Aria (Blue Notes #3) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 4 stars

AriaPhiladelphia attorney Sam Ryan has never fully recovered from the death of his lover, Nick.  One night during yet another attempt to go forward, Sam goes to a bar and meets Aiden Lind, an aspiring opera singer.  One passionate week later, a fearful Sam lets Aiden walk out of his life rather than deal with his own issues of loss.  It is a moment Sam handles badly, hurting Aiden in the process.

Five years later, Aiden Lind is a successful opera singer, living with Lord Cameron Sherrington, a wealthy music patron.  But Cameron’s cheating ways lead to a painful parting and shortly after Aiden runs into Sam Ryan again.  Once more the sparks fly between the two men and they start a long distance relationship strewn with obstacles to overcome whether it is Aiden’s insecurity, Sam’s refusal to deal with his loss of Nick or just poor communication between lovers afraid to damage a new love.   As the demands of their careers puts new stress on an already strained relationship, Cameron returns to Paris determined to win back Aiden at any cost.  Both Sam and Aiden will need to take a hard look at themselves if their love and their relationship is to survive both themselves and their pasts.

I am such a fan of this series and Shira Anthony in general.  Blue Notes captured my heart from the beginning by seamlessly folding romance and love into the world of classical music.  Because of the author’s background, the love of music and her intimate knowledge of the world of the classical musician has provided the reader with a series that moves to the sounds of a cellist playing ‘Dvorak Cello Concerto in B Minor’ or a violin pouring out the strains of “Bach Sonata 2 in A Minor”.  Music is at the heart of this series as much as romance and the combination has proved to be as compelling and  potent any I have read before.  So I am at a loss here when I have to say that the one thing I am missing from this book is the one thing that makes this series so memorable – music.

Aria is Sam Ryan and Aiden Lind’s story and as a tale of a developing love between two opposites, it is both realistic and a little frustrating.  The story moves back and forward along the relationship time line of these two men.  It starts at the present day, then returns five years in the past in order for us to capture their painful beginnings and then back to the present where Aiden is breaking up with Cameron.  We switch from present day Aiden dealing with the stress of his job but mostly his unequal partnership with Cam to present day Sam who is still dealing poorly with the loss of his Nick.  At the beginning, this interrupted timeline did more to impede the reader’s involvement with Sam and Aiden’s relationship than it did to promote engagement with it.  You would just get into the flow of the scene and then it would break away to another year and stage in their lives.  But after Sam and Aiden agree to try a long distance relationship, then this format actually works to help the reader understand the frustrations each man is dealing with within the framework they have set up for themselves.

As Sam and Aiden get increasingly frustrated and stressed out over a lack of time spent together, so does the reader ride the same emotional currents with them.  The couple is not communicating at all with each other which puts additional pressure on their frail relationship. The constantly shifting locations mirror the same shifting stages in their love affair. One discordant scene follows another, each moving forward by months, an effective, realistic way to portray a romance in crisis.   But it is done without the accompaniment of music.

Aiden tells us he is to sing a certain aria but we never “hear” him sing or feel his emotions about the songs or operas.  We hear a little about the rehearsals or about the mechanics of the performance,but almost nothing of the heat of the moment, the feelings that the songs engender.  How Aiden is connected to his music, his profession is entirely absent.  In Blue Notes or The Melody Thief, we never questioned Jules or Cary’s passion or commitment to music, it had them in thrall.  Concertos and sonatas flowed through the passages of those books as blood does through our veins.  Where is that passion here?  Where is that feeling that Aiden would rather die than not sing?  It is missing and we feel its absence deeply.

At one point in Shira Anthony’s blog about The Melody Thief, the author gives us a link so we may hear Anthony singing Tosca,  It is clear from that recording that she loves singing and was terrific at it as well, the deep wells of emotions flowing out on every note.  Shira Anthony has blogged about the pain that was created when she chose family over her career as a professional opera singer.  And I wonder, was this subject too close to her heart to treat subjectively? With Aiden as a stressed out opera singer dealing with a long distance relationship, was the storyline too close to her own history? Was the material too painful to be able to relate to the reader by way of Aiden what it felt like to let the music flow through you like a vessel created for that purpose and that purpose alone?  I don’t know, only the author herself can answer those questions.

I know that the fourth book in the Blue Notes series, Prelude, has been written.  It’s main character is David Somers, conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a foundation character who has supported the people in each book to date.  Now he gets his own story and that of crossover violinist Alex Bishop.

I am hopeful that with a return to the orchestra’s conductor and violinist, that the music will return to the series as well. I enjoyed Aria, the romance was realistic and well done but curiously devoid of music in a series called Blue Notes.  And where this story should sing, there is only silence.  I love this series and its music.  I can’t wait for its return.

Here are the series in the order they were written. The author has stated that each book can be read on its own.

Blue Notes (Blue Notes #1) – read my review here.

The Melody Thief (Blue Notes #2) – read my review here.

Aria (Blue Notes #3)

Prelude (Blue Notes #4) coming soon from Dreamspinner Press.

Cover:  Just an outstanding cover by Catt Ford, unfortunately it pertains more to the music than the story within.

Bayou Loup (Rougaroux Social Club #3) by Lynn Lorenz

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Rating 4.25 stars

Bayou LoupWhen werewolf Bobby Cotteau’s wife died, two things happened.  One was that Bobby could finally start to live his life as he had always wanted to before his inner wolf chose Carol as his mate, live and love as a gay man.  The second thing that started to happen?  Bobby started to die.   Without his mate, a werewolf will slowly waste away, and the only thing that can stop it if the shifter finds another mate, a rare occurrence. But before Bobby dies, he wants to experience the life he always wanted for himself.  Not comfortable being out in St. Jerome parish where he used to be the Sheriff, Bobby heads out to neighboring towns to visit gay clubs and meet strangers for anonymous sex.

During one of his weekend stays at a Lake Charles hotel, Bobby meets Mark, a handsome man closer to Bobby’s fifty years of age and the sparks fly.  A weekend of wild sex leaves both men satiated, physically and emotionally, something that surprises them both.  Bobby leaves to return home and neither man has each others phone number or last name to their mutual regret.

Professor Mark Bradford teaches zoology at the local college, his specialty is wolves.  Due to traumatic incident from his past, Mark has made it his life mission to prove the existence of wolves in the Louisiana bayou and now he thinks he has found the location of the wolves in a place called St. Jerome.  The small parish even had a Rougaroux Social Club which put on a yearly Rugarou Festival about their swamp wolf.  Now he is off with camera and recorder in hand to get the final bit of proof he needs to make his colleagues believe in him.  Once he has done this, perhaps he can finally start his life fresh, maybe even with the man he has meet in Lake George.

Bobby has the responsibility of running their Rugarou Festival this year but all he wants to do is  find Mark. Bobby has finally realized what his emotions have been telling him, that Mark is his true mate but he doesn’t know where to find him.  Then there is a Jesus sighting in the bark of the old tree in the church parking lot, a band cancels and he has to find a replacement while hiding from the widow determined to  get Bobby to marry her.  Things are falling apart faster than Bobby can fix them, but he has no idea that the worst is yet to come.  His true mate coming to town to expose his pack.  It will take all of his years experience, all of his wiles and major mojo if Bobby can save Mark, himself, his pack and the festival.

What a wild and wonderful sexy romp this book turned out to be.  I fell in love with this series with the first book, Bayou Dreams which introduced us to St. Jerome, Sheriff Scott Dupree, his mate Ted and all the other colorful characters of the parish.  Scott was the first shifter in his conservative, Catholic pack to come out  as gay and bring in his human mate as a pack member.  Scott did it with the backing of  Bobby Cotteau, a man who is not only his mentor but has acted as his father figure since the death of his dad.  Bobby, even as a secondary character, still managed to grab my attention.  Then in the second book, Bayou ‘s End (Billy and Peter’s story), it comes out that Bobby is gay but he buried that fact about himself when he married Carol all those years ago.  That was a truly heartbreaking  and unexpected element of that book and it further endeared the character of Bobby Cotteau to all the readers.

Now Lynn Lorenz uses all her wonderful gifts of characterization and vivid portraits of the Louisiana towns and countryside to bring Bobby’s story to life in Technicolor  (google it) terms and lusty joy.  The first part of the story is consumed with bobby and Mark’s first encounter in Lake Charles. And while it might seem one continuous sexual encounter (love that shifter stamina), it really shows the slow turn around in the attitude and thoughts of both men as the weekend progresses.  As physical satisfaction evolves to an emotionally happy state of mind, Bobby and Mark start to realize that this weekend is becoming more than just a quick sexual fix and the sex changes to reflect that.  And while Bobby realizes that Mark is his true mate there is not a case of instant love going on here, just a meshing of individuals.

And as with the previous books, there are quite a few humorous elements here to offset the angst, mostly supplied by that wonderful character of Darlene Dupree, Scott’s mother and her black cat, which just might be her familiar.  She has her own peculiar way of looking at religion that Father Peder, the parish priest would not approve of or even her son, the object of several of her spells gone awry.  She cracks me up every time and as she is such a lively, fleshed out riot of a person, you can’t wait to see what escapade she will cause next.

But Bobby and Mark, especially Bobby are the reasons to read this book.  Bobby is such a wonderful character, older and  yet more vulnerable than he should be at his age, finally able to be himself for the first time in his life and yet looking at such a small time in which to experience everything he has denied himself unless a miracle happens and then it does.  I loved him.  I love St. Jerome and can’t wait to see who and what will come up next in this small bayou town.  Mama Dupree is making noise about grandchildren that should leave the reader laughing in anticipation and her son and mate quaking in their boots.  Either way, you know it will be memorable and that is why this series continues to be a must read for me. I think it will be yours too.

But start at the beginning and catch up with all the parish going ons and relationships.  Here are the books in the order they were written and need to be read to understand the characters and their relationships:

Bayou Dreams (Rougaroux Social Club #1)

Bayou’s End (Rougaroux Social Club #2)

Bayou Loup (Rougaroux Social Club #3)