to be back in the wings again, especially as Amy Lane described the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the meeting of the main characters, Dawson and Jared. This was a setting I could relate to and appreciate, though the reader definitely does not need to have a theater or dance background to enjoy the “scenes behind the scenes.” As a California native, I also enjoyed the descriptions of a region in my state that rarely gets mentioned in novels, the Central Valley and Sacramento foothills. I found myself nodding time and again at the iconic weather and terrain of the area: the horrid winter fog, the perpetually dry grasses, and the long, tedious drive that is Interstate 5. The unusual locale and the backdrop of small community theater helped to give this book a homey, cozy feel. Added to this is the element that I consider to be this author’s forte: vivid, colorful secondary characters that create the circle of loving family and friends. Amy Lane shines as she skillfully draws fully-fleshed and animated supporting personalities that leap off the page and steal the show. My favorite in this story has to be Amber, Dawson’s displaced young assistant with the knack for telling it like it is. She wormed her snarky way into my heart from the get-go, and I adored the quirky fun she brought to her scenes.
Unfortunately, characterization is also where this story fell a little flat for me. I was rather disappointed in the lack of development of the main characters, Dawson and Jared. The layers of their lives simply weren’t there, and I found myself getting frustrated with Jared’s baggage that never seemed to be fully opened, aired out, and resolved. He is such a brooding, lonely guy, and I was hoping to get a full disclosure of why he is so miserable. Yet his backstory, though told, is done too quickly and one-dimensionally with little opportunity for the reader to develop sympathy for him. As a result, his constant insecurities didn’t ring true and became somewhat annoying. Dawson, though sweet and likable, lacked a certain amount of depth necessary to make him believable as a twenty year old pursuing a famous dancer. I found it hard to understand Jared’s attraction to him outside of the family unit he provided. That being said, I did like his interactions with his best friend, Benji, another great secondary character whose relationship with Dawson was one of the highlights of the story. These two work well together due to their commonalities and history. Benji is a lovable goof with a fierce protective instinct when it comes to Dawson, and I felt the way this relationship was written was solid and genuine.
Although I didn’t feel Behind the Curtain worked as well for me as other Amy Lane stories I have read, it was an enjoyable audiobook. The lively secondary characters, cozy small town setting, and the focus on family love and acceptance are classic Amy Lane, making this a sweet, comforting m/m romance.
My View – Narration:
Hugh Bradley does a good job with the narration of this story. His presentation is not overly theatrical, and his inflections are appropriately moderated. His attempts at changing tone for various characters was a bit off, and there were inconsistencies in volume/intensity during sections of the reading that I assume were due to editing breaks. Overall, however, I enjoyed his style and would definitely pick up his narrations in the future.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the audiobook of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
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