Love’s Serenade is the third book in the Decades series, telling stories of African American men and women throughout the past century. As a second-chance romance, it’s an interesting take on the trope, but overall I was disappointed with the end result.
Taking place in late 1920s Harlem, we follow Leigh Jones, fabulous jazz singer, and Miles Cooper, professional piano player (and the no-good ex). Several years before, Leigh and Miles were set to run away together from their Arkansas hometown, but when Leigh woke up one morning, Miles was gone, along with the music they had written together. Now Leigh has made her way to Harlem alone and is singing at a club, making her way in the music scene. And of course, who should show up but one Miles Cooper, who has never forgotten his former lady love (even though it’s his fault she’s a former lady love, but that’s beside the point, at least for now).
Miles slowly wins Leigh over, attempting to explain what happened to send him running to the hills, and Leigh warms up to him. Eventually. The thing is, I was constantly left wondering what exactly was happening. There’s a secondary plot external to the romance that gives us a sort of action scene at one point, but I’m still not sure what that was all about. The romance angst was introduced and resolved unbelievably quickly, and the ending just turned into an insta-fix.
The romance is fine, but I’m not okay with yet another supposed hero who can’t take no for an answer. If a woman says ‘no, leave me alone’, and flat out punches you, maybe, just maybe, you should stop being creepy and accept that no means no. Maybe you shouldn’t randomly stalk her as she works and networks and moves forward in her life. That said, at least Miles realizes how unacceptable abandoning Leigh actually was, and that he has a lot to make up for.
Overall, Love’s Serenade isn’t a terrible story, but it isn’t particularly great either, which was really disappointing as I’ve been over the moon about this whole Decades project. This story definitely needed another go-through from the editor, but I will say that the historical aspect – the feel of 1920s Harlem and the life of a black person in it – was well done. If the issues I had with the hero don’t bother you, then go ahead and give it a shot. You may enjoy it more than I did.