Miss Zara Keller can play anything on the piano and uses those skills to work her way back and forth across the Atlantic in a ship’s lounge. At the end of this voyage she’ll try out for the Royal College of Music, but she meets a woman one fateful night whose kiss changes everything forever.
Lady Jillian Stansfield has her laboratory work, study at Cambridge, and her long-time friends to make up for the coldness in her heart. From the first moment she meets the mysterious American musician her heart understands life may not continue in the proscribed course but will her head have the courage to go on?
Pros And My Favourite Parts
Large blocks of internal dialogue create intimacy with all the main characters. The reader may not agree with Constance’s meddling or be frustrated with Nelson’s cluelessness, but they will certainly understand why everyone does what they do. The author also uses the technique to show intentions and actions that are awfully important to Zara and Jillian but unknown to them. This has the effect of Hitchcock’s bomb under the table. The reader knows something bad is coming and can only read on and hope for the best.
A lot of what happens to Zara and Jillian depends on the action or inactions of others, and the author has a real knack for playing with time, mostly with well-placed flashbacks to tease the reader with yet more information that would be helpful to the lovers if they only knew. The two are taken with each other from the first moment but there is a lot of interference, both well-meaning and nefarious. I wanted to either shake some sense into some of the characters or punch them. Combined with the couple’s seemingly endless inability to communicate fully and truthfully with each other, this gives the reader more than a few breathless moments.
There are also a few times when the reader is lulled into thinking maybe everything will be all right and then a harsh event or bad timing creates an injury that breaks hearts and sets back the course of their romance. Looming over all the personal issues is the setting, offering its own dangers. The early seventies was a dangerous time to be queer, emotionally and physically. Jillian’s gay panic as she comes to terms with loving a woman is appropriate given the culture and her clingy social standing. A lady of that era still carried a lot expectations and harsh consequences if they weren’t met, and Zara’s place in the world is much less secure without the aid of Jillian’s monied family and friends.
Cons And Heads Up
Characters are physically injured by either idiotic behavior or intention to harm. The time period allows homophobia to be openly expressed.
The angst level is high throughout from Zara and Jillian’s personal struggles to be truthful to themselves and each other, and against outside interference. They fall for each other so quickly and completely that it’s nearly agonizing to see them go through their struggles, but the payoff is well worth the effort. Time management is well done, especially with well-placed flashbacks that allows the reader to see the train wrecks coming, and I can’t help but love a book that gave me the term twattle-basket.
More than once I had to put the book down and walk away to give myself a calming pep talk. Zara and Jillian have a deep love for one another but obstacles both internal and external make things very difficult for them. Being allowed inside the head of the major players gave greater understanding to everyone’s intentions and purposes, as well as revealing secrets that ultimately harm the lovers. It’s a nail biting ride, making the romance all the sweeter.
Excerpt from A Perfect Fifth by Jaycie Morrison
Parting from Constance and Nelson, they moved into the trees, beyond sight of the house. Unusually for this time of year, the day was perfect, temperature-wise, and Jillian was pleased Zara easily kept up with her. She was accustomed to walking alone and wondered what possible conversation she might have with this stranger. But judging from Zara’s contented expression as she took everything in, she seemed happy to simply walk and appreciate the day. Her casual manner made Jillian relax, and she began talking about the history of the house and about the surrounding acreage.
When Jillian began pointing out the different trees and plants, Zara asked, “Did you plan to become a botanist originally?
“Am I boring you?”
Zara stopped in her tracks. “God, no. Absolutely not. I’m just amazed you know all this, even though it’s not your field.”
“I’ve lived here all my life. I thought it only right I should know what the things around me were called.”
“You’re a person who likes order.” She nodded slowly. “So that makes sense.”
Jillian cocked her head slightly. “I should think everyone would understand that order is necessary.”
“I’d say it depends on whether that order is self-imposed or dictated by others.”
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Bits and Bobs
ISBN number: 9781636791333
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
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