There’s something about me that most people don’t know. It’s not a deep, dark secret, or anything…but, there’s just something that most people wouldn’t exactly expect from me.
I have a theatre background. Yes, I do. I even have an MA degree in Theatre. Acting, directing, lighting design, set design, stagecraft…I’ve done a little bit of everything (with varying levels of expertise). I’m actually a pretty good actor, but I don’t sing nor do I dance. (Amazingly, however, I’ve been in a few musicals.) I admit to being a better Assistant Director than a Director. And I can build a muslin flat or a plywood platform like nobody’s business!
I’m really good with power tools, too. Mmmm…power tools. *ahem*
But I digress.
Considering this, it seems pretty obvious that I would be excited about Melissa Brayden’s debut novel, Waiting in the Wings (Bold Strokes). It tells the story of Jenna McGovern and her journey from recent college graduate to up-and-coming new star to famous leading lady. Jenna is young, talented, and ambitious. Will her ambitions bring her happiness? Or will they drive away the one thing in her life that means the most to her?
So, there were basically 3 things that drew me to this book:
- Well, theatre. I love the theatre. Throw in that this was also about MUSICAL theatre and I’m hooked.
- It’s a romance. Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down with a bunch of just really good romance novels. When I’m in reading cycles, it’s often because I have to and am under a deadline to get the novels read…and I usually end up reading Suspense/Intrigue. While those also have romance, it’s just not the same.
- The darned thing just won TWO Goldie awards! That has to say “well-written” – and I’m a sucker for a novel that is written well.
The sections of the book that describe the various aspects of putting on a live show were a lot of fun for me. I was able to reminisce about the various theatre venues I’ve worked in – each with their own pros and cons. Brayden does a very nice job of describing the goings-on backstage. She provides just enough detail to keep it interesting not only for readers who are very familiar with what goes into producing a staged show, but also for the reader who may have never seen the back stage. At the same time, she doesn’t get so bogged down in the details that all I wanted to do was skip pages to get to better stuff.
I love a good romance and this was a good romance. I’ll admit that, at first, I was a bit thrown by the incredibly fast relationship development between Jenna and her beautiful co-star, Adrienne Kenyon. I had that “it’s too good to be true” sort of feeling at first. Sure, being instantly attracted to another person is certainly believable – that’s happened to me before. But I was feeling like things were moving so very quickly. Then I sat back for a moment and thought about it and things fell into place for me. This is a theatre setting. I’ve worked on enough shows and done enough summerstock to know that when people spend nearly all of their time together, friendships form very quickly. Add that instant attraction and, yeah, a romantic relationship can certainly grow out of that in a short period of time. So I was back on track.
What Brayden does next completely settled things for me – Jenna and Adrienne have a sudden and rather dramatic (pardon the pun) breakup. On the one hand, this fits the formula I expected in a romance – the inclusion of conflict. However, the conflict that I expected to come from one direction completely side-swiped me by coming from a different direction. I thought it was telegraphed for me – the struggle of a long distance relationship, the adapting – over time – to the juggling of careers and relationships. But no! Instead, I got the breakup! ARGH!
The second half of the story gave me what I had initially expected – the getting to know each other and gradual building (rebuilding) of a friendship. Jenna and Adrienne are older, more mature. While I wouldn’t say that either is necessarily settled in life, each has a slightly better understanding of what she wants her life to be. That is, until their work once again throws them together. Brayden now begins an emotional roller coaster that lasts through the rest of the book – she’s not afraid to throw more obstacles in Jenna and Adrienne’s way, that’s for sure. I think it’s delicious!
With the exception of some few, minor inconsistencies (which I won’t detail here – that’s how few and minor they are), this was a well-written novel. The Goldies for Debut Author and Traditional Contemporary Romance were very deserved, in my opinion. Waiting in the Wings is a novel that is tightly written – if it’s on the page, it has a purpose in the story. I love the way Brayden writes dialogue. It’s crisp, it’s clean, and it’s witty. Most importantly, it’s believable. Not once did I think, “Who says stuff like that?!”
The story is told entirely from Jenna’s point of view. While Brayden does a nice job of maintaining Jenna’s “voice” throughout the novel, what’s even more impressive is how that voice matures. From the first words to the last words, it’s very clear that Jenna is telling the story. But it’s also very clear that the Jenna on the last page is not the same naive Jenna on the first page. This was very nicely done, I thought.
So, here’s the thing…
If you like the theatre, give this book a read.
If you like romance, give this book a read.
If you like award-winning novels, give this book a read.
Oh, for pity sake! Just read it!