Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
It’s panto season for the Sarky Players, an amateur dramatics society based in Greenwich, South London. With the traditional Christmas play around the corner, it’s time to get ready for more larger than life performances—on and off stage.
While Craig Rosen is happy with his quiet life playing Warhammer and working in a university lab, a new colleague thinks he needs more excitement and drags Craig along to an audition for the Christmas pantomime, Aladdin.
Corporate lawyer Jason Carter accepted he’s gay a little later in life than most, but now divorced and in his late thirties, he’s ready to embrace who he really is. He can’t believe his luck when he runs into Craig at the audition and the cute younger man agrees to help him navigate his new life. There’s no doubting the attraction between Craig and Jason, but with Craig’s insecurities and Jason still finding his way, they’ll need to make sure they don’t veer off script.
He’s Behind You by Rebecca Cohen is the third book in the wonderful Treading the Boards series which follows the lives and romances of the actors of the Sarky Players, an amateur drama group outside of London. I loved each one because I’ve not only connected with the couples, each quirky and adorable, but because the author has brought something to my attention that I’ve never known about before in each story. In the last one, it was a magnificent amphitheater in Cornwall. Here, in He’s Behind You? Its the British tradition of Pantomine. And no, its not what us Americans are thinking of.
Pantomine, not that silent man or woman trying to get out of a box we normally think of here in the US, is a British tradition started around Restoration England. A part of Christmas there, “with family audiences, British pantomime… incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, in-jokes, audience participation, and mild innuendo. There are a number of traditional story lines, and also a fairly well-defined set of performance conventions…”. I had no idea! And now I want to see one performed! And Rebecca Cohen works it so well into the storyline complete with scripts and costumes!
The characters complement the storyline too. Jason Carter is a lawyer who was married with a lovely family for over 20 years. Problem is that Jason is gay. He was discovering that fact when his gf became pregnant when they were young. Both did the traditional thing and married. Now Jason, with his ex-wife’s and children’s blessing is ready to discover what being an out gay man means. And how I loved this part of the story. Jason has the complete backing of his family, a delightful family we get to know and love. They support him in every way, believably. Realistic teenagers with messy rooms and geek hero worship, and a ex-wife full of layers and the ability to move on with love. Jason has doubts and plenty of flaws accumulated with age and the life he’s lived. Great job with character building here.
Craig Rosen is also beautifully done, with a heartbreaking background thats filled in bit by bit, intelligent and surprising in his qualities. I fell in love with him too. Together, quietly, these two men, making adjustments and finding each other? Its not explosive, its subtle and it has a wonderful aspect all its own that’s hard to describe. It will startle you in how much you enjoy them and their relationship, especially thinking back on it.
Finally, it introduced me to Warhammer! And I thought I had my geek flag flying. Warhammer 40,000 is a tabletop miniature wargame produced by Games Workshop, is set in a dystopian science fantasy universe. So cool that I had to start my investigation into that as well. That’s as fully a part of this story and Craig as the Panto. And it provides an important link to Jason.
So…what a story! Its chock full of so many wonderful elements and a quiet romance full of discovery for two men in need of love and each other.
I loved it. And recommend it and its previous stories. If like me, you love discovering new things, new places to go with your romances, these books are for you. Happy Reading!
Cover by Paul Richmond is as funny and pertinent as all the others. Wonderful.
ebook, 140 pages
Published December 2nd 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleHe’s Behind You
ISBN 1623805228 (ISBN13: 9781623805227)
SeriesTreading the Boards #3