Desert Isle Keeper
A Note Yet Unsung
I’ve enjoyed several of this author’s books, so I took a break from housework to read a chapter of A Note Yet Unsung. Within the first pages, I decided the housework could wait. One chapter turned into another. The housework never got done, but the compelling story, vibrant characters, and deep spirit of this book stayed with me for days.
This is the third book of the Belmont Mansion novels set in the decade after the Civil War. The series is tied together through an actual person, Adelicia Acklen, who lived at Belmont Mansion and who, in this story, provides the heroine with both financial and emotional support. Adelicia had three defining loves – art, nature, and music. Music is the focus of A Note Yet Unsung. I had not read the first two books in the series, but I plan to do so now, on the strength of this one.
Ten years earlier, Rebekah Carrington’s grandmother sent her off to Vienna in order to escape her stepfather’s unwanted advances and to spread her musical wings. There, Rebekah became a virtuoso performer on both violin and oboe. When her grandmother’s death forces her return to Nashville, Rebekah finds things at home are unchanged. Her stepfather still poses a threat, and her mother lives firmly under his thumb, but if, she decides, she can earn a living, she will be able to remove herself from such an untenable situation. Being employed as a member of the newly formed Nashville orchestra would be a good starting point, but two problems loom. A woman playing the violin in public is forbidden, and while joining an orchestra is acceptable in the North, that is not the case in Nashville. Nonetheless, confident of her ability, Rebekah seizes a chance to audition with the new conductor in town.
Nathaniel Tate Whitcomb has accepted the challenge to create Nashville’s orchestra. The demanding conductor’s position supports his family financially and focuses all his musical talent and energy. Tate first believes the young woman at his door seeks a post as an assistant, but the interview quickly transforms into an audition. Her performance on the oboe is perfection, both technically and emotionally and renders him speechless, but given Nashville’s social climate, adding her to the ensemble would ruin them both. With great sorrow, he turns her down.
The decision angers Rebekah, but she has a second plan. If she can find the money, she will travel to New York and audition for the orchestra there. In the meantime, she moves to the Belmont Estate and tutors the daughter of the orchestra’s major benefactor, one Adelicia Cheatham. Through Adelicia’s subtle manipulation, Tate hires Rebekah as his musical assistant to copy orchestral parts and to support his dream – to complete his own symphonic composition.
The romance is on rocky ground from the beginning. Rebekah considers Tate arrogant and blunt; Tate is attracted, but he can’t risk becoming involved. To protect his career, he has hidden not only his lower class background but also a troubling physical condition that is affecting his work. Despite her growing attraction to him, Rebekah resolves to follow her dream by auditioning in New York, but until then, for her reputation’s sake, her talent as a violinist must remain a secret. Focusing on their own dreams makes both Tate and Rebekah self-absorbed at times, but it’s a joy to watch as their deepening love opens them up to each other and the possibilities life offers.
The author’s use of music for storytelling is brilliant. Music connects all the characters from the classical players and city dwellers to the estate slaves and Tennessee mountain people. The descriptions of the soaring and soul-deep emotions experienced when creating music ring true and mirror my own musical experiences.
Much of the story is told using society as an antagonist and a mirror. Both principals make difficult decisions based on the limitations and mores of their respective homes, and even their romance must find a way through society’s expectations. The culture and lifestyle of the ‘highlanders’ are set beside that of the city dwellers – people from different worlds who nonetheless hold many of the same values. With open minds and hearts, Rebekah and Tate show how misunderstanding and prejudice between rural and urban worlds can grow to tolerance and then to appreciation. It’s a timeless lesson as relevant for us as it is for them.
The story never misses a beat. Gentle surprises along the way keep the story interesting while moving toward the satisfying conclusion. Core values are woven deftly through the characters’ lives – the power of love and family, integrity and commitment, and the truth that if we stay alert, messages from the divine come from the most unexpected places.
A Note Yet Unsung is a compelling, tender romance told with sensitivity and deep emotion that will touch your mind, your heart, and your soul, and I’m happy to recommend it without reservation.