Author ~ Shira Anthony, Veronica Keyes
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 11th march 2016
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Immerse yourself in the best-selling Blue Notes universe, where music and romance are intrinsically intertwined. In Blue Notes, a struggling jazz violinist meets an attorney for a true journey of the heart; in The Melody Thief, a renowned cellist, sought after by conductors the world over, seeks hope and forgiveness from a lawyer; in Aria, rekindled lust blossoms into a true romance in world of opera; in Prelude, a world-renowned conductor clashes with a substitute violinist; in Symphony in Blue, revisit the couples of the Blue Notes series; in Encore, the cool kid violinist and the wannabe conductor dance in and out of a relationship and in Dissonance, a British noble on the run meets a busker in a subway.
Ms. Anthony and Ms. Keyes have put together all of the books in their Blue Notes series in a single huge bundle. Seven books and more than 24,000 Kindle locations will keep even the most voracious reader (myself included) busy for days.
This series is well-served by the bundle. The authors have been careful to mix-and-match the characters throughout the books so that the bundles become as much a “family saga” as a series of books about musicians, only the family is the one the characters create through mutual respect, affection and support.
Each book is a love story in which at least one of the main characters is a Classical or Jazz musician. Their stories are told elegantly, tracing the musicians from the early days of their careers to their later success in tandem with the growth of their relationships with mentors, other musicians, or lovers of music. The books are about how these exquisitely-drawn characters build both careers and their lives together, and how the successful musicians (often from the previous books) encourage and support the growth of both their talent and their audience.
“Blue Notes”, the signature book of the series, highlights a successful attorney who makes a lot of money, but is desperately lonely. Recently divorced after his wife cheated on him, he takes a short sabbatical to return to Paris, which holds fond memories for him. Lonely, but ready, finally, to admit his attraction to men, he chances on the remarkable young Jazz violinist Jules in a small, dark, smoky Paris club. Despite his education and talent at the law, Jason was also once a promising pianist, but also a man who didn’t (and still doesn’t) have the confidence to face the career as a musician he left behind when he dropped out of the conservatory in Grenoble. Still, he is a great fan of music who is drawn, inexorably, to those who have the talent and career to create great music.
“The Melody Thief” brings together a brilliant, but troubled, cello prodigy who is still in great demand and concertizes all over the world despite spending his spare time drinking and doing one-night-stands in the grungy rest rooms of questionable gay bars. High on drugs and out of control, he is rescued by Antonio Bianchi (another attorney) when he is assaulted and mugged outside one of those bars. Antonio takes him home to clean him up and get him medical care. His wrist broken, he can’t play for two-to-three months, enough time for Antonio to introduce him to his son, and slowly draw him into his own “family of choice”. Cary was driven by his mother, both physically and figuratively, never given the love and approval he needed (she was furious when she found out her son was gay and refused to accept it). It is only through Antonio that Cary learns what a real family is, and finds himself in the arms of the infinitely supportive and loving Antonio.
“Aria” is the story of Sam, who grieves the loss of his beloved Nick, the talented artist who was killed by an undiagnosed aneurysm, leaving Sam bereft, with no clue as to how to continue living. He meets the first man whom he’s been attracted to since Nick passed away, the fledgling Operatic baritone, Aiden. They have a brief one-night-stand and Aiden bails on him. without explanation or good-bye. They meet each other in Europe, several years later, where Aiden has become a major Concert and Opera star. He has also become a bit of a mess. His only relationship just ended in a most public way. He had been living with the fabulously wealthy Cameron, Lord Sherrington, in London. The tabloids followed their relationship, right up to the moment when Aiden walked in on Cameron, at the party celebrating Aiden’s Covent Garden debut, screwing a well-known hot Olympic swimmer. Both Sam and Aiden carry big relationship burdens they both have to overcome if they’re ever going to find love again.
“Symphony in Blue” was my favorite book in the series. David Somers, the young conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (and failed composer) finds the music in the man he comes to love. Not just that the brilliant violinist Alex Bishop is his muse – in fact David hates everything Alex stands for, a uniquely talented classical artist who becomes unbelievably popular recording and performing everything from rock to blues to Beethoven. Yet David is drawn to him the first time Alex takes bow to violin when he substitutes, without rehearsal, for the original guest soloist, who has taken ill. David’s heart has been closed off for a long time. He lost his beloved parents while still a child. Raised by his grandfather, nothing he did was good enough, music was just a ridiculous avocation and David has refused his destiny, running the global enterprise that has been the source of his family’s wealth for generations. No matter how accomplished he is, there is still something missing – the passion and heart in his technically perfect work. It’s Alex who inspires him to find that. Alex becomes the symphony. Alex evokes the music in David’s soul that leads to his first successful composition. Alex is not David’s muse. He is David’s music. What an exquisite way to paint the music and the soul as one. For me, this was the most moving of all the books.
I’m sure you can see the themes wending their way through all seven books in this bundle. The others are “Prelude”, “Encore” and “Dissonance”. All of them deal with finding love, creating family and building stellar careers in music. They also deal with broken families, abuse, alcoholism and all the other pathologies that plague both gay men and sensitive artists. The angst in the books is well-earned.
What Ms. Anthony and Ms. Keyes do particularly brilliantly is weaving music in and out of the other themes and circumstances in such a masterful way that the music both underscores the plots of the books, but also expresses the love and yearning so evocatively that you can hear the music from the written page. It is the counterpoint to the men’s pain, longing and ecstasy; it is the power that drives them, that compels them to live intense lives of creation and sharing – almost as though each book is a single movement of a world-class symphony.
That’s not easy to accomplish, nor is it easy to produce seven books, so closely-related, beautifully written and profoundly moving. Each book is complete in and of itself, yet still part of a bigger whole whose structure becomes apparent only after completing them all. The characters are not just indelible, they grow before your eyes, as do their talent and the recognition they so justly deserve. Familiar characters come back from previous books, providing not just updates on their own stories, but as integral parts of the new ones.
This is romance writing at its best. This is music writing at its best. I didn’t realize until I started reading the “Blue Notes Bundle” that I had previously read all the books in the series as stand-alones. But even if you have too, it’s well-worth acquiring the bundle, because the second time around, for me, was even better than the first. All the parts came together and moved me in ways they didn’t the first time, courtesy of the broader context and themes that stretched across several books.
This is a brilliant, beautiful and major project, and a heck of a bargain as a bundle. I recommend it from the bottom of my heart.