The Music of Love
I have to confess that The Music of Love is one of those little catnippy books that grabbed me by the collar and made me laugh, even though it’s got enough problems to keep it far from a recommended grade. You will roll your eyes at the character names or be annoyed by the haughty push and pull between the leads; the heroine does things that someone of her maturity level should never, ever do, there are two – count ‘em, two – mistaken infidelity plots, but some of its more sensationalist portions are still amusing. Though, of course, your level of suspension of disbelief may vary – especially when the hero and heroine bang for the first time after watching his stallion mount a mare. But that’s putting the proverbial horse before the cart.
Portia Stefani (and yes, I kept hearing the strains of No Doubt in the back of my head whenever I read her last name) is in dire straits. Her philandering ex-husband had once been a great pianist, but his arm was crushed in an accident, ruining his career. He drained her finances while in the process of fleeing their marriage before being presumed dead in an accident, forcing the closure of the music academy for young women which bore his name but which Portia ran. So now Portia needs to go out into the world in search of enough cash upon which to live without assistance from her estranged relatives.
An offer comes through the Stark Employment agency from a Mr. Eustace Harrington of Cornwall, which offers Ivo Stefani a hefty sum to privately tutor a gentleman in the art of playing piano. Portia has no recourse but to take the offer herself, a decision which causes her anxiety, but which means she might eventually be able to afford to create a household with three other teachers with whom she has a close friendship.
Eustace – called Stacy within the family, which is just as well, because he thinks “Eustace” sounds like an “undertaker’s name” – didn’t expect a woman to show up, and feels betrayed that the famous Ivo Stefani has not after all been engaged to teach him piano. Stacy has lived in seclusion within his family home, hiding from the gaze of his tenants for all of his thirty-five years because of his albinism.
Fearing that others will find his physical appearance monstrous, his maiden aunt, Frances, has been taking care of him his whole life. He wants Frances to have a life beyond him but she’s never managed to grasp one, nor has Stacy managed to truly do the same. The appearance of Portia throws him off course, and his response is to bait her.
But Portia is exactly what she told him she is – a highly skilled pianist with classical training. And Stacy is moved by her music – and her other attributes. His aunt likes her, and she soon begins fitting into the household. Portia and Stacy soon begin a physical affair which is complicated by her pregnancy – and their subsequent engagement. Will a dark secret cloud their happiness?
Music of Love is a truly mixed-up bag, with more good than horrifying parts, and some cartoony over-the-top notes that don’t go with the rest of the composition, landing it on the negative side of a C grade.
I liked that Portia had experience – a lover before marriage, a bad marriage, but a sexual desire and orgasmic history that caused her to have wants and desires that she wanted – nay, demanded – Stacy fulfill. But I didn’t like the way she leaped to various conclusions, and she does something in the middle of the book that was at first understandable, then jaw-droppingly foolish, and her choices afterward are perfectly ridiculous and show the reader that her marriage to Stacymay have been far too hasty.
Stacy, meanwhile, has depth but strikes a few too many annoying alpha notes, ultimately coming in several notches below some of the author’s other roguish but loving heroes. Yet he’s also the guy who talks aloud to his anxious stallion, Geist. You cannot say he’s without his charms.
While the central relationship moves quickly, it packs a lot of heat and banter between its covers. Stacy gets a boner when Portia plays the piano – that’s true love. Though I could have done without them getting hot and bothered after watching his stallion mount a mare, which was an eyebrow-raiser even if it’s a traditional trope. Sex does seem to be the tie that binds them together however, aside from a shared love of music and sense of humor.
They’re married before the book’s halfway point and the narrative scrounges for false dusk moments, from a mysterious stalker to a surprise twin brother to a mistaken affair. The plot truly is Music of Love’s own worst enemy. And several of its twists fail to make sense. Prime example: Stacy doesn’t want any of the locals to gossip about his albinism – yet he regularly visits houses of ill repute in other areas, because of course he does.
In the end, Music of Love is campy and may scratch a few old school itches for some. For the rest, it’ll be too rich a desert to sample.
NOTE: this book includes discussion of underage sexual activity. And on-page horse breeding. Yes.