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The Timpanist and the Stagehand by Ava Hayden

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I’d like to thank Divine Magazine for allowing me to guest blog about Dreamspinner Press’s release of my new novella, The Timpanist and the Stagehand, on Wednesday, April 13.

I don’t usually listen to music while I work. I need to hear sentence rhythms in my head, and anything that competes with that makes it harder for me to write.

Even though I don’t listen to music while I’m writing, I did have music in mind while writing The Timpanist and the Stagehand.

One of the songs Ren’s band, Ruby Red, plays is “You feel the same way too” by the Rankin Family. If I had to pick a playlist for being marooned on a desert island, the Rankins would be on it. (Reunion and These are the Moments are my two favorite albums by the Rankin Family, although I own everything they’ve recorded.) Alison Moyet would be on that list too (Alf and Raindancing).

Some of the classical pieces that Christoph plays number among my favorites as well: New World Symphony by Dvorak, Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin, and Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks.

More for a playlist? How about Handel’s Water Music, Debussy’s Clair de lune, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition?  More modern favorites: The Burning Bright by Royal Wood. Wintersleep’s The Great Detachment. Basia Bulat’s Tall Tall Shadow. Anything by The New Pornographers.

Most of the music I buy these days comes to my attention by way of the CBC’s music programming (go to to listen). All of the following programs are highly recommended (I guarantee you’ll hear something new that you love):

  • Canada Live with Talia Schlanger (Jazz Singer-Songwriter World Pop Country)
  • Shift with Tom Allen (Classical Singer-Songwriter Pop)
  • Radio 2 Morning with Tom Power (Singer-Songwriter Rock Pop)
  • Radio 2 Drive with Rich Terfry (Singer-Songwriter Rock Pop)
  • The Signal with Laurie Brown (Classical Pop Electronic)
  • Tonic with Tim Tamashiro (Jazz R&B / Soul)

And for classical:

  • Centre Stage with Katherine Duncan
  • Tempo with Julie Nesrallah


Ren Murphy is a stagehand. He’s also a loyal friend, a gifted musician, and an inspiring teacher—but most people don’t see past his job. Ren knows that crushing on the Oilton Philharmonic Orchestra’s principal timpanist, Christoph Theoharis, is a waste of time. Christoph brushes off highly eligible would-be suitors regularly. What chance would a stagehand have? Christoph doesn’t even notice Ren’s existence—until one fateful night when chance or luck or maybe fate gets Ren Christoph’s undivided attention.

Old betrayals overshadow both men’s lives, yet each sees something compelling in the other, something that won’t let either walk away. Ren and Christoph may be each other’s best hope of finding a happy-ever-after, but to do that they’ll have to forgive old wrongs. They’ll have to let go of the pain in their past before it destroys their hope for a better future. Most of all, they’ll have to find a way to believe—in possibilities and each other.

Review by Elaine White

Book – The Timpanist and the Stagehand

Author – Ava Hayden

Star rating – ★★★☆☆

No. of Pages – 82

Cover – Stunning and sexy!

POV – 3rd person, 1 POV

Would I read it again – Not unless it was a novel.

Genre – LGBT, Musical, Romance


*There may be spoilers ahead.*

I found this one really difficult to review. On one hand, there was a lot going for it. On the other, there was a lot missing or that didn’t work for me.


The bones are good.

The writing style is great.

3rd person really worked for this kind of story.

Ren and Christoph could have been really likable, relatable characters, with some more depth added

With extra length, it could have been a fantastic novel


Not long enough

Too many characters, all the same.

Relationship is a back story to Ren’s life

Lack of chemistry

First off, there isn’t a lot of character development. I figure this might be because of the length – 82 pages isn’t a lot – but I’ve seen authors manage it. For me, this one didn’t. I got who Ren was, but all the background characters just began to bleed into one and I had trouble dividing them in my mind. I often got Gil and Jos mixed up, as well as the girls. Christoph and Ren are really one-dimensional and not inspiring as main characters. There’s not a lot going on with them that’s attention-grabbing.

As for the relationship, I’d say it really only took up about 20% of the story. The first 10% had them together and solid, then the last 10% had the big mix-up that nearly had them splitting up, but somehow talking it through. Everything in between was more about Ren’s family and friends (sorting out Trista’s problems, dealing with his father and Caleb’s house).

I think, if it had been a novel, even just 50 more pages longer, then it would have had a much better chance of being cohesive and fully formed. The story just didn’t have impact or and real romance. That’s what I was looking for – a couple to fumble their way through a romance, not be practically strangers at the beginning, only to get together within the first 10% and keep a solid, unfluttered, relationship until the last 10%. There was no real intimacy, no challenge and no threat to their relationship. There wasn’t much flirting or chemistry. It just happened. And that’s disappointing.

Honestly, from the blurb, I expected much more drama, much more heat and a bit of seduction. I didn’t get any of that. The drama was minor and not really dramatic or surprising. The pain of their pasts sounded seriously heavy in the blurb but actually failed to gain my sympathy. To be brutal, the way it was put across in the story made it feel like they’d both blown their “pain” out of proportion and, in some cases, brought it upon themselves.

Christoph jumped very quickly from suspicious and uninterested to asking Ren out and spilling his life story. The only explicit sex scenes were rushed and bereft of real intimacy. In one, it was far too quick for them to jump into bed together, never mind the lack of discussion about who did what and when, but the second focused more on Ren’s need to stop thinking. In both cases, Ren’s thoughts took over the entire event and made it feel really disconnected from what they were supposed to be doing.

It’s like their entire relationship is fabricated out of nowhere. Christoph and Ren have never really spoken or spent time together, then two short meetings and they’re in a solid relationship, that lacks intimacy, any attempt at getting to know each other in private (a grilling by friends doesn’t count) and any hint of a friendship developing before the relationship even has time to begin.


I know it all sounds negative, but I feel it needs said. This story just isn’t long enough to do the author or the plot justice. It needs to either remove the daddy issues and replace that with more relationship drama or add more pages. Right now, it’s way too short and leaves a lot out of the story that is actually important. We never get to “know” these main characters. We’re thrown into their world, without knowing them, and they both have boring, regular, routine lives. The relationship is too perfect, the drama not dramatic enough to warrant being worried about and the background “pain” isn’t sympathetic enough.

For me, the best part of this story was the first 10%. It may sound really harsh, but that’s when the whole will-they-won’t-they happened. Until they suddenly ended up a couple, I was all for reading about more misunderstandings, more snogging in back rooms, more sneaking around and some really juice flirting, as they got to know each other. None of that happened. It was all a little too perfect after that. Perfect and smooth sailing.

I’m sorry to say that I was left disappointed.

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Ava Hayden lives and writes in Canada but grew up in the southern United States. When not working the day job or writing, she loves reading, baking, seeing plays, going to the symphony, and hiking. Her favorite places to hike are Banff and Jasper National Parks, Kananaskis Country, and Vancouver Island.

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