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I'm an avid reader and reviewer of romance books, especially m-m and erotica. You can find me on http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4669232-baba-marcus-tyler-tate-dan-ty-hunter 

I was pleasantly surprised

Vivaldi in the Dark - Matthew J. Metzger

4 sensitive stars.****Review completed February 13, 2014

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Matthew J. Metzger had me at…

The baton came down, the bows came up, and the storm ended. The silence was as ringing as the strings, and rolled in like an angry tide to reclaim the stage, flooding over the orchestra until the very last memory of the tempest in Vivaldi's Summer had been washed away.

As I see it, this excellent intro sums up the entire book. Vivaldi in the Dark deals with some heavy subject matter. Undertones are interrupted by mournful clouds of numbness and sorrow until they're washed away by rays of hope.

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"My friends are girls," Jayden said. "The other guys, they don't…you know, it's weird. Being friends with a gay guy. You know, they might…I don't know, it's like they think I'm catching."
Darren snorted. It echoed oddly in the bathroom. "I'm friends with a black guy; doesn't mean I tan better in the summer."

GPS (Gay Perception System)

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Alone in the darkness, he played Vivaldi.

Vivaldi in the Dark is the story about Jayden and Darren. On the one hand, we have the sixteen-year-old effeminate Jayden who's been bullied for ages. Jayden, however, has a plan and he's determined to succeed. He wants to apply for the scholarship to the sixth form at St. John's, a private school. Once there, he'd do his A-levels in order to apply to the University of Cambridge. At Cambridge, nobody would care that he was gay. The bullying would stop (I kinda doubt it because bullying happens everywhere) and he could do whatever he wanted to do. He could act and write; he could join the drama societies and he could find like-minded people and befriend them. He could find a boyfriend already.

On the other hand, there is the fifteen-year-old brooding, sensitive yet highly talented violinist Darren. He suffers from depression. His parents, especially his father, have high goals for Darren. His father puts him under pressure relentlessly to become a musician. He doesn't care if Darren is happy with what he's doing. As a consequence, Darren's father is absolutely clueless that his own son is depressive. When Jayden meets Darren for the first time, they feel a mutual sympathy and over the following days and weeks become more than only friendly. Darren realizes that Jayden makes his life easier. In fact, the light Jayden brings into Darren's life can balance out the darkness. Even though Jayden suffers from a case of severe tongue-tied shyness whenever he's around Darren, he starts to loosen up, albeit haltingly. When he talks to Darren he's blushing all the time in many different shades of red. Plus, he's stuttering and fumbling over very simple sentences but in a very sweet and adorable way. 

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But he didn't say a word as Darren pulled himself impossibly closer and the hot dampness of tears began to collect in Jayden's hair and on the pillowcase. He didn't say anything as the shaking became more violent. He kept quiet as that arm pinned and clung for dear life, and he held his tongue when the sound of Darren crying, actually crying, ripped into his own chest and burned a path up to his throat. The ceiling swam blearily above them, and Jayden said nothing. 

Vivaldi in the Dark is a sensitive portrayal about a depressed teenager who finds a way out of darkness thanks to his first love. But it's also a story about bullying and overcoming fears and family dynamics. Darren feels hollowed-out, empty and aching after every practice, rehearsal or recital. He doesn't enjoy playing the sad and solemn violin. Besides, playing the violin makes Darren's bad days even worse. 

"I feel like I'm disappearing," he whispered.

When Darren is depressed, there's a numbness to everything and he feels listless and very exhausted. Simply put, during those darker days he's overwhelmed by a strong lethargy. But Jayden is a big help to make it bearable. There's a light at the end of the dark tunnel.

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As a much appreciated counterpoint we have Ethan and Paul, Darren's loyal (best) friends. I loved seeing them goofing around. They really mellowed the plot.

"Biscuit?" Ethan wrinkled his nose. "No way, muffin is so much cooler."
"You're both freaks," Darren opined, but they ignored him.
"Muffins would totally have curly hair if they were people, so he's a muffin."
"He's not gay enough to be a muffin. Muffins are completely, one hundred percent, Elton-John-in-a-tutu gay."
"You're the one who said he had a boyfriend."
"You two, I swear to God, are fucking married," Darren said and managed (somehow) to extract himself from the tangle.

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When an author accomplishes to hold my attention from start to finish and, in the process, engages my heart, then he's totally won me over. This story felt believable and authentic. Right from the beginning I was there and ready to absorb the story even though I hadn't known what to expect and I was once again afraid that I had to deal with yet another dramatic cheese festival. Granted, Vivaldi in the Dark is anything but a drama-free story. On the other hand, the drama doesn't overshadow the entire plot. It is there but in small and well-placed doses. The author gave me room and time to breathe; he gave me time to deal with the subject matter. And at the same time he brightened the plot with witty dialogue and some well-placed banter. I never felt overwhelmed by Darren's depression. It is an emotional read, yet there is no cheese alert either which made me sigh with relief. Overall it was a very accomplished combination of good plot, eclectic main and secondary characters with great characterization and a beautiful and credible romance. All in all an authentic story about finding your first true love.

Matthew J. Metzger is a new-to-me author and after reading Vivaldi in the Dark, I'm definitely looking forward to checking out his backlist. He's a young author and yet he impressed me with his mature and engaging writing style. As many of you know I'm not a fan of YA books. Isn't it significant that the YA stories I enjoy the most belong to the m/m sub genre?

Life did not come with a soundtrack, and yet some low, haunting melody was drifting through the hall.

It's true, life doesn't come with a soundtrack but you can compose your own music; a melody that will guide you through life's ups and downs and will lead you to your destination. A destination that YOU choose and not your parents. Parents are here to counsel, guide, cherish and protect their kids. We should never forget that.

Steam low (no explicit sex scenes; you'll have to settle for kissing, cuddling and hugging)

Recommended read.

"I don't know," Darren said honestly. "I just feel like…I've been jarred. Shaken. Like something ripped all the cobwebs out. I don't know. Just…different. It's still there, you know. It's not gone, it's just…not quite…everything."
Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/838049123?utm_medium=email&utm_source=rating