: The Cellist
Author: Elaine White
Publisher: Encompass Ink
Pages/Word Count: 260 Pages
At a Glance: The Cellist is a loosely plotted novel, lacking a clear objective and offering pat resolutions.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: After six years, cellist Roman returns home with boyfriend Ben, in search of more than just international fame. There’s one complication he didn’t count on. His high school crush, the straight, untouchable, Jaxton is there when he arrives.
One performance at local club Crimson 8, stirs emotions that were better left forgotten.
With prior warning that the club is a gay man’s fantasy come true, where anything and everything can happen, Jaxton is dragged along with a group of his friends, to see Roman play.
What happens next, will change the course of all their lives forever.
Review: The review business is a game of chance—the author takes a chance on the unknown reviewer as much as the reviewer takes a chance on the unknown author. Sometimes it pays off, while at other times book and reader don’t click. Sadly, Elaine White’s The Cellist is a book I didn’t click with in spite of the fact the blurb intrigued me enough to give it a go.
The cellist in question is Roman, a young man who has made a successful career of his music. He’s introduced as having been a nerd in high school, but it isn’t long before we discover that he has transformed into a sexually provocative swan since those ugly duckling days, his transformation owed in whole to a group of men he meets online in a chat room for the club Crimson 8.
The club in question, which I anticipated would be more a focal point of the story, isn’t delineated much beyond the fact that it’s something like a show/voyeur club where men can go to have public sex without consequence. When Roman meets this group of men at the age of sixteen, he has just experienced the blow of unrequited first love and is suffering the woes of a broken heart. As we learn more about Roman, we see he’s bearing the burden of poor parenting as well, through what we are able to perceive as an emotionally abusive and controlling father, though we’re only offered enough detail about their relationship to allow for this to become a device used to remove Roman from his home and throw him into the arms of Ben, a man five years Roman’s senior, who becomes Roman’s lover.
The club Crimson 8 itself is also an ill-used device within the storyline, which really serves no greater purpose than to highlight how comfortably Roman has grown into his sexuality. There are a few scenes set there, but only one that proves significant to the storyline, when Jaxton witnesses Roman’s sexualized cello performance and subsequent interlude with Ben, which is a catalyst to Jaxton’s own transformation.
The Cellist is a loosely plotted novel, lacking a clear objective for a good portion of it, and offering pat resolutions at times, which, with a melodramatic build up to Roman’s relationship waffling, finally exposes its true aim as a ménage story. The narrative itself is riddled with editing issues, both in the content and copy department, and while I can often overlook those things, there were so many in this novel that they soon became burdensome, to the point where I had a hard time finishing this book. I also had difficulty suspending belief some of the time, while at others laboring to get beyond head hopping, unclear pronouns that made it hard to keep track of which he/him was being referred to, and the somewhat erratic behavior of the characters, particularly, as I’ve mentioned, with respect to Roman and his relationship with Ben.
We are reminded, quite frequently, theirs is a happy six year relationship, which made all the sudden conflict with Roman’s still-overwhelming feelings for Jaxton difficult to buy into when they hadn’t seen or spoken to each other at all in that six year time span. I feel a healthy portion of my disinterest in their relationship originated in the fact that we’re told how in love these two men are rather than shown what, in six years, should be a connection based on more than the fact they still like having sex with each other. Their meeting, and Ben’s help in gaining Roman his emancipation, did include some sweet and tender moments, but overall, they lacked that all important chemistry that might have drawn me into investing in them and their story.
When Jaxton and Roman’s storyline is introduced, we’re led to believe he and Roman had known each other since high school, where Jaxton was Roman’s closeted sometimes love interest, while at the same time being Roman’s public tormentor; though much later we discover they’ve actually known each other much longer, leading to another of my issues with the content and continuity problems which cropped up on several occasions—facts and tidbits are thrown into the plot at random times without prior support for their inclusion, down to even the smallest but no less niggling discovery at the 82% mark that Jaxton smokes. Things of this nature are thrown in, in a deliberate way though with seemingly no forethought, with this scenario becoming little more than an afterthought for the purpose of allowing Roman to further explore an oral fixation for the reader. On a number of occasions, I found myself asking, how, why? because the narrative had lacked a solid foundation for those additions to the story.
Pared down to its barest bones, The Cellist is somewhat of an overwrought ménage story that I had difficulty engaging with. Jaxton’s eventual acknowledgment of his bisexuality came at the expense of another character being asked to settle for what amounted to an insulting consolation-boyfriend status, while Ben’s invitation for Jaxton to enter into his and Roman’s relationship as a third partner again was not introduced in a way I felt was organic or realistic; certainly not in such a way that one would assume something of this magnitude would be handled. Again, Ben and Roman’s relationship has been pointedly established as a loving, committed and happy one, after all, with no prior hint that either man had been considering veering into the realms of a threesome. One would presume a relationship changer such as this would be precluded by at least a little deliberation and the weighing out of potential pros and cons through conversation rather than it coming out of what felt like left field as a convenient means to introduce the polyamory storyline.
Once a happy throuple, The Cellist doesn’t then delve into an exploration of the dynamics of the relationship between Ben, Roman, and now, Jaxton; seemingly there are no life-altering adjustments or obstacles one might assume would be inherent to their new partnership. Rather, the story becomes a sexploration of who gets to top and/or bottom at any given point, and little else happens of consequence beyond that. There is a certain lack of finesse to this narrative, nor does it appear there was much foresight given to certain tangents that bogged down the flow and pace of the reading and failed to further build upon or layer the plot or characters with depth and substance. In the end, I felt the cast were all rather flat in their portrayals, which led to a lack of emotional investment in them and their story on my part.
As much as I wanted and expected to enjoy The Cellist more than I did, I simply couldn’t get past all the things that stood out as glaring issues for me. I don’t believe this is all due to the author’s lack of talent or storytelling ability, though. Some of it does owe a great deal to the lack of solid editorial support on the part of the publisher.
As the job of a review is to give you, the reader, the information you need to help you decide whether or not you might decide to spend your book-buying dollars on any given novel, I’ll leave you with the wish that if you decide to take a chance on The Cellist, it works better for you than it did for me.
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