By Lillian Q. Irwin
April 16, 2013
By Lillian Q. Irwin
April 16, 2013
Contemporary Gothic/ Lesbian/ Interracial/ mystery
Pub: Bold Strokes Books
Pub: Bold Strokes Books
Lee Howe, a professional pianist, comes to Southern California from New York on a mournful mission: She believes that if she can see the site where her beloved Devorah met her death, she will begin to accept that she must move on with her own life. Devorah Manikian had been rehearsing for a starring role in Carmen and was living in Eggerscliffe, a 1920s-style pseudo-castle belonging to wealthy and eccentric impresario, Annajean Eggers. Devorah was gone only a few weeks before Lee was notified that she was dead—killed in a tower fire at Eggerscliffe. But as Lee stands alone on a deserted patch of beach just below the castle, she hears Devorah singing. Is it the cocktail of tranquilizers, sleeping pills, anti-depressants, and anti-anxiety drugs Lee has been taking since the announcement of Devorah’s death that makes her hallucinate her beloved’s voice—or is Devorah being kept a prisoner somewhere in Eggerscliffe?
Wow, I really enjoyed this book. There are so many elements to it that intrigued me and satisfied my love of a good mystery. There’s also a romantic angle although it’s not a romance in the traditional sense.
It’s definitely gothic in feel even though a contemporary. In fact, one of the pleasures about reading this book was not being too sure what time period this is set in. My mind kept latching on to contradictions : mentions of modern technology vs mentions of 1930’s Marlene Dietrich and clothing styles, places. Even the way the characters spoke, language used without modern colloquialisms, made me question the time period. Maybe it was also because this story is set in the timeless world of classical music and musicians, which has a cultured elegance of its own. It was like a mystery within a mystery.
Lee is the main character and it’s her passionate nature that drives this story. This book starts out with Lee going to San Diego where Devorah, her partner of 15 years has died, trying to get some closure. Maybe being in the physical place will help her. At the bottom of the cliff below the castle where Devorah has died, she hears her lover singing a favorite piece that they considered personal to them as a couple and this starts her on the path of insisting that Devorah must be alive. She’s so internally passionate about it that she’s willing to risk her friends thinking she’s crazy, even thinking she’s crazy herself at times, never being sure if it’s true.
What I liked about Lee is that she’s so determined. Her love of Devorah after all those years together is still so intense that she will do anything, even risking some possible danger to herself from Annajean, whom she thinks has Devorah locked up somewhere in her home. Her intensity is such that because it’s unknown if Devaroh is actually alive or not I wondered if really she is the one losing it.
Annajean is clearly odd and a character that I wish the authors had given more depth to. She’s the catalyst for all that is going on and yet there’s not much about her background or what makes her tick. This is the only negative thing I can say about this book. I was craving to know more about her. The authors do give her a history, which sheds some light, but it’s vague at the very most and I think she is such a delicious character that I felt she warranted more depth. She’s also the main essence of this story being a classic gothic story.
Since Devorah is also a huge part of the story but is not present, I thought the authors did a great job with flashbacks to give the reader a good feel for who Devorah is as well. Soon after Lee hears Devorah, there’s a flashback to Lee and Devorah’s life together, who they are as people and how it came about that Devorah left Lee to pursue a last chance at fulfilling a dream. We get to see how vulnerable Devorah is to a predator assuring her of fame, which shows Devorah to be more passionate and maybe a bit selfish about her career than Lee is, who is satisfied with where she’s at. But it also shows how much Lee loves Devorah in that she’s willing to let her go to explore and have her dreams. There are also flashbacks later on in the book in that goes more into depth, which I appreciated.
The pacing of this story is just right. There was just enough tension and slow reveals that kept me turning the pages. The authors also went into territory that would normally bother me, but which didn’t.
While Lee is so sure that Devorah is still alive and desperate to save her, to the point of disregarding all common sense, she has an affair with an old classmate from Julliard who shows up at Annajean’s memorial concert for Devaroh. What Lee has felt for Devorah, that intense love that she’s her soul mate and her life, is what Lily confesses she’s felt for Lee all these years.
What I loved about this part of the story was how human it was written. For most people, even the hint of infidelity is a put off to read. However, in this instance, and between Lily and Lee, it was something that happened and was a beautiful experience for both of them. It wasn’t thrown in there for tension or angst or to add some sexual content. Nor was it excused by the characters as something that happened out of emotional pain Lee was feeling. It’s really about two people who connect just because they have a connection despite external circumstances. It’s an experience that has Lee questioning how things might pan out if they find Devaroh alive, and also if Lily will respond to Han, her former partner, trying to win her back. It also causes Lee to contemplate issues that both she and Devaroh have ignored over the years and sort of gives her a fresh new and realistic outlook on her relationship with her if it will continue.
Some of the lighter moments and times when this felt more contemporary came through the secondary characters. Lily’s brother Tom is the type up for anything, and Lee’s friends who try to support Lee in her quest to save Devorah, are more down to earth, keeping Lee from going off the deep end. They added quite a lot to the story.
This is just a good book all around. I liked everything about it. Would definitely read more by these authors.
Heat Level: 2- several sensually- not graphically- written sex scenes.
Grade: Loved it!