A Red-Tainted Silence by Carolyn Gray
I’ll never forget the first time I saw him–the wild shock of black hair, the beautiful blue eyes, the full lips with that perfected pout. Such a diva, even from the beginning. I was entranced, smitten, mesmerized. He had the face of an angel, and the voice of one, too–and almost from the start I began the pattern of losing Nicholas. I was good at that–I guess I never believed I really deserved him, what he would bring to us both. What we would experience, because of him. What we could be, because of him. What I could be because of the strength and belief he had in me.
Denial denial denial.
Damn, I was good at that. But I was going to have to get good at trust and acceptance, if I wanted to keep him. If, that is, if I could find him again. It was almost as if he’d never been.
But he had existed. I’d heard him, felt him, experienced him. I had his words in my heart to prove it. It would, I knew, just be a matter of time before I found him again, and then I would never, ever let him go.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. I knew this was considered a favorite of readers in the m/m genre and Jenre gave it a stunning review a while ago, but it still managed to surprise and delight me. This meaty story is full of angst, drama, pain, hardship, and it packs a heavy emotional punch. This is not a light read but it’s completely absorbing, engrossing, and interesting. This is definitely a story I’d read again and the length of the novel (500+ pages) may seem daunting but it’s the perfect length for the story, characterization, and final resolution. You really get to know the characters, all of them, and connect to their actions and fears. So don’t be daunted by the long story but dive in and you’ll be happy for it.
The blurb is actually an excerpt from the story and not a bad one to describe the essence of the book. We’re immediately introduced to Brandon, a young high school dropout desperately searching to make something of himself in the music world. What Brandon never counted on is that once he hears Nicholas sing, his search changes to Nicholas. Once they get together Brandon is consumed with protecting Nicholas, making him happy, and ensuring he’s taken care of – to Brandon’s own detriment. With two men so in love with each other, they almost destroy each other, their story is emotional, evocative, and fascinating.
The story is told in two parts, first from Brandon’s first person point of view then from Nicholas’ first person point of view. Despite the welcome addition of Nicholas’ thoughts in the later half of the story, everything revolves around Brandon – who revolves around Nicholas. From the moment they meet, the two are desperately in love. As they struggle to break out in the music world, a threat hangs over Brandon that forces him to endure years of suffering. The action is very character dependent and alternates between the present, with Brandon and Nicholas back together and determined to make things works, and the past, flashbacks detailing how Brandon and Nicholas met and eventually broke apart painfully.
I thought the mixture of styles works incredibly well. I know some readers aren’t fans of flashbacks but here they are essential to the story. Reading about Brandon and Nicholas’ past is interesting but painful. Every highlight in their relationship is quickly followed by a shadow, threat, or misunderstanding. Without having the respite of seeing the two happy, together, and committed, the unrelenting pain of their past would have overwhelmed the story and made it depressing. I’m a fan of angsty stories but there is a lot of angst and drama here. It’s nicely paced and spread out though so you’re never hit with too much at once and the mixture with present times helps keep the intensity level manageable.
One of the keys aspects to the story is Brandon’s suffering, caused by his own personality and actions. He spends over a decade giving in emotionally, physically, and finically to a blackmailer due to his own naivety. While this normally would have driven me crazy with a character, Brandon’s reasons, his suffering, deep isolation, and need for support – but never getting it – come across so authentically and so honestly that you can’t hate him for his actions. He’s not a weak character but he allows himself to be manipulated by everyone, Nicholas included. When his real personality is slowly shown in bits and pieces so that his family and friends can finally see the man they all thought they knew, I wish there had been more resolution. The friends and family feel badly but they constantly remind each other they couldn’t have known. Considering everything Brandon went through due to everyone choosing Nicholas over Brandon, it would have been nice if they apologized significantly more to Brandon.
The real star of the story is the characterizations. From Brandon’s wounded, deeply lonely personality to Nicholas energetic, attention loving contrast, the cast shines in their complexity. Brandon of course emerges as my favorite, even with his needless suffering, because he’s so complicated and isolated. His deep yearning for support, but rarely getting it, went so far that I didn’t always appreciate the supporting cast who rallied around Nicholas constantly. The worst offender of this is Brandon’s brother Jon who clearly adores Nicholas more than a straight man should and definitely more than his own beloved brother. So in this way Jon sometimes would irate me in scenes since he’s so biased and unintentionally hurtful. This is balanced however by the great female characters used well and the various relationships which are all complicated yet interesting.
The length of the story lets you really sink into these personalities and their life. Nicholas and Brandon love each other so much that they frequently hurt each other deeply. It’s never intentional and always painful but their opposite needs clash. Nicholas needs the adulation of crowds, the constant love and support of those around him, the energy and chaos of traveling, while Brandon simply needs Nicholas. It makes for a fascinating push and pull that may be dramatic, but well worth the time invested in reading. The great pace, crisp prose, and even intensity deliver a story that’s absorbing and easy to read while keeping the angst to a very manageable level. I easily recommend this as a must read.
Get it HERE!
10 thoughts on “A Red-Tainted Silence by Carolyn Gray”
Ok, all I read was “Wow” and the 5-star rating. I need to start something new today and now I know what it will be. It’s been on my reader for ages! Great time. 🙂
Be sure to tell me what you thought of it! It was on my reader for ages too until I finally read and I wanted to kick myself for waiting so long.
I read this one eons ago and to this day the book has stayed with me. Spot on review – gorgeous writing and excellent plot and characterization. Did you know that Brandon and Nicholas are loosely reminiscent of the lads from the Australian pop group Savage Garden, Darren Hayes and Daniel Jones (of Truly, Madly Deeply fame)?
Really? I didn’t know that… did the author say that or you recognized the similarity? I know the song and group (I did love that song *le sigh*) but I didn’t know their story.
Kind of makes me want to go back and read it again. With so many books this is one that really resonates and is unforgettable. I cant find anything else by the author though, which is really sad.
I recall reading the references to the loose similarities between the relationship of the characters and that of the two band members in a number of places online including in blogs and reviews way back, but have not heard anything mentioned by the author herself. I don’t think that knowing about this possibility before I read the story made a difference in my reading experience per se except for the fact that I was able to visualize the characters as the lads in the band – who are both cuties I might add – LOL.
Kassa, you’ve convinced me! I just went and got it on Kindle (got to love that speed-of-thought download). I hope I can work up the courage to tackle a 500+ page novel here soon — for some reason I find that daunting in our m/m genre, but par for the course in, say, fantasy or science fiction!
That’s one reason it languished on my reader too but really I think you’ll be surprised how fast the pages fly by with this one. I honestly didn’t notice the length and if anything, I really appreciated that it took time to get in depth.
I didn’t read it… just want to say thanks for reminding me that I have a pretty good book on my hard drive..
Will drag it out today…
Do you post your review on the Three Dollar bill site (I read that more) … I dont navigate so well on LJ…
I do review at TDB but this particular one I read for my LJ.
Yea, no one likes LJ especially me. I’m thinking of moving to blogspot like it seems everyone’s at. Sorry! Thanks for commenting even though the crappy forum.
It would be lovely to have you blogger, such an easier platform to navigate through, both for users and reader alike..
or at the least post the reviews at the same time on the TDB web space…