AAR Loves… Romances Featuring Music and Musicians

Conductors, jazz musicians, rock stars, pianists, sopranos, church choristers – there’s no shortage of musicians in Romancelandia. This list features some of our favorites.

A Note Yet Unsung by Tamara Alexander

Trained in Austria, Rebekah Carrington is a brilliant violinist, but accepting the limitations placed on women musicians in post-Civil War Nashville, Tennessee is frustrating. She finds work as an assistant to the director of Nashville’s new symphony, Maestro Nathaniel (Tate) Whitcomb. While both hide secrets which could destroy their careers, Tate and Rebekah create a new symphony together and fall in love. Filled with powerful narrative and dialogue that bring both the concert hall and the Tennessee mountains to life, always entwined with music, this book provides a wonderful romance and some lessons on class differences that ring true in our time.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

A Regency Christmas Carol (Out of Print)

The two DIK stories in this Christmas anthology are Mary Balogh’s The Bond Street Carolers and Carla Kelly’s Make a Joyful Noise. In Carolers, Roderick Ames, Baron Heath, hears a gifted boy soprano caroling with his church, and approaches his widowed mother Fanny Berlinton about featuring the boy at a holiday concert. In Make a Joyful Noise, St. Philemon’s Church is tired of losing the parish carols contest. Peter Chard discovers that widowed Rosie Weatherby, new to the neighborhood and living on the slim charity of her relatives, is a glorious soprano – and comes with a melodious Welsh contingent! Since this anthology is out of print, here are two other places you can buy these stories: Balogh’s is in the ebook Christmas Miracles, and Kelly’s is in Carla Kelly’s Christmas Collection.

Buy Christmas Miracles at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Buy Carla Kelly’s Christmas Collection at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Hub City Romance by Mercy Brown

Both books feature kick-ass women in the music business, and the first, Loud Is How I Love You, earned a DIK at AAR. Brown, who was a musician herself, gets everything right about local band life. As Dabney wrote, “I spent much of my mid-twenties hanging out with indie bands and I promise you this is what it’s like. The road trips, the sound checks, even the drinks on the house are so authentically an indie band in the 1990s that reading this book is an immersive experience, one that I desperately didn’t want to end.”

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

The Warrender Saga by Mary Burchell

Originally published by Mills & Boon back from the 1960s to the 1980s, most of the  books in this thirteen-book series are now available digitally. All the novels take place in the high-pressure world of the classical concert hall and opera house circuit; many of the characters are top-flight musicians – singers, pianists, conductors – and it’s very clear that the author really knew her stuff. In the first novel, A Song Begins, Mary Burchell’s knowledge and love of opera shines through, as we witness the romance developing between an aspiring singer and a world-renowned conductor.  Even though – as in many older romances – we don’t get the hero’s PoV, the author nonetheless creates a really strong emotional connection between the couple, and shows clearly that this is much more than your average master/pupil romance.

Find the series at Amazon

The Virtuoso by Grace Burrowes

Valentine Windham, a piano virtuoso, is the fifth son of the Duke of Windham. After an injury renders one of his hands virtually unusable, a depressed Val escapes to the country to recuperate. When he arrives at the dilapidated Markham estate (which he won at cards), he discovers Lady Ellen Markham, widow of the former Baron Roxbury, living in a cottage on the property still mourning the death of her beloved husband. Over the course of the summer, they transition from friends to lovers and find new purpose in life with each other. Val is a classic beta with a passion for music and his story is gentle, sweet, and satisfying.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

The VIP Series by Kristen Callihan

This series showcases Kill John, one of the world’s biggest and most successful rock bands. The series opens while the band is on hiatus (after their lead guitarist nearly dies from an overdose), and stars the super-hot lead singer, Killian James.  Killian can’t come to terms with his best friend’s close brush with death and is slowly drinking himself to death when he crashes his motorcycle into Liberty Bell’s front yard. She’s pissed, he’s pissed (literally) and things start off on the wrong note. Temporary neighbors and frenemies until one night Killian overhears Liberty playing her guitar and singing and…well, it’s a terrific book so you’ll have to read it and discover what happens on your own. Ms. Callihan followed up Idol with the excellent Managed (featuring the band manager), and released book three, Fall in 2018.

The Decades series

The series Decades: A Journey of African American Romance contains several books starring musicians. Sheryl Lister’s Love’s Serenade, set in the 1920s, features Leigh, a jazz singer, and Miles, her former love who might be able to get her the recording contract of her dreams. Love’s Sweet Melody by Kianna Alexander (set in the 1940s) is a story of healing, and how Betty’s music can reach veteran Warner as he struggles with PTSD from World War II.

Buy Love’s Serenade at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo

Buy Love’s Sweet Melody at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Infamous by Jenny Holiday

Beautifully written and gorgeously romantic, this story of a rock-star and a pediatric doctor who fall in love is slow-burn romance at its finest.  The romance between Jesse and Hunter is born of a strongly developed friendship that provides the sort of emotional support and closeness neither has ever had before – but former hell-raiser Jesse has promised his manager that he’ll toe the line and keep his name free of scandal – and owning up to his bisexuality is firmly on the list of Things Jesse Can’t Talk About. We also love Famous, Holiday’s fabulous story about a Taylor Swift-esque singer who hides out in a small town and falls for an art history prof with a lot of baggage. Famous is both a DIK and on our list for Best Books of 2017.

Buy Infamous at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes and Noble/Kobo

Buy Famous at: Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Apple Books/Kobo

The Rock Star Romance series by Erika Kelly

In the first (and best) book, You Really Got Me, Ms. Kelly introduces us to Blue Fire, a band hoping for their big break.  Lead singer Slater Vaughn opens the series when he falls in love with roommate Emmie, who’s also the sister of a bandmate. Uh-oh. She’s looking for the next big band to launch her career as a band manager. Slater has a reputation as a ladies man (sigh), but he falls hard for the hardworking and laser focused Emmie. There’s lots of humor and missteps as they fall in love and Blue Fire hits the big time. Each book in the series features a different band member and the usual vices are sprinkled throughout the series:  drugs, alcohol, women, and the perils of fame.  The series is a bit uneven, but Slater’s story is a keeper. We gave it an A.

Find the series at Amazon

The Deal (Off-Campus #1) and The Score (Off-Campus #3) by Elle Kennedy

Ostensibly a NA series about college hockey players, Off-Campus features not one, but two musical heroines. The Deal stars Hannah Wells, a music major at the fictional Briar University, who falls in love with the college hockey team captain after she agrees to tutor him. Later on in the series, her best friend Allie Hayes, a singer and actress hoping to make it big on Broadway after college, brings ladies’ man Dean DiLaurentis to knees. These two – opposites and best friends who love and support each other in good times and bad – are smart, talented and ambitious, and enhance this terrific series in every way.

Find the series at Amazon

Wild at Whiskey Creek by Julie Anne Long

Glory Greenleaf is a singer and guitar player whose talent and ambition are too big for tiny Hellcat Canyon. She’s on the verge of the big break that might get her into the big leagues just when she’s falling in love with Sheriff Eli Barlow, who has no plans to leave town – and who also put her brother in jail.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Perfect Day by Sally Malcolm

In this rather lovely retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Joshua Newton is something of a black sheep,  a talented musician in a family of hard-nosed businessmen.  When he meets and falls in love with aspiring actor Finn Callaghan during one halcyon summer, life finally starts falling into place; Josh and Finn plan to move together to LA where Finn will pursue his acting career while Josh continues his musical studies.  Alas, Josh allows himself to be ‘persuaded’ that the gorgeous Finn turning up with a boyfriend in tow will be detrimental to his career, and breaks things off, remaining in his small hometown and living a life that seems to get smaller with each passing year.  Until, that is, his family home – sold off, to cover family debts and legal bills – is bought by Sean Callaghan – Finn’s brother.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Nodame Cantabile by Tomoko Ninomiya

Arrogant but brilliant Chiaki Shinichi could be a great conductor, if he could just overcome his fear of travel and get to Europe to study. His next door neighbor, virtuoso pianist but personal mess Noda Megumi (Nodame) needs structure and focus to bring out her talent. Through each other, both discover opportunities to grow at their Japanese conservatory – and maybe beyond? This gorgeous graphic novel series has also been adapted as delightful and hilarious anime and live-action miniseries.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Thrown Off Track by Tamsen Parker

In this opposites attract/friends to lovers story starring the bassist and drummer for License to Game, a band featured in an earlier Parker novel, Christian loves Teague and finds it painful to watch his friend flit from partner to partner. When the band is asked to participate in a charity calendar to celebrate literacy, Christian – who usually lets other band members take the lead in decision making, convinces the band to participate (hmm…why?!). He’s the last to arrive for the shoot, and when Teague catches sight of his friend naked, he can’t look away. He wants him. Badly. This too-short story has twists and turns – and a few surprises, before it reaches a happily ever after.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Till the Stars Fall by Kathleen Gilles Seidel

Quinn Hunter rose to stardom as the 70s folk-rock duo Dodd Hall with Krissa French’s brother Danny, and though Krissa loved Quinn, she couldn’t take being locked into her role as the band’s emotional stabilizer. The band broke up spectacularly in her absence. Twenty years later, with Quinn having moved on to a career as a physician and Krissa a mom of four, can they make a go of a second chance? Seidel also has a wonderful stand-alone called A Risk Worth Taking about a country musician and her secret husband, but it is out of print

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Riven and Rend by Roan Parrish

The Riven series features three musicians. In Riven we meet Caleb and Theo; Caleb, a recovering addict struggling to stay clean by hiding himself away, falls deeply in love with Theo, the lead singer of a world famous band.  Although these two have no problem making sweet music together – emotionally, physically, and professionally – when the real world intrudes, they struggle to find common ground.  Rend features Caleb’s closest friend Rhys, a musician who falls in love with a stranger in a bar. Caleb, Theo and Rhys are wholly unique and complex individuals – but they share a common bond: translating their professional on-stage success into personal happiness.  The Riven series comprises some of Ms. Parrish’s best work to date.

Buy Riven at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Buy Rend at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Invitation to the Blues by Roan Parrish

For Jude Lucen, playing the piano has always been his solace and passion.  But after a depressive episode and suicide attempt, he’s returned home to Philadelphia to try to get his life back on track.  When he meets Faron Locklear, a tattoo artist at Small Change, he’s surprised and dismayed by his attraction him.  Jude struggles to believe he’s worthy of Faron’s love. Invitation to the Blues details Jude’s slow and painful journey to self-love and fulfillment.

Buy it at: Amazon

Cadenza by Stella Riley

On the verge of a brilliant career, virtuoso harpsichordist Julian Langham has just received a standing ovation at the end of his breakthrough recital in Vienna when he discovers he’s inherited an earldom.  He doesn’t want it and doesn’t know a thing about it or how to be an earl, and on his return to England finds a seriously dilapidated house and estate, and that his predecessor has left behind two illegitimate children to run wild.  Worse still, there’s nothing for him to play – the only instrument in the house is in just as bad a state of repair as the rest of it – and without the means to make music, Julian feels as though he’s slowly dying inside.  Music is clearly a subject close to the author’s heart; her descriptions of Julian’s performances and his compositions ring very true, as does her characterisation of him as both man and as a musician.  As always, she writes a tender, sensual romance (two of them in fact, in this story!) – any romance fan can’t go wrong when picking up one of Ms. Riley’s  books.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

The Rock Kiss series by Nalini Singh

Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series centers on the members and friends of the band Schoolboy Choir. The books are often dark, fully embracing the fact that the music lifestyle often runs hand in hand with substance problems, and if tortured alpha heroes are your romance weakness, you’ll find them here. Singh’s heroines are no pushovers, though, so this makes for courtships and HEAs our reviewers have described as “delicious,” “powerful,” “completely convinc[ing],” and “magic.”

Find the series at Amazon

What do you think, readers? Are you a groupie for musician stories? What great books featuring musicians have we missed?

List of Links for AAR Loves

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