Review: Symphony in Blue (Blue Notes #4.5) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Symphony in Blue-build (1) coverThe holidays are a time for friends and family to come together in celebration and thanks.  Symphony in Blue brings together all the couples in the Blue Notes series for a very special occasion.  Aiden and Sam are ready to get married but before that can happen Cary and Antonio’s baby daughter decides to make her appearance into the world earlier than anyone had anticipated. So instead of the huge reception planned, David Somers and his long time lover Alex Bishop bring everyone to their villa in Milan for a homecoming and Thanksgiving that they will never forget.

Join Sam and Aiden, Jules and Jason, David and Alex, and Cary and Antonio and friends as each couple shares something they are thankful for. Played out in four movements, this symphony is a celebration of friendship and love, orchestrated by David.

I have loved this incredible series since the release of the first story, Blue Notes.  With the Blue Notes series, Shira Anthony (and for Prelude, Venona Keyes), has created an ensemble of musicians and their lovers that has intrigued us with their personalities, enthralled us with their music and beckoned to us with their love stories.  Whether it was violinist Jules Bardon (with manager/lover Jason Greene), cellist Cary Redding (and his partner, entertainment lawyer Antonio Bianchi), operatic baritone Aiden Lind (with partner lawyer Sam Ryan), and finally conductor and Chicago Symphony Music Director David Somers and his partner, violinist Alex Bishop, Shira Anthony has used this incredible octet of musicians and their loves as the “voice” through which she has moved us with her deep love of and passion for the world of classical music as well as knowledge of the various art forms within.

A former opera singer, Shira Anthony was at one time as deeply immersed in this world as her characters are and it shows in every element, every note that threads itself through these stories.  It is there in joy and in sorrow, through all the difficult times and choices these men have had to make.  And because she has been there herself, her series has a realism and authenticity that gives these stories depth and texture.

As these couples sit around the Thanksgiving table in Milan, each reflects on their lives as they share with their friends (and readers) something specific they are thankful for.  Anthony presents us with an intimate setting and a ritual I suspect occurs in more than one household around the country.  For each man, each couple, the things they share brings the reader up to date in their careers and presents us with glimpses of their present day family life.  I have to admit that Cary and Antonio’s memory is my favorite, with Cary (and Antonio) trying to deal with their son’s Massimo’s jealousy over the new born in their midst).  It’s so real, with elements that will break your heart and then put them back together as father consoles child and reaffirms their love for him. One couple after the other, with emotions high, celebrate love and family among their dearest friends.  It feels familiar and immediate and oh so lovely.

At 73 pages, Anthony packs a lot of feeling and music into her story.  Yes, let us not forget about the music, such an integral part of the Blue Notes series.  The story itself is a composition by David Somers, the dedication written by him.  The performer list is that of all the characters in the series and the story plays out in five movements, each movement a sharing by someone at the table. This is an inventive format that works beautifully for this story and is so reflective of the entire series.

In many ways Symphony in Blue and the Blue Notes stories are a series of love letters from the author, sharing her passion and deep appreciation of the musicians and the music they live their lives by.  I highly recommend not only Symphony in Blue but the entire Blue Notes series.  If you are a fan already, then you will love catching up with all your favorite couples.  If you are new to the series, then go back to the beginning as this story contains spoilers for all the rest.  Either way, this one is not to be missed!

Listed below are all the stories in the Blue Notes series.  The author has noted that she considers it a series of interrelated, classical music themed standalone novels that can be read in any order.

Knowing (Blue Notes, #0.5) a free read at Goodreads
Blue Notes (Blue Notes, #1)
The Melody Thief (Blue Notes, #2)
Aria (Blue Notes, #3)
Prelude (Blue Notes, #4) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes
Encore (Blue Notes, #5)
Symphony in Blue (Blue Notes, #4.5)

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 73 pages
Published December 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627983945 (ISBN13: 9781627983945)
edition language English

Release Day Celebration and Contest for Symphony in Blue by Shira Anthony!

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Blue Notes Books Banners

Merry Christmas, everyone! Today, Christmas morning at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords, we  are celebrating the release of Symphony in Blue by Shira Anthony.  While everyone is enjoying family and loved ones, Shira Anthony is stopping by to talk about her Blue Notes series and  sharing some memories of holidays past.  Entries are still being taken for the terrific Blue Notes contest.  See details at the bottom of the post.

Now pull up a chair with some coffee or tea, and let’s  welcome Shira Anthony and Symphony in Blue:

Celebrating with the Blue Notes Series: Symphony in Blue Release Day Party!  Symphony in Blue-build (1) cover

Thank you, Melanie, for inviting me to celebrate the release day of the 6th book and the first holiday novella in the Blue Notes Series! I’m also celebrating because with Symphony in Blue, I’ll have published my 10th book with Dreamspinner Press. How appropriate that celebrations are the focus of Symphony in Blue. Celebrations of love, family, and friendship.

Symphony in Blue is written as a symphony might be, with “movements” in which a particular character pairing is featured. Complete with liner notes and a dedication, it is conductor/composer David Somers’s masterpiece—a piece of his heart, shared with his friends. And for David, who for years built a wall around that heart, it’s something of a holiday miracle that he can share the joys of love and friendship as deeply as he does. The focus of the novella is a Thanksgiving meal at David’s villa outside of Milan, Italy, where all his friends gather.

I have a bit of experience with Thanksgiving in Europe, since I lived in France for two years when I was in middle school. Back in the 1970s, there weren’t many people who were familiar with the Thanksgiving holiday. My mother loves to tell the story of her Cranberries20101210begging my grandmother to send her cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner. You couldn’t find cranberries in Europe at that time. She meant for my grandmother to send her the canned variety. My grandmother sent fresh ones! By boat (back then, and even now, airmail for packages was very expensive)! Needless to say, they were pretty much ruined by the time they arrived 4 weeks later. My mother picked out all the “good” berries (i.e., the ones that weren’t moldy or mushy). We had about 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce that year! But we still had our turkey, stuffing, along with some European traditions including cheese after the main meal, and some amazing French wine (which I totally didn’t appreciate at age 15!). I still remember that Thanksgiving in Grenoble.

Nowadays, you can find fresh cranberries and all the trimmings for a festive meal throughout Western Europe, so David Somers’s last-minute Thanksgiving dinner is entirely plausible. That meal also features regional breads and vegetables. Violinist Jules bread-recette-pain-paysan-pain-campagne-1Bardon helps round out the offerings by baking “pain paysan,” or French country bread (I make this from time to time – it’s actually quite easy!). Here’s a recipe you might want to try. For our Thanksgiving my year, my daughter made two round loaves of pain paysan, and it was amazing!

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season, whatever you celebrate in your home! And if after your Christmas dinner you want to settle down are read a story about love for the long-term, you might want to check the Blue Notes Series and my latest release, Symphony in Blue.

The Blue Notes Series books are about real men in real relationships, with real problems, each with a music theme. If you’re looking for a sexy hot romances with fluffy scenes, I think you’ll like the Blue Notes books. But if you’re also looking for something more—for something more real than Cinderfella and his prince? I think you’ll enjoy these stories about making love work over time and through obstacles. You can find all of my Dreamspinner Press books by clicking here. You can read more about me, even hear what I sounded like when I sang opera professionally, and read more about my books, including free fiction and excerpts on my website, www.shiraanthony.com.

Don’t forget to enter the Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour giveaway (details at the bottom of the post) by clicking here (Rafflecopter). There are plenty of ways to enter, and you can enter more than once by commenting, tweeting, buying books, and liking pages. I’ll be drawing winners on New Year’s Eve at midnight!

Good luck! –Shira
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Excerpt (Symphony in Blue):
DAVID TAPPED his cellphone, shoved it in his pocket, and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

“Something ruffle the maestro?” Alex grinned up at him from the couch, his bare feet tucked underneath him, a pile of staff paper scattered about the floor and coffee table. He’d printed out a score for a new composition and managed to knock it off the printer tray. Of course, all the page numbers at the bottom of the sheets were cut off. Damn thing was at least thirty pages and would be a nightmare to organize.

“Nothing that can’t be managed. Unlike your score.” David raised an eyebrow and Alex saw the ghost of a grin on David’s face.

You could just reprint it, you know.”

“What? And waste paper?”

“You’re stubborn,” David said as he picked up several of the pages and set them on the coffee table before joining Alex on the couch. When Alex said nothing, David leaned over and feathered several kisses over Alex’s neck.

Delightfully so, of course. But stubborn nonetheless.”

Alex sighed contentedly and pushed the rest of the music onto the floor. Fine. He’d reprint the damn thing. Later.

Who was on the phone?”

“Aiden.” David spoke the name with his lips so close to Alex’s ear that Alex nearly gasped. David’s voice just did that to Alex—that sexy baritone seemed to resonate through every part of his body. Alex was pretty sure David knew what it did to him too.

“Aiden? I thought he and Sam were in Australia.”

David pulled away and offered Alex a sardonic eyebrow. “Austria.”

“Oh, come on!” Alex laughed. “You know I can hardly keep track of my own schedule. Now you expect me to keep up with his?”

“Not even the correct continent.” David went back to kissing him. “What was he calling about?” Anything to keep David focused on his neck.

“The party in Connecticut is off. They’re also postponing the civil ceremony in New York for now.”

Alex shot up off the couch. “What? But we’ve been planning the reception for six months now! It’s only two weeks away. What the hell happened? Are they okay? I mean…. Shit. You know what I mean.”

David smiled—a strange expression for someone who’d just learned that he’d wasted four months arranging the party to celebrate Aiden and Sam’s wedding. Caterers, musicians, guests, and a dozen different schedules to coordinate.

“Okay. Fess up. Why are you smiling?”

“Aiden and Sam are fine. They’re just postponing it.” David appeared entirely calm. Too calm. Happy, even?

“Postponing? They’ve been doing that for two years now.”

“Three.”

“Fine. Three years. So why are you happy about it?” Alex pressed. Of course, David was yanking his chain, but he liked that. Anyone who thought David Somers didn’t have a sense of humor simply didn’t know him.

“I’m happy,” David said as his eyes brightened, “because there’s a good reason for it. In fact, there’s a wonderful reason for it.”

Alex laughed. “What reason would that be?”

“Who might be the more appropriate way of say—”

“David,” Alex warned.

“Graziella Michaela Redding.”

“Graziella? You mean….”

“Mother and child doing quite well, I’m told.” David grinned outright this time.

“Cary and Antonio’s baby?”

“Born last night. Almost five pounds. Three weeks early but doing well.” David stood up and wrapped his arms around Alex’s waist. “A good reason to postpone a wedding, don’t you think?”

“The best.” Alex kissed David. “Should we plan a visit in a few weeks?”

“A few weeks?” David’s sly grin made Alex chuckle. “Just because we can’t have the party to celebrate doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of the opening in everyone’s schedules.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Thanksgiving in Milan. It’s been years since we’ve been able to get everyone together.”

“The villa?” David’s Italian villa was certainly large enough. “But—”

“Is that a problem for you? Last I looked at your schedule, your next performance is in Buenos Aires in three weeks.” David nipped at Alex’s earlobe.

“No… it’s not… ah…. Shit, David, I can’t think straight when you do that!” Alex shivered and closed his eyes. “And no. No problem for me. But didn’t you give the staff at the villa the entire month off?”

Alex knew David had completely forgotten about that particular detail. He frowned, then said blithely, “We’ll just have to do it ourselves. Jules and I can handle the cooking. You and Jason can get the placed opened up. Rachel can help you with the rooms.”

“You’re serious about this?”

“Am I ever not?” David pulled at Alex’s earlobe with his teeth. “I’ll call the travel agent and look into rebooking all the air travel.”

“Travel agent?”

Another kiss, a nip, and then: “The travel agent. Too complicated to handle that much rebooking online and you needn’t trouble yourself with that. Just call Jules and Jason and let them know we’ll meet them in Milan on Saturday. I’ll text them the flight information as soon as I have it.”

“Ah…. Okay. Sure. Jules and Jason.” Alex could handle that. He’d been meaning to call Jules to see how the Blue Notes album was coming along anyhow. He’d joined Jules and the other members of the trio on several of the tracks when he’d been in Paris three weeks before.

“Good.” David brushed his lips against Alex’s. “And one more thing.”

“Hmm?” Focus, Bishop, focus!

“This.” David pushed Alex onto the couch and began to unbutton his shirt. “First things first. Always.”

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You can purchase the Blue Notes Series books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, AllRomanceEbooks, and on the Dreamspinner Press website.
Encore: link to DSP
Symphony in Blue: link to DSP

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

  • Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
  • Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
  • Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice

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Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour stops:
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th: Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th: Michael Rupured’s Blog
November 15th: Joyfully Jay (Blue Notes Cover Art – Interviews with the Artists)
November 18th: Elin Gregory’s blog
November 22nd: Aisling Mancy’s blog
November 26th: Andrew Q. Gordon’s blog
December 6th: Oscar’s Bruised Petals (Sandra Garcia’s blog)
December 10th: Brilliant Disguise (Tali Spencer’s blog)
December 13th: Lily Sawyer’s Blog
December 16th: Rebecca Cohen’s blog
December 20th: Purple Rose Teahouse (Charlie Cochet’s blog)
December 23rd: Mrs. Condits and Friends
December 25th: Symphony in Blue Release Day Party at Melanie Marshall’s Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
December 26th: Book Suburbia
December 27th: Helen Pattskyn’s blog

Prelude (A Blue Notes book) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Prelude coverWorld-renowned conductor of the Chicago Symphony, David Somers, is not happy when his ailing guest violinist is replaced by famous rock star, Alex Bishop.  Although he has never met the musician, Bishop’s fame and notoriety has preceded him, and David Somers has little patience for tattooed prima donnas of the rock star world.  But when Alex takes to the stage and starts playing the opening notes of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, David Somers is completely entranced by both the man and his music.

Alex Bishop has persevered from his foster child beginnings to become a brilliant violinist and playing under the baton of conductor David Somers is a dream realized.  And although David Somers welcome was reserved, something about the man spoke to Alex.  Alex knew from sources close to Somers that he was both widowed and gay.  And no one was more surprised than Alex, when David accepted his invitation to go out on a date.  And everything seemed to be going well, until it wasn’t and the conductor fled.

Underneath that  smooth, assured and somewhat cold exterior of David Somers lies an insecure, lonely man.  Brought up by a bitter, emotionally removed grandfather upon the death of his parents, David’s upbringing was one of constant degradation of his dreams, rigid control over his actions, and the pairing down of the boy into a man who would be scion of the family business.  At least that’s how his grandfather saw it.  But finally David found the strength to pull away and strive for his place in the music world as he had always wanted.  But the damage his grandfather had inflicted upon his self image was deep and long lasting, right into his inability to compose music and maintain relationships.

Alex wants to pursue a future with David, but there is so many obstacles in their path, the largest one being David himself.  What will it take to break down David’s barriers and create the future they both want together? David must find his inner music once more before he loses Alex and his chance for happiness so long denied him.

Oh, my, what a lyrical and lovely book.  I have been a fan of this series from the beginning, adoring the tapestry of music and love that Anthony (and now Keyes) has woven for us in this series.  But in Prelude, I think I have found my favorite.  Such a gorgeous blend of personalities, location and music, it kept me enthralled for the entire story and introduced me to a new musician as well, more about that later.  In the author’s notes I have included at the end of the review, Anthony writes that Prelude is actually the prequel to the stories already published.  In those works, David Somers and Alex Bishop are already an established couple.  David himself is an open hearted and generous mentor to other younger musicians, a far cry from the man we initially meet at the beginning of Prelude. And that brings me to the wonderful characterizations of the men we meet here and elsewhere in the series.

David Somers and Alex Bishop are both very complex men with haunting back histories. I think what surprised and delighted me was that the man you might expect to be the most vulnerable, the most insecure about his background is actually the character who has not only come to terms with his childhood or lack thereof but is the most assured and confident of the two.  That would be Alex Bishop, abused in  various foster settings, someone who almost died freezing and along on the streets except for his mother’s violin.  He has worked hard to arrive at this stage in his life, a brilliant musician, warm human being and happily gay.  It’s David Somers, the famous conductor from a wealthy family, who is the fragile one here.  His upbringing by his rigid, embittered grandfather has impaired David emotionally, making him withdrawn and almost incapable of maintaining close relationships.  His grandfather also was responsible for killing his ability to compose music, an important part of his emotional makeup and dreams.  Both authors bring us close to the heart of both men, making it easy for us to understand their motivations as well as their flaws.  I think some readers might have trouble with David’s fear of intimacy as he continually pushes Alex away but close reading of his history with not only his grandfather but present day associates makes it not only realistic but natural.  And it’s not just David and Alex’s characters that are so well done but those secondary characters as well, from his sister to Alex’s roommate, all make for a deeply layered, and satisfying story.

But the highlight in Prelude is the music.  Shira Anthony’s familiarity and love of the music world with its brilliant musicians and timeless compositions floats through the story like the very violin concertos referenced within.  Her knowledge and joy of music enhances and embellishes every aspect of this story and the series, her touch sure and light upon the narrative. We are drawn into the emotions elicited from the music that pours forth from the violinist and the symphony.  The brilliance of the pieces spills out of the instruments and musicians and into our hearts and souls, from the light hearted renditions like Stéphane Grappelli’s Blue Moon (my new favorite) to the deeply moving concertos such as the Sibelius Violin Concerto which introduces us and David Somers to Alex Bishop at the beginning of the book.  The fact that this series uses music as its heart, and the exemplary manner in which the authors accomplish that, sets this series apart from all the rest.  Shira Anthony has assembled a play list for Prelude, just as she has for her other stories in this series.  You can find the list and links listed after the review.

At 250 pages, the story just flies by.  Anthony and Keyes deliver a smooth and concise narrative, the few flashbacks are used to help understand the characters better rather than impede the story momentum.  By the end of the book, I am entranced by David and Alex and want to see them older and more established as they were in the other stories.  So back to the beginning to enjoy it all over again.  If you are new to this series, this works well as a stand alone story, if you are as in love with it as I am, you will be thrilled by Prelude and this couple.  Either way, consider this highly recommended.  Shira Anthony gives us the order in which the books work on the series timeline below.

Book Details:

ebook, 1st Edition, 250 pages
Published May 6th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 162380597X (ISBN13: 9781623805975)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3798&cPath=55_484
seriesBlue Notes #4
charactersDavid Somers, Alex Bishop
settingChicago, Illinois (United States)

Author’s Notes:

Notes from Shira Anthony on Prelude:

Book 4 in the Blue Notes Series is bit of a prequel to the other books, although it’s meant to be read as a standalone novel. For those of you who’d like to read the series in chronological order, it goes like this:

1) Prelude
2) Blue Notes
3) Aria
4) The Melody Thief

“Prelude” is the story of conductor/composer David Somers, who appears in all of the first three Blue Notes books. In those stories, David is friend and mentor to the young musicians who appear as main characters (Cary Redding and Aiden Lind, in particular). But David wasn’t always as outgoing and willing to befriend other musicians.

“Prelude” is David’s story of finding himself and finding happiness in music. I hope you enjoy it!(less)

Shira’s Prelude Playlist:

“Enigmatic Ocean,” Jean-Luc Ponty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9XHFqCvMIY

“Satisfaction,” The Rolling Stones: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx0bLBk-BNM

Sibelius Violin Concerto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-P183jzdfw (my all-time favorite recording with David Oistrakh), or a slightly different interpretation by Joshua Bell: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITTbY1n3Iz8

Berg Violin Concerto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqSSHwFEn_8 (Itzhak Perleman)

Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYzYVsvD5as (Shlomo Mintz)

“Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Charlie Daniels Band: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgvfRSzmMoU

Symphony No. 5, by Dmitri Shostakovich: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FF4HyB77hQ (Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic)

Mahler Symphony No. 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6Tbi0Rfzs8 (Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic)

Chopin’s Opus 25 Étude, No. 11: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj5Mp31nZlA (Anna Fedorova)

Gounod’s Ave Maria: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNNbtR5R68U (Anne Akiko Meyers), and a very old recording of Jascha Heifetz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wtc4SMUjhG8 and a recording of operatic soprano Renata Tebaldi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVMSeFTHDEs

Thelonius Monk, “Round About Midnight”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMmeNsmQaFw

Dvořák Violin Concerto (last movement) (3rd movement, Allegro Giocoso): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kouKmC3yUOA (Josef Suk)

Stéphane Grappelli “Blue Moon”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhB5qAq7OkI

Mahler Symphony No. 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHXJw9avAn0 (Danish National Radio Orchestra)

“Harold in Italy,” by Hector Berlioz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5B9iMLpDgU (Israel Philharmonic Orchestra)

“The World I Know,” by Collective Soul: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7TLTjqUyog

Bach, Partita No. 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcB56k4vR5k (Hilary Hahn)