Title: Symphony in Blue (Blue Notes 4.5)
Author: Shira Anthony
Genre: Gay Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: December 25, 2013
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
This is a very significant and special post for me. First of all, I want to wish all of my dear neighbors a MERRY CHRISTMAS, and an even more wonderful NEW YEAR 2014. It’s because of all of you who actually cared about what I wanted to post and review that I even have a blog; and for that I am extremely thankful. Thank you for being my neighbor. We all live together in our own book world so I consider my space just a small suburb in the middle of a crowded book city. You are always welcome to stop by.
Last summer while surfing around Amazon in search of a fun enough read for a long road trip to Las Vegas, I came across a very interesting cover with a pair of MERMEN on it. Hellooooo! MER-MEN! Hotness-under-the-sea! The cover got my absolute attention and I felt that spark of interest I somehow had lost a while back searching for that ONE book that could take my sleep away. That’s how I ended downloading Stealing The Wind, and that’s how I learned about author Shira Anthony.
Since I fell completely in love Stealing The Wind, I checked Shira’s bookshelf to see if she had more mermen hotties hidden somewhere. I didn’t find them, but what I did find was a complete collection of classical musicians, each with a story that (after reading every single one of them) I feel the world MUST read. The Blue Notes series is not your average contemporary gay romance. Shira happens to be a professional opera singer herself, so every musical element of these stories comes along with a vast knowledge and sufficient experience from her. That is indeed a gift that you don’t see very often. All of these books are treasures to keep for a lifetime and all of them have just the perfect HEA that ANY avid romance reader seeks.
And it just happens to be that Shira wanted to stop by the neighborhood today, to talk a little about HEA’s:
What’s in a Happily-Ever-After?
Thank you, Sophie, for hosting me! It’s been a busy holiday season, since I have two releases in my Blue Notes Series of music-themed gay romances: Encore (released November 11th) and Symphony in Blue (just released on Christmas day). Symphony in Blue, the holiday novella, also happens to be my 10th Dreamspinner Press release, so I’m going all-out with a Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Tour giveaway contest featuring a grand prize of a Kindle loaded with e-books as well as other fun goodies (details at the end of the post).
The Blue Notes Series books, with the exception of Symphony in Blue, are standalone novels that can be read in any order. Encore, the latest novel to be released in the series, shares themes in common with the other Blue Notes books: music and musicians, a heavy focus on character development, and long-term, committed relationships. And in Symphony in Blue, readers have an opportunity to revisit some old friends and share in the gift of developing love. It’s a happily-ever-after after the happily-ever-afters in the first four books. Because, frankly, I think a HEA is about the long-term, not just something that’s here and now.
We’ve all seen the traditional romantic HEA…. Cinderella dances with the handsome prince. They look into each other’s eyes, and the prince knows then and there that Cinderella is the woman he’s going to marry…
I’ve seen reviewers write that they’re not fans of “insta-love.” I feel the same way. I’ve blogged about the stages of love and explained that I believe a HEA (happily ever after) isn’t a particular point in time, it’s an ongoing process. Relationships take time and effort, not just love. Tell me you don’t know at least one couple madly and passionately in love—gay, straight or whatever—who fell out of love in a spectacularly messy way. Is it possible they mistook some other feeling (lust?) for love? Sure. Maybe they weren’t able to make a long-term relationship work. Maybe they were incompatible. More likely, they believed their love would make things work between them. Wake up guys! This isn’t Disney. It’s real life.
Real life is full of challenges. Society’s pressures. Prejudice. Work. Home. Kids. Time constraints. The list goes on. Unless you and your partner talk about things and work together through the tough times, you’re going to struggle. And frankly, even if you do talk, you’re going to struggle. Some days you’ll want to strangle your partner. Others, you’ll be happy to share a hug. Maybe you’ll have a romantic evening out… every few years. Well, that’s the reality of life.
Do I love the way my palms sweat and my chest aches when I read a great romance and wallow in the angst of it all? You bet. But that only works for me if there’s some connection to reality. Real feelings. Real people. Good stories work because we can connect with the characters in some way and understand why they do what they do. The problem with insta-love? It’s hard to connect. Harder, even, if things go smoothly. Think about Cinderella. The difficulties between her and her prince aren’t normal human difficulties—she doesn’t get pissed because he makes her do all the housekeeping, or when he goes out with his drinking buddies and leaves her home on a Saturday night (without asking). Their relationship is threatened by the Evil Stepmother. Things between Cinder and Prince are perfect once the mother is out of the picture. Reality? Yeah, right.
So how do writers of romance write realistic characters and situations? The answer is that it’s a balance, and a tricky one. Do I like to read romances because I want to escape a little? Yes. Definitely. So romances need a bit of fantasy. Let’s face it—most of our romantic relationships would make for pretty boring books. But in my opinion, a good romance writer also needs to ground characters and relationships in reality. And I’m not talking just contemporary romances, I’m talking about any kind of romance. Can there be fluffy scenes? You bet. But the romance stories that have left the biggest mark on my heart are ones that feel real to me.
Looking for 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 real men in real relationships making love work over time and through obstacles. You can find all of my Dreamspinner Press books by clicking here. Want to read more about me and about my books, including free fiction and excerpts? Check out my website, www.shiraanthony.com.
Don’t forget to enter the Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour giveaway by 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
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.”
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.”
And since I knew Shira was kind enough to squeeze Book Suburbia in her tour at a *very last minute*, (thanks again for that!) I found no other way to thank her but finishing my reviews for the first 5 books in the Blue Notes series. I decided to include my review for Encore in this post, but please stop by to check out my reviews for Blue Notes, The Melody Thief, Aria and Prelude. I felt each one of those books deep in my heart enough to express how much I absolutely love them.
This is a Book Suburbia
with a 5 Bookie rating
I had to sit down an entire day just to figure out how to write this review because with no doubt, this is one of the hardest yet most beautiful reads I’ve encountered in my entire life.
This review of Encore, is dedicated to the memory of a dear friend of mine who passed away 3 years ago after battling a long war against AIDS. While reading this book, I pictured in John the few people who like me, loved and really cared for my friend who died not only because of this dreadful enemy, but also cause of society, who despite the fact of television, internet and educational literature about HIV/AIDS, still discriminated and abandoned him when he needed them most. It was hard enough for me to learn he was ill, so you can just imagine my pain when I found out he was rejected by those who one day claimed to be his friends. Although we lived in a third world country where society still needs to open their eyes to reality and facts of life, just like gay love is, it still saddens me to this day how much he had to suffer, and how people who claimed to love him did not even want to touch him when they found out he was HIV positive. I miss him every day, and I know he would’ve loved to read this story as much as I did.
This book touched a nerve in me I thought I had hidden in the bottom pit of my soul. Not only it’s supremely written and follows a timeline of 35 years impeccably, but Mrs. Anthony built these characters with such accuracy you will really believe she had witnessed the whole thing.
That’s how good this book is.
John Fuchs and Roger Nelson’s story takes us back to the early 1970’s, when John is transferred to a public school after his parent’s divorce. There, he meets Roger, the bad boy-pot smoker-chick magnet. Roger plays the violin for the school orchestra and John has the goal of becoming a great musical director one day. Throughout their senior year in High School, they build a friendship that soon enough turned into a passionate teenage love.
Scratch that: it turned into a GAY teenage love. In the 1970’s. Michigan 1970’s.
I wanted to picture how Roger and John looked, so in my seek of knowledge and reference, I had to dig thru my DVD gallery to play the movie ‘Milk’. (I’ve cried so many times with that movie it’s not even funny) and by watching it a few more times very carefully, I got a slight idea how both main characters possibly looked like. And just as in that biographical movie, the way how Mrs. Anthony portrays the behavior and demeanor of two young adults in 1970’s is actually more than realistic. It’s beyond flawless.
John quickly copes with his reality soon enough when Prom night arrives and although Roger goes thru the same discovery, it takes more than his teenage determination to open up about his true feelings to his family and society in general. They end up going to college together and for a brief period of time, they enjoy their love even under the watchful eye of Roger’s mother, who after losing her older son in the Vietnam war, becomes obsessed in making Roger a substitute for his brother; and Roger, (from where I see it) is seeking unconsciously his mother approval. He fears her mother’s reaction to the point he must hide his love and pretend John doesn’t mean anything to him. After a very unfortunate event where Roger loses all hope of ever playing his violin professionally again, life changes drastically for both him and John.
That’s just the beginning of Roger’s almost 20 year trial.
When Roger copes with the idea of never being able to play professionally he finally makes his choice about what to do with his life. John, still loving him with all his heart, then makes the courageous decision of moving on with his own.
We see both characters separated physically but still together thru letters, phone calls and a friendship that against all odds, survived ups and downs; and although they know they love each other, it is John himself who after being the awkward part in the equation, feels the need to start living and finds in his old high school buddy Nate, the peace he so much needs.
For those babies of the 80’s like me, it may come to you as just another history data, the huge breakout of AIDS back at the time. Many people were in total darkness and the disease was so poorly handled that so many lives were lost.
Including John Fuchs’s partner.
The heartbreaking scene of John calling Roger to let him know Nate had AIDS will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. I cried sad and silently not only because of how wonderfully described this whole part was, but I cried for my friend, who maybe tried calling somebody in the middle of the night to share his tragedy but couldn’t find somebody trustworthy enough to do so. I cried, because I would’ve given anything I owe to just be able to hold his hand one last time before he left and tell him how much he meant to me, how much I loved him and how little I cared he was positive that I would’ve hugged him for at least an hour every day, just the same way John pleaded to see Nate for the last time.
John goes thru the scariest time of his life when Nate passes away, but instead of running back to Roger, he decides to stand firm and follow his path. Many years go by and Roger, who eventually realizes he must seek his mental freedom, finally after all those years decides to come out to his mother, only after an extremely painful internal battle that is won thanks to the love he still had for John that never really died.
This book is a revelation. It’s also a journey, a story of two men who started as boys and learned about life growing up in a society still full of prejudices and finger pointing.
I learned a great lesson reading this book (besides the fact that Mrs. Anthony is one of the most gifted writers/artists EVER): love comes in any shape, form, race, gender, and belief. All of us have the opportunity to walk along with it when we find it, but only a true love will survive ups, downs and decades like the one John and Roger had for each other.
To say that this is just another book among many is totally wrong. This book is EPIC.
Thank you Shira Anthony because this is one of the greatest gifts I’ve received this year 2013.
Cheers for a 2014 full of more equal love for all 🙂