Reviewed by: Warren
Print Length: 146 pages
Posting: MM Romance, Adventure,
Publisher: SelfPub (November 2, 2014)
Book Provided by: Reviewer
Author: Charles Raines
Posting Date: November 05, 2014
Rating: 5 Star
If you are a fan of nuanced, well-written literary fiction that has no fluff, and uses a laser-focused vocabulary and an international flavor that keeps the story interesting, you will love this forth book by Charles Raines. He continues the tradition of his writing in The Man With the Mandolin, giving us a read that is so good, so engrossing, that you will not want to put the book down.
Who is the man with the mandolin, and what has he got to do with the story and with the main character, Charles, who is the manager of a ballet company he has no interest in, that has fallen on hard times. The ballet company uses an old monastery that is in ruinous disrepair, and is run by “two sisters of a certain age who never got on”.
Just as things seem the most hopeless, a young male ballet dancer steps into their lives and gives hope to the dreams of restoring the ballet company to its former glory. Valentin is a superb dancer that seems to be just what is needed to lead the company into the future. He is suave, gorgeous, and an enigma. He left his last post under terms not understood, and has a quality of danger to him that can be felt. So many unanswered questions follow Valentin into the company, but the sisters are so interested in restoring Ballet Riche that they turn a blind eye to much of what is so unquestionably dangerous about this unknown man.
At first Charles is quite taken by this young man, but as time goes by, and more and more clues to Valentin’s real side start to show through, Charles becomes more suspicious, and less enamored with this beautiful young man.
And that is as much as I am going to tell you of the story itself. Suffice it to say, there are twists and turns, surprises, angst, and plain old suspense. There are dark moments that make you feel like the story is going to go into a very dark place, but Mr. Raines twists again, and the darkness disappears again. You are kept guessing from the very first page, and with such successful use of words, just when you feel like you have figured it out, you are thrown that loop that makes you doubt just what you thought you knew about the direction of the story.
One other thing that I would like to remark on is the use of the French language by Mr. Raines. Many times when an author uses this technique, you are left to guess what the words mean and what is being said ( such as the way Oscar Wilde does!). Mr. Raines, however, uses the language, but then in his following words, help you understand what the phrase or statement meant, so you don’t feel like you are missing part of the story because you don’t understand the language. I liked this technique. It added the international flavor I mentioned at the beginning, and made it easier to imagine being a part of the story. This is a story of France shortly after the war, and you can feel like you are there in this amazing story.
The Book Description:
Ballet is in the blood of the Riche family. It is their passion and their livelihood. After the death of his father, duty dictates that only son, Charles, who has no flair for business or ballet, has little option but to support his doting mother and overbearing spinster aunt in their quest to steer the failing dance troupe back to success.
But, mesmerized by a street musician, Charles yearns for another life filled with love and romance. And when he unwittingly becomes involved with a charismatic principal dancer and a devious Italian waiter, his world tumbles into turmoil, dredging up physical and emotional scars best left buried.
With intrigue, blackmail, and events from the past threatening to plunge the family’s reputation into jeopardy and ruin his own chance of happiness, Charles finds solace and hope in the man with the mandolin. Sometimes dreams do come true. And maybe his will too.
The Social Links:
An Interview by Warren:
Hi Charles! Welcome to Gay Guy Reader Reviews, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview with me.
I know that you are a very private person, but tell us a little bit about yourself. I am interested in such things as pets, your education, your hobbies or special talents.
I have a European background. My mother was German and my father came from Cornwall, a beautiful county in the south-west of England. I grew up in both countries and attended an English Grammar School from the age of 11 before going on to study Modern Languages at university. I’ve also lived in Paris and continue to spend as much time as I can in the south of France. Montpellier is my favourite place.
My husband, Steve, and I met as youngsters. We have been married for five years. He’s a very practical guy and can do anything from cooking a cordon bleu meal to building a house. The only thing he hasn’t done is read any of my books…yet! I know I’m preaching to the converted here, but I do wish more gay men would take up reading!
We both love animals. At the moment, we have two dogs which keep us pretty busy. But at one time we also had five cats. Our families have always been totally supportive. We are very fortunate. Being gay has never been an issue. Our wedding is still described by some guests as the best one they’ve ever been to. It was a blast! My 86 year old aunt was dancing on the tables!
As far as hobbies and special talents go, I’m more the academic type, and I suppose everything revolves around using languages. I love soul music and really envy guys who can dance. And though I can manage a passable Lambada, I’d love to be able to tango properly. I never miss an episode of Strictly Come Dancing on UK television. And I’m even thinking of getting Sky tv just to watch the American version, Dancing With The Stars.
I think everyone knows I am a lover of your writing. Your imagination fascinates me. Can you tell me where you get your inspiration for your wonderful stories?
I’d like to know the answer to that myself! Most of the time, I don’t know what is going to happen until I write it. I usually start with a vague idea for a plot, throw in some characters, add an exotic or erotic location, and take it from there. I have notes everywhere, even on the fridge. And I’m not very popular when I switch on the light in the middle of the night to use my Dictaphone (!) or jot down ideas which have just popped into my head.
I do have a lurid imagination and love nothing more than to sit on the terraces of coffee shops, especially abroad, have an Espresso or two and people-watch. I suppose every writer uses his or her experience of life for inspiration, subconsciously or otherwise. I’m no different. And now I expect you are all wondering which scenes in my stories are born from reality….But that would be telling!
My latest novel, ‘The Man With The Mandolin’, (available in kindle and paperback etc…) was shaped entirely around the book cover. A friend at an Art class painted the scene and gave me the canvas when I said how much I liked it. (I am rather biased. I know the model!) I have two more paintings by other artists in the group. Both will be covers for future books.
What do you listen to, where do you write, what gets your creative juices flowing?
I need peace and quiet when I write. If I am distracted, I sometimes lose the flow. I’m not an author who writes every day. There’s no regular pattern or schedule. I’ve got to be in the mood and have the time. We live in an old Victorian house and the back lounge which looks out onto the garden doubles as my ‘office’. I work best in the mornings and tend to edit what I’ve written in the afternoons.
I am a visual writer. I have to be able to see the scene I’m writing. It’s rather like narrating a silent movie going on in my head and fleshing it out it with dialogue, emotion, and atmosphere. If I can’t see it, I can’t write it.
Your stories are not easy fluff, but extremely intelligent, filled with a lot of nuance and undertones. What is it about you that has made this so successful?
Being a linguist, I place huge importance on the use, value, and power of words. Reviewers have said I have a unique literary style. I like my prose to flow, to be almost lyrical, even poetic if I can manage it. I have been known to spend over two hours on a five line paragraph until I was satisfied the right words had been used in the right way to bring what was going on in my imagination to life.
Mystery, suspense, mood and atmosphere are key features in my novels, whether they are erotic or romantic. I like to create an ambiance, build up anticipation, offer readers the opportunity to involve themselves and share emotions as they picture and interpret, embellish and unravel what is happening. The best compliment a writer can have is a reader who lives the story.
Nuance and undertone create personal pathways when reading. A guilty glance, a whispered insinuation, a hovering shadow or an ambiguous reference can often shift emphasis in a plot and express more than an entire section of dialogue or paragraph of description.
Taking part in the story is fun. It’s individual and intimate. We all see things from different perspectives, like, dislike, or identify with different characters. So, everybody’s experience will be different, rather like looking at a painting or watching a film.
Your new book, The Man with the Mandolin, is completely different than the other three. Tell us a bit about it. The darkness of the story pulls me in and sort of ties me up.
I like to vary what I write. Each novel is different. I don’t stick to rules or recipes. The Man With The Mandolin is about a naïve young chap with physical flaws and emotional scars. He has inherited responsibility within the family ballet business, but has no real interest in it. His purpose and direction in life revolve around duty and the expectations of others. Who can blame him for escaping the daily drudge by becoming infatuated with an enigmatic street musician and drifting into hopeless dreams of love and romance?
Unfortunately, innocence invites exploitation and soon he’s embroiled in a web of intrigue, secrets, and blackmail. The reputation of his family falls into jeopardy, and pieces of a thorny jigsaw need to slot into place if he is to save their status and find personal happiness. Maybe he’s an unlikely hero. Maybe he’s not.
The story is dark in part, but it also offers hope. Humour, pathos, courage and tenderness filter through the darkness. Not everyone is born beautiful. But there is beauty in everyone.
Finally, would you talk a little about the process of writing for you? I have wondered if this is something that comes easily, or are you one of those authors who has hard times with the writing of a story?
My ability to write depends on my mood. Style is important to me. I’d like to think anything I write could hold its own as a piece of literature, not just a story. I love to make sentences sing if I can, and that’s not always easy if I’m not in the right frame of mind.
I do get writer’s block if my muse deserts me, the characters won’t play, or the words won’t come. And I also get times when the juices flow and I’m obsessed with writing. The first five thousand of words of ‘Stranger In Translation’ were reeled off in one session. And they needed very little editing. I suppose I was ‘in the zone’. But that doesn’t always happen. Every writer struggles at times. I’m no exception.
Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. And please, for me, keep writing! I will continue reading and talking about your books as long as you keep putting them out! LOL!
Thanks for inviting me to do this interview. I don’t do many, but ‘gay guys reading’ is literally something I’m passionate about and wish to support and inspire.
The Video Book Trailer: