The Music of Love
Be careful what you wish for, readers. I wanted a historical romance with a flawed heroine, and The Music of Love delivered that in spades. I read it with some interest, but it didn’t quite live up to the potential of its premise.
Portia Stefani, the widow of an Italian pianist lost in a shipwreck, receives a letter from a wealthy man, addressed to her late husband. The man wants piano lessons, and since Portia is also a talented pianist, she answers the letter with her husband’s name. She then travels to the gentleman’s estate, hoping he’ll give her a chance so she can pay the debts her husband left.
The gentleman, Stacy (short for Eustace) Harrington, has albinism, and as a result he believes he will never marry or have children. An orphan, he lives alone except for his aunt, but his reclusiveness is also due to the requirements of his condition. Bright light can damage his eyes, so he doesn’t go out during the day. He’s taken aback to discover his potential new teacher is a woman, but after Portia plays for him, he hires her, with the proviso that she not lie to him again.
At first I was thoroughly absorbed, because I love stories where people deal with financial problems. Even better, Portia was an experienced woman who enjoyed herself in bed long before she met Stacy. The lust-think was swift and frequent, but they were determined to behave like employer and employee, so they felt like two adults in historical times.
One night, though, Stacy breeds his stallion to a mare, and he invites Portia to watch. They are so turned on by the sight that they have sex in the stable, and they can’t go back to a professional relationship, since Portia is now pregnant. They decide to get married, so everything is wonderful until Portia overhears a villain say that Stacy was seen leaving a brothel recently.
Now the reason for this is that the madam of the brothel was his ex-lover and is still his dearest friend, so he wanted to tell her about his wedding. Does Portia ask him about this, though? No, she storms into his room and grabs something to throw at him. When he stops her, she tries to slap his face, but he catches her hand, so she drops to her knees and performs oral sex on him.
I’m sure her response is meant to show her passionate nature, but all I could think was: would it be acceptable for a hero to slap his fiancée if a villain claims she’s cheating? If not, why is such behavior okay for the heroine? I was so turned off that this was the least sexy blowjob ever.
This is the start of Portia’s downhill slide. Next, she discovers her former husband is alive, and he wants money for his silence. Does she tell Stacy? Of course not. She gives in to her husband’s demands while thinking, “Blackmailers always returned to the source of their money; every fool knew that.” Finally she goes off with another obvious villain, who then tries to kill her. At this point, she’s already survived two attempts on her life, so you’d think she would be careful.
Stacy fares better, since he’s a genuinely nice person, and I wished he’d ended up with a better wife. These two just do not talk about their problems, though that’s partly because they’re too busy getting it on. Yes, their physical compatibility is intense, but it’s difficult to feel sexual tension when the characters have sex at the drop of a hat. It got to the point that when the narrative briefly mentioned that the piano lessons were also ongoing, that came as a surprise.
Speaking of which, one reason I read this book is because I hoped the music lessons would be in-depth and insightful. Unfortunately their only function is to make Portia meet Stacy. And the end wraps everything up predictably – he inherits a title, the villains are hoist on their own petards, and there’s a blissful baby-logue. My favorite part is Stacy’s discovery that he not only has a twin brother with the same last name, but his brother and the madam of the brothel (Stacy’s ex) were in love years ago before fate separated them. What a coincidence. The madam never asks if Stacy is related to her long-lost lover, but then again, that might spoil the reveal.
Readers who enjoy over-the-top stories might want to try The Music of Love, since it’s certainly dramatic, with the blackmail, attempted murders, evil villains, and long-lost relatives. There’s also plenty of explicit sex and loads of angst produced by the failures to communicate. But rather than a single strong plot, there was a series of episodes, and other than Portia’s sex-positive approach, I didn’t like her as a heroine. So I can’t really recommend it.