Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blue Notes by Shira Anthony

Title: Blue Notes
Author: Shira Anthony
Cover Artist: Mara McKennan
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Genre: contemporary
Length: 227 pages



Blame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancée, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a moment’s notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life.

But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own cross to bear. In the City of Love, it doesn’t take them long to fall into bed, but as they’re both about to learn, they can’t run from the past. Sooner or later, they’ll have to face the music.


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Jason Greene, or Jaz, as he’s also called, wants to put an ocean between himself and his usual life. Forced to reassess his priorities after his fiancée Diane steps out on him, he takes a couple of months off to stay in his sister’s Parisian flat, and meets Jules, a young, talented, and nearly destitute violinist. Jules becomes a fixture very quickly, making breakfast, going sight-seeing, and provoking questions about Jason’s sexuality.


Jason doesn’t spend a lot of time pondering, leaving the feeling that his willingness to spend so much time away from Diane has plenty of basis in denial. He considers, but doesn’t angst over this somewhat new development, growing willing to have public displays of affection rather early on. A vacation romance allows more latitude perhaps; no one on the street knows him.

Jules is pleased for the attention, and more than a little grateful; his living conditions are about two steps off the street, and his violin the one valuable he owns. At no time is there a hint of exchange of favors for shelter, which could have easily happened; it is a strength of the writing that Jules’ interest always feels genuine rather than commercial. In fact, Jules is used to being self-sufficient, he’s managed to make a life from an earlier age than a loving family would have set him on his own. He’s so used to it that he doesn’t quite know how to ask for what he needs or for explanations; instead, he runs. He sometimes seems much younger than twenty-two, creating a certain plausibility to Jason’s feeling like his father, though there’s only twelve years between them.

Both men have secrets, which unfold through the book with lovely pacing, and each finds the way to help the other, using his own particular skills. Whether it’s fixing Jules’ present or touching the scars of Jason’s past, there is a feeling that only the other man could have been the one to help. A last minute problem threatens to break everyone’s hearts, including the reader’s.

The author’s love of Paris comes through very clearly, although it does sound a bit guide-book-like at times. She clearly knows her way around. Her love of music is equally clear; giving Jules and Jason reason to play. The music is Jules’ present, Jason’s past, and in a wonderful way, the future for them both.

The writing is generally clear and descriptive, and enjoyable until one hits one of the approximately one million uses of the older man/the younger man/the American/the Frenchman. At least one of those on every page, sometimes more than one, it seems: anything that inspires me to stop reading and start counting does not improve the reading experience, nor did a fascinating passage that switched POVs 5 times in 125 words. Fortunately that was a single occurrence, but a serious bounce out of the story.

A secondary character that appeared toward the end caused some dragging toward the resolution; he seemed inserted as sequel bait, and diverted attention from Jason, who had serious issues to resolve. Diane, the wandering fiancée, was refreshing: she was neither an evil harpy nor entirely too understanding, she was just a flawed and seeking human being, so kudos there, as with sister Rosalie, who interferes just enough.

This was a charming read, even with the flaws; I will certainly look for more stories from Shira Anthony. I enjoyed the unrolling of the relationship and the entwining of the men, the setting, and the music. Paris was almost a character in its own right, and the romance is between Jason, Jules, and the City of Light. 4 marbles




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