A Song of Secrets
I reviewed Jayci Lee’s Harlequin debut Temporary Wife Temptation, and while it didn’t quite meet my expectations, Lee has released a lot of books in the meantime, so I thought perhaps practice had made perfect. In th case of her latest book, A Song of Secrets, the answer is, sadly, no.
Angie Han and her sisters form the Hana Trio, a classical string group (Angie is the cellist). She also jilted Joshua Shin years ago:
“[S]he’d led him to believe that she left him so her father wouldn’t cut her off. Couldn’t she just tell him the truth? Tell him that her father had pressured her to leave him using her mother’s cancer diagnosis to guilt her into compliance? No, she couldn’t.”
Of course she couldn’t! Otherwise, we wouldn’t have a plot premise! (This is not a spoiler, by the way. We learn the entire backstory by a quarter of the way in.)
Anyway, Joshua is a corporate vice president, but Angie recognizes a piece on classical radio and realizes that Joshua is ALSO A.S., the mysterious and anonymous breakout classical composer. So she asks Joshua to compose a piece for the Hana Trio. The publicity of a piece by A.S. will help her music society kick off its season, which must be a success because the pandemic has pushed them to the financial edge. He agrees, on the condition that she give private music performances for his ailing grandfather.
I have to give credit for the fact that Angie actually DOES tell Joshua the truth about why she broke up with him, but once she’s told him, I looked down at my Kindle bar and couldn’t figure out what on earth we needed another hundred pages for. Well, the author turns things over to Joshua’s work dilemma. See, he’s up for a promotion to take over the company, but he will never get it if anybody realizes he is secretly an award-winning classical composer. (I have no idea how or when he’s supposed to have become an elite composer while working twelve hour days and weekends and doing the whole thing anonymously, which means not leveraging any of his connections). So instead of waiting for Angie’s old lie to get busted, we sit around waiting for Joshua’s secret identity to get busted. It isn’t really an improvement.
There are gestures towards the characters being musical, but the characterization ultimately falls short. Angie’s wardrobe is cello-friendly, which is nice, and she mentions that she can’t go bowling because she has to protect her hand. We should, however, see a professional musician practice eight hours a day, instead of a couple of morning sessions with her sisters and nothing on her own. In addition to Joshua’s implausible schedule, I didn’t buy that he was composing at such an elite level that he merited a recording, which in turn was played on the radio, all while remaining anonymous. A scene in which he composes didn’t feel like an authentic representation of the creative process (I even read it to a composer I know, who shook his head). There’s also confusing amateur psych nonsense in which Joshua is afraid to love Angie again because he worries he’ll lose his ability to compose. But… after breaking up with her, he became a world-renowned composer? And while dating her again he wrote a piece for the Hana Trio? And also this isn’t now creativity works?
The prose is stilted. Lee has obviously never met a line of dialogue she didn’t want to tag:
“Chloe, you were busting our ass today,” Megan said, beaming with pride.
“The opening is so important with this piece. I wanted us to get it just right.” Chloe smiled shyly.
“And we did it, girls.” Angie high fived her sisters.
(Please also note that Megan and Angie apparently have, collectively, only one ass).
Lee’s covers continue to be beautiful, and that’s why I’ve grabbed these books. Unfortunately, fooling me twice is my limit. I’m moving on.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.