Pas de Deux by MJ DuncanPas de Deux by MJ Duncan is such a pleasant surprise for my reading soul. This is the first continuation of an established character that Duncan has ever given us, and I am so happy she did. I’ll admit I jumped up and down from giddiness when I heard she was writing it. It’s not only another great story from a great author, it’s a perfect showing of the respect Duncan has for her characters.

Mallory Collingswood’s career is perfectly on track as she takes to the role of Leader of the London Symphony Orchestra like it’s her birthright. However, since leaving Los Angeles and breaking up with her partner, Gwen, her personal life has taken a major hit. She’s convinced she doesn’t need the love of a partner and is  determined to put her sole focus on her music and her career. When she’s approached to do a collaboration with the Royal Ballet, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that only a fool would turn down. Taking on the role will mean working harder than she ever has in her life and performing in a way she never has alongside the Royal Ballet’s brightest star, Addison Leigh. Individually, they are opposites in almost every way, but together they form a perfect pair. For the first time since leaving Los Angeles, Mallory wonders what it would be like to love, and be loved, again.

Is Mallory ready to put her heart on the line and let Addison in? Or will their chemistry be strictly regulated to their on stage performance?

The Characters

When we’re introduced to Mallory Collingswood in Symphony In Blue, we really don’t get a lot of information on her. She’s portrayed as distant and absent, and it gives her a portrayal as being snobbish and rude. In reality, Mallory feels very deeply. She’s very passionate, driven and focused about her craft. It’s a great quality to have as a performer. However, it can also make one oblivious to the world and people around them, especially relationships. When we catch up with Mallory a year later, she is just as driven and focused about her career as Lead Musician for the London Symphony Orchestra. But now it’s tainted. Mallory is still hurting over her breakup with Gwen, and she knows a big part of the breakup is because of her ambition. While she has made strides to let people into her world, the experience with Gwen has walled up her heart. It’s Mallory’s way of coping and works for a time, until a chance run-in with a charming dancer over coffee has Mallory wanting to break down her walls.

Addison Leigh exudes spunk. She’s young and carefree and so far removed from Mallory’s world that it’s easy to get drawn in by her charm. Like Mallory, Addison is very passionate and focused on her craft, which is expected as a principal for the Royal Ballet. What she brings to the table, though, is a balance between loving her career and enjoying her life. Addison is so much light. Through her spirited attitude, she builds a connection with Mallory that allows the older woman to be open and let in the light that only love can bring.

The Writing Style

I always love how Duncan gives us little nuances that make you feel like you’re watching a movie while reading her stories. Little details, such as a stage manager handling Mallory’s violin after a performance, are not the kind of details we would expect to read, but we would expect to see on screen. Duncan’s style gives us a clear and crisp picture of the world in which her characters reside. She makes their actions so fluid and seamless that you want to continue reading until you’ve reached the end.

The Pros

I really loved how Duncan handled Mallory’s relationship with Gwen. She shows us, respectfully, there are two sides to every story. When we see Mallory’s side, we finally get to see not only her feelings on the whole situation, but we also see how Mallory’s friends react. It’s very honest and reveals that not everyone gets out unscathed, and some people are not going to be so easily forgiving. I loved this because it was two-fold in its importance. It showed Mallory how much her friends love her, and it also allowed Mallory to have the proper closure she needed with Gwen. The way Duncan approached these events emphasizes how much she truly understands her characters, their imperfections, and their need to do what is right and respectful to the people in their lives.

The Cons

Alas, I have become so familiar with Duncan’s writing that I know the schedule of releases. So, I’m sad I’ll be waiting at least another year for the next book. However,  Ms. Duncan, I wouldn’t be opposed to you breaking tradition and throwing in a short story or novella about a couple of characters that intrigued me, namely Nina and Clara. I don’t know if you have anything planned for them, but I would love to see their own story. If that’s not a viable option at this time…well, I guess I’ll mark my calendar for March 2020 in expectation of your next release.

annas favourite booksThe Conclusion

I have read all of Duncan’s work. I have enjoyed seeing her grow as writer. I’ve enjoyed countless hours reading about all of her characters. She shows them such respect and care. Her love for them is so apparent in her writing style. I loved visiting with Mallory and enjoyed getting to know the woman behind the violin. I look forward to future stories from Duncan and her continued success with such endearing characters that we all love to visit again and again.

Excerpt from Pas de Deux by MJ Duncan

“Hey, it’s you,” a sweet southern drawl interrupted her internal reverie.

Mallory looked up at the woman that had spoken and frowned as she hurried to finish chewing. The petite brunette was beautiful – even though her leggings and baggy sweatshirt made her look like a university student that had just rolled out of bed – and seemed vaguely familiar, though she had no idea where she might have met her before. “I’m sorry?”

“Right. Sorry,” the woman apologized. Her smile was kind, if a little hesitant, and Mallory tilted her head to the side as she waited for her to continue. “I saw you in here…a few months ago, I guess. Anyway, you looked upset,” she continued, looking perfectly contrite, as if she somehow knew that Mallory wouldn’t appreciate being reminded of her very public weakness.

She had been unforgivably short with the brunette who had…been perfectly polite to inquire about her well-being. “I’m so sorry about that. You caught me at a bad time, I’m afraid, and I…”

“No, you were fine,” the brunette insisted with a kind smile. “I just…kind of kept wondering if you were okay.”

The brunette was utterly charming in her awkward sincerity, and Mallory bit the inside of her cheek to keep from chuckling as she extended her hand. “Mallory Collingswood.”

And, oh, it was a good thing she was still sitting down because the way the woman’s face lit up as she shook her hand set her completely back on her heels. She could not remember the last time someone had smiled so openly at her like that. “Addison Leigh.”

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Symphony In Blue Series

Symphony In Blue

Pas De Deux

Bits and Bobs

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