Title:In the Wings
Author: Michael St. Anthony
Cover Art: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link In the Wings
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance Mystery/Suspense
Length: 214 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: A jigsaw puzzle with a significant missing piece as I had major problems with the main man.
Blurb: When Aiden Campbell, a talented pastry chef with a shady past, meets Thomas Balducci, a young, up-and-coming composer, Aiden is reminded of the hope and ambition he used to have, back when he bore another name.
Thomas is charming, brilliant, and irresistible, and Aiden finds himself remembering the plans he had for the future when he first came to the city. When a specter from Aiden’s past threatens to make his new duet a solo, he suddenly has something to lose. Thomas has earned every minute of his success, and Aiden won’t allow sins he committed to overshadow Thomas’s triumph. Because of all people, Aiden should know that for every moment in the spotlight, there’s a shadow of deception waiting in the wings.
When I read a book with a strong central character I find there is—to state the obvious perhaps—an intimacy created that for differing lengths of time becomes part of my every day life. I’m hoping here for my ever diminishing sense of social normality that you too have wanted to corner Adrien’s Jake and tell him to……well you know. With In the Wings I had some major problems with the main protagonist Aiden Campbell.
Given the intensity of the artificial construct of an imaginary character, perhaps it is unrealistic to think of Atticus Finch’s words to Scout:
You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.
Nevertheless taking the wonderful Atticus’ —um, also an imaginary character, oh well—words of advice, I tried hard to understand Aiden in the context of his life. You really do get skin close when a book is written from the main character’s viewpoint.
He is working as a pastry chef in New York specializing in creating amazing chocolates. His present life seems empty of anything but his work, for a small catering firm with a paternalistic boss. However there is a hint that five years previously his life was very different. He is a man with some kind of significant past. His life changes when his chocolates are a big success and give them the opportunity to cater a prestigious theatre event. This is the catalyst for huge change in Aiden’s life. He meets Tom, a musician who he is instantly attracted to. This provokes some unsatisfying, irritating rather than erotic daydreams.
When we get to the point that the plot is making Aiden react to the changing circumstances around him, I often didn’t understand his thought processes of even trivial things: irritation with his boss or his attraction to Jess Babineaux, head of marketing at the Jackson Center. However I was finding him quite a passive character until fifty percent into the book when the writer threw some significant back story into the mix with all the finesse of a paint ball fight.
From this point, a book that had been a fairly pleasant if wordy read with a mildly unsympathetic self-centered character descended into one that defended the morally indefensible. It did this by making something clearly wrong accepted almost uncritically into the fabric of the story. Aiden, it seems, was not just passive, he was unpleasantly passive aggressive with an amoral conscience. Added to this I thought Tom’s reaction to Aiden’s confession was just not realistic. The continuing mystery/ suspense plot from here on did not work for me. Although I actually found I could understand the eventual culprit rather more easily than Aiden, I just didn’t believe in Aiden’s emotional or intellectual responses.
This was a jigsaw of a book for me. Some pieces were quite entertaining, the descriptions of making gorgeous chocolates were very interesting, and indeed there was a lot of technical sincerity in this book. Elements such as catering, food, management, marketing, music and New York were described with authority, but at too much length for the overall balance of the novel. However, the missing piece to this jigsaw was Aiden’s personality and I just didn’t like him when I got to know him. This is such a personal response to a character I’ll have to leave you, apologetically, with that as an unhelpful end to the review.