Anthony's Reviews > A Red-Tainted Silence

A Red-Tainted Silence by Carolyn  Gray
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Oct 09, 11

bookshelves: lgbt, mystery
Read in September, 2009 — I own a copy, read count: 2

A Red-Tainted Silence, "Red" for short, is the story of Brandon Ashwood and Nicholas Killmain: boyfriends in private, partners in the successful pop band DREAM in public. The story is told from several directions at once, almost all of them narrated by Brandon, the less self-confident, less spotlight-needy of the two. In the present, Nicholas has been rescued from a brutal kidnapping -- a kidnapping with several lingering questions that make Brandon, and the police, wonder if Nicholas' trauma is truly over. While at Nicholas' bed-side, Brandon begins to write the story of their life together, beginning with the first time Brandon saw Nicholas and was immediately head-over-heels in love ... a moment Brandon describes frankly by saying "and almost from the start I began the pattern of losing Nicholas."

Present day and past dove-tail, as they must in any good mystery. Who kidnapped Nicholas? Why had Brandon and Nicholas become estranged before the kidnapping? And with Nicholas' rescue, are their problems really over or just beginning?

Carolyn Gray does a fantastic job of crafting a "fair play" mystery, using Brandon's reminiscences and sparse details about Nicholas' captivity early on to build the intrigue. I was fully satisfied with the resolution of the mystery portion of the story, and felt like I'd been given enough information to figure out what was going on without the disappointment that often accompanies figuring the mystery out. There was only one moment in the development of the mystery that I felt wasn't adequately explained by the end of the book, and honestly that's a minor quibble. (And I can't explain it more without spoiling the entire reveal at the end of the book, so I will say no more.)

But the mystery/thriller is only half of the book. This is also an incredible romance -- the kind of "love at first sight, complications arise, true love rises above" romance that at first blush seems too heightened to be true but which you accept quickly because hey ... it could happen! So many gay romances are loaded down with the trappings of "coming out story" or "AIDS crisis story" these days -- it's nice to read a romance that dispenses with the initial coming out story early and weaves the problems of being professionally in the closet into the main story without letting that become the focus; it's nice to read a romance that acknowledges gay men CAN be sensible and safe and still be sensual and sexual creatures.

Above all though, the characters are what makes both the mystery and the romance work. Brandon Ashwood's voice is believable; he and Nicholas are fully-rounded characters in their own right rather than chess pieces in the mystery or mindless hard-ons in the romance. And their supporting cast, especially Brandon's brother Jon and cousin Jenn, and Nicholas and Brandon's band-mate Lee, are well-drawn and add to the story rather than detracting from it.

I highly highly recommend A Red-Tainted Silence to mystery lovers, to gay romance lovers, and to anyone who just likes a good well-drawn story.

I suppose I should add the obligatory "yes, there are graphic sexual descriptions in the book" end-note. And because it's a gay romance, yes it is gay sex that is so graphically described. But honestly, I don't think it's any more graphic than the one or two Harlequin romances I've had the misfortune of reading. If you're squeamish about sex scenes, be warned, but don't let the fact that it's gay sex stop you from reading a really excellent story. You can always skim past those parts, right?
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