“When I am lonely for boys, it’s their bodies I miss. I study their hands lifting the cigarettes in the darkness of the movie theaters, the slope of a shoulder, the angle of a hip. Looking at them sideways I examine them in different lights. My love for them is visual: that is the part of them I would like to possess.” – Margaret Atwood
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 266
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: 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.
Review: Amy Lane has written so many books. There have been thousands of reviews written of her work, there are a multitude of words used to describe her genius, and that, my friends, is why it is difficult to review an Amy Lane novel. What can you say that hasn’t been said already? What new light can you possibly shed on her words? At this point, I can’t even imagine how she manages to come up with titles for all of them!
There is something different about Behind the Curtain, though. Many of us know Amy’s tag line “Amy Lane, Angst and Pain”. Well, this book had a lower than usual angst level and a higher than usual sweetness factor. If, say, on a scale of 1-10, she usually has an angst factor of 46, this one was about a five. It was refreshing.
Behind the Curtain introduces us to the world of professional ballet and the “back of the house” in theater. The back of the house really encompasses everything except what the “talent” does on stage. They rig lights, work the light board, the sound board, change props between scenes, kiss major butt to keep the talent happy. They are the unsung heroes of any production.
Having worked with a theater troupe that travels from school to school weekly, and puts on a professionally lit and wired performance with the students at that school, I can’t stress to you how important the back of the house is. My daughter went to a very small private school, so all the parents had to play a major part in the performance. My feet hurt more after a show than after an entire eight hour shift waiting tables. We did this every year of her four years in high school.
The men behind the curtain, in this case, are Dawson and Benji. They have been friends forever and are college roommates. Benji is straight and has a girlfriend, and Dawson is gay and single. The scheduled performance for the upcoming week is renowned ballet dancer Jared Emory. Jared has a reputation as sort of a diva. That’s why it is so important that everything go perfectly for Dawson and Benji.
Dawson and Jared get off to an auspicious start. Dawson literally falls on Jared. He goes up onto the catwalk above the stage to retrieve Benji’s book, and down he fell. Once he found out whom he had landed on, he was mortified. Not the first impression he wanted to make on the world famous dancer. Jared immediately comes across as cold. The way Amy Lane describes Dawson’s physical appearance, I could picture him. She relayed so clearly what he looked and acted like that I felt like I was standing backstage watching him.
Very quickly, though, Dawson sees the real Jared. The Jared that is locked away to keep people at a distance so they don’t hurt him. He has been hurt so much in life by the people who are supposed to care for him and love him the most. Dawson also sees sparks in Jared’s eyes, and he is feeling quite sparky himself.
Jared and Dawson bond over what is, at that moment, the most important thing in their lives: the theater. They have a magical date at Denny’s (yup, that Denny’s), and the relationship is off to the races. It has to be a long-distance relationship, though, because Jared is contractually locked into performances for at least the next year.
While they build their relationship in short bursts, it becomes apparent to Dawson that he knows very little about Jared. When he presses for just a little bit of information, Jared reacts harshly at first. I could almost feel Jared’s pain as he slowly opens up to Dawson and shares his past with him. There is so much more that he doesn’t tell Dawson, things that Dawson has to learn the hard way. Things that cause Dawson to become a man willing to do anything for the man he loves. Dawson grows up virtually overnight.
Through the many books written by Amy Lane, and the many, many reviews written about them, and the multitude of words used to describe her genius, one thing remains constant: Amy Lane delivers characters who are interesting, fun and funny, sad and happy, immature and all grown up. They are all different. Oh, the voices that must be battling to be heard in her head. All those delicious characters just waiting for us to love them, laugh with them, cry with them and ultimately triumph with them. “Amy Lane, Angst and Pain,” Amy Lane, Characters Reign. I recommend you put this book center stage on your TBR list.