Stage Whispers

Title: Stage Whispers
Author: Adam Fitzroy
Publisher: Manifold Press
Buy link: Amazon.com
Genre: Contemporary gay romance
Length: 528 PDF pages
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A guest review by Sirius

Summary: What does it mean to be an actor and could you stay in the relationship if you are heading for stardom? This subtly written book was an enjoyable one to read, but also made me tired.

Blurb:

Meet jobbing actor Jonathan Stapleton – failed husband, slightly better father, with no ambition and in his own eyes only a modicum of acting ability; he doesn’t need complications in his life, but that’s exactly what he gets with Callum Henley – younger, talented, exasperatingly impulsive, and for some reason completely crazy about him. How can they hope to succeed as a couple when one is heading for fame and fortune at the very top of his profession … and the other one prefers to stay at home

Review:

This review was so far the hardest review to write for the site ever, but after keeping this book since May (yes you heard me correctly since May) I decided that a short review is better than no review at all. This book is a perfect example of character-driven plot in my opinion. Jon and Callum are two of the most interesting, multi-layered characters I have “met” in gay romances so far. Their personalities facilitate the changes in their relationship; literally, change happens because of who those guys are first and not because of some external event. What they both want from life and from each other causes that change, who they are as “people” causes that change. It is very interesting and rewarding to read, it is also sometimes a little tedious to read.

They are also actors, even though as the blurb tells us only one of them is heading for stardom, and the theater is in a sense another character in this book. It is not a play, but it has the framework of the play to a degree. The chapters are called scenes and in the beginning of each scenes writer gives you a brief description of the scene. I did not mind that, and it kept me remembering that being actors sometimes dives into their real lives too, especially for Callum. But them suddenly quoting famous writers and poets in the middle of conversation I did mind, and eventually I minded that a lot. While I am sure there is a reason for it — I am sure the writer wanted to add layers to their personalities by doing so and I guess to show that being actors is not just their profession — but I think it is possible to draw the characters as rich and distinct personalities without asking for help from the classics. I think the author quite succeeded on his own.

The relationship is richly drawn, the characters evolve a lot and are very delicately and subtly drawn:

“The jump to defensive blokishness was typical of Callum; it was like him indeed to follow up a moment of vulnerability with a bit of macho pantomime”.

The characters evolve not only in their relationship with each other, but also with some secondary characters. I enjoyed it a great deal, I however wished more than once for some sort of external factor to happen in their lives prior to them causing it to happen. Believe me, it is a very rare thing for me to wish for that, since I usually want for the mix of character-driven and action-driven plot. I also want the character-driven part to prevail, but this book showed me that I should be careful what wish for and there is such thing as too much of a good thing sometimes.

11 comments

  • (Sorry, Sirius, I meant this to be a reply to you, but somehow it’s ended up as a separate comment.)

    Confusion abounds! LOL When I said I didn’t remember the quotes, I meant that the quotes hadn’t impacted enough on me to make me remember. It’s often the way with stories; each person takes different things from what we read. I must’ve absorbed them, and kept reading. They weren’t like some grammatical mistakes that club me over the head. (For example, I read a story recently that had a five star rating here, and there were THREE grammar mistakes that rattled my teeth each time they cropped up. I guess they didn’t bother those who raved about the story.)

    Hmm, regarding the quotes in “Lewis”. Yes, the quotes did occasionally advance the story. Other times, not necessarily, but it’s such a Hathaway thing to do. I guess with real actors, some of them just live like that – true “lovies”. Doesn’t mean you have to like it though. We all like different things. 🙂

    Reply
  • Oooh, interesting review, Sirius. I read this book a while ago, and enjoyed it. I was waiting to see what you thought.

    The quoting of famous writers/poets didn’t bother me. In fact, I don’t remember that, so it definitely wasn’t a problem.

    Your thoughts about quoting remind me of episodes of the TV show “Lewis”, where Detective Sergeant Hathaway (an Oxford grad and an ex-theology student) quotes poets frequently throughout the series. Maybe it’s an “English” thing? 😉 (I love that series to pieces.)

    I had a few minor quibbles with the plot – the main characters’ choices frustrated and puzzled me at times – but overall I think this is a good story. I liked the theatre and television background, which I found fascinating. I have a soft spot for stories set in the UK and that may have influenced my enjoyment of the story as well.

    Reply
    • Gaycrow, thank you for commenting 🙂

      Oy, please do not laugh, but when you said you do not remember it, my first thought was OMG, maybe I was totally confused and there was no quotations :), so I went to double check and thank goodness it was there. I mean the first two occur somewhere in 1-2% of my Kindle, but the first two I guess at least made some sense to me, because at least one of them wants to rehearse his lines. It was rather long recitation, but I could at least justify it somewhat in my mind. But when the stuff like this one occurs, this is what kind of annoyed me.

      “Ewen snorted. “I can buy a dozen Jacinta Burroughses and Rory Coopers,”, he said dismissively. “She’s good but she’s not that good, and he… he’s just

      an attendant lord, one that will do
      To swell a progress, start a scene or
      to”

      I mean, I do get a point that they are all actors, I do, and that reality and plays sometimes get mixed up in their heads, only not really. They live regular lives too, they mostly speak as regular people do and when sometimes they started to quote, I don’t know. It grated a bit on me.
      Here the guy spoke normally why did he finish his sentence with quote?

      I don’t know if it is an English thing or not, I mean some of quotations were pleasure to read on its own and certainly were familiar to me (I have read a lot of Shakespeare and they quote a lot of Shakespeare), some I never heard of, but again I am stuck with that I am not sure what it added to the story. I suppose I thought that the point was already made and it felt as needless repetition to me, I get that they live their jobs sometimes.

      I also want to say that I thought that my rating reflected that I did like the book a lot, just did not find it spellbinding, you know?

      In that TV show, did you think quotes were relevant and advanced the story? Told you more about the characters? Funny, I am trying to think and on the top of my head I do not remember any prose book where characters do that. Maybe it will come to me later.

      Reply
  • No problem Catana. I cannot agree or disagree whether readers prefer short stories, since I do not have the statistics, but I can at least say that people I talk to often prefer long books. I like both, but more often than not in this genre I will choose a long book, since I feel that few writers in this genre do short form well. And I had been reading long books all my life and not planning on abandoning them any time soon 🙂

    Reply
  • Sorry if I overgeneralized, Sirius. I guess I’ve seen too many comments/reviews lately that do indicate a trend, and this review fit the pattern. With so many readers wanting short, snappy stories, longer, more complex books seem to be having a hard time of it these days.

    Thanks for the clarification. It makes me more curious to see how our opinions might differ.

    Reply
  • Maybe the reviewer’s reactions are a sign of the times. Impatience with long books, which I love. Impatience with the literary quotes, which are possibly overdone, but might be from a lack of familiarity with that kind of thing, or the current preference for uninterrupted action and forward movement. I’d consider it quite an accomplishment to pull off such a long book (or even a shorter book), depending on the character development without any external factors pushing the story along. At least the review made me want to check out the sample and look for other reviews.

    Reply
    • Hi Catana, thanks for commenting. I will be honest and admit that I am not sure how having some problems with *this particular book* extrapolates in being sign of time and general impatience with long books. I love well written long books, I love character driven long books. I requested this book being aware how long it was. Unfortunately, I felt that while undoubtedly well written, this book was stagnating at times. When I am rereading let’s say “-diot” by Dostoevsky never in a million years I wish for couple more external factors to happen. This is a very ambitious book and I think it deserves to be measured against much higher scrutiny than I may evaluate some other book, simply because the author is so talented. It can easily be five star read for another reviewer, just was not for me. Also I felt that quotations did not really add much to the characters, so I thought author was artificially increasing page space. Hope I clarified my pov for you and hopefully you enjoy the book if you decide to get it.

      Reply
  • Hi Sirius
    I haven’t read this book but I did read Dear Mister President by Adam Fitzroy which I absolutely loved and was never bored. I don’t understand what happened here but I would have given up since this book is 528 pages.

    I get that you love the character development and the different nuances in the story, but all of the quotations would have driven me crazy. I don’t know the reason for this but I can only guess, and my guess is not flattering so I won’t say what I think. 🙂

    Thank you for persevering.

    Reply

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