I love music particularly the opportunity to sit down at the piano and play so I was delighted by the idea of a heroine who loves music like breathing and has the ability to translate her feelings and experiences into music. Then there was the broody hero injured in war and still suffering. Unfortunately, I have something in common with him too in that I occasional suffer from debilitating migraines though his came as a result of a war injury. With those unique features, I was curious to see where the story would take it. There was some humor for sure, some pain and a whole lot of misunderstanding to work through. I have mixed feelings about the book after I read it though mostly I enjoyed reading the story.
I hadn’t read this author and this was the start of a new series, though the story is loosely connected to a previously written book in another series. The other book doesn’t need to be read first to appreciate this one, but the hints at the previous story do have me interested so I’ll probably go back and read it.
The story opens with Charity Effington and her grandmother arriving in Bath for a little holiday away from the family. Charity had the disappointment of a broken engagement to a man who fell in love with someone else so she released him and then faced the speculation of London society as a result. Now she focuses on the plan to join her friend Sophia in getting selected to play their music at the Bath annual music festival. She practices hard as she readies for the selection committee. That is until she is interrupted by the rude and insufferable neighbor next door who demands she quit with the noise. This raises her ire and also the volume on her practice playing. She gets so caught up in her vengeful pounding on the keys that she makes her and her friend late to sign up. They are denied until another young woman who agrees to form a musical trio so they can share her slot.
Hugh Danby barely survived the war and took a long road to recovery, but after the torn muscles, skin and bones heal, he is still left with the horrendous megrims that make him suffer. He is a private man and doesn’t wish others to know his sufferings or the dark state they put him in so he stays a recluse on his estate. His brother has died leaving his widow and child, but also leaving Hugh the title and responsibility. His sister in law is his friend and insisted he go to try the waters at Bath that are known for their healing qualities. She has even arranged for several acquaintances in town so that he is forced to socialize. For Felicity, he will try, but things aren’t looking good when the neighbor next door takes up on her instrument every day with the music a trigger for his megrims. He knows he handled his request to stop badly when he was suffering the effects of his last headache, but the little fiery redhead gave as good as she got. And each new encounter makes her stiffen up like a bantam rooster. He can’t even figure out why she’s mad at him half the time after he calls a truce and apologizes. For the first time, he is enjoying life and Charity is the reason. They are friends in a way, but he can never let it go beyond that even after sharing a kiss.
Charity’s head is in a whirl what with getting ready for the music festival with her friends Sophia and May and with the odd starts and emotions that Hugh elicits in her. Their relationship is at a standstill because she can’t give up her music and he can’t be near it without falling dreadfully ill. He even does his best to steer her away from him and into the arms of another suitor delivering a final, painful blow to her heart in the process.
Alrighty, this one had a pretty straight forward plot as Charity and her friends work on their musical presentation to be chosen for the festival and as Charity and Hugh try to sort out their issues in an ‘enemies to lovers’ style romance. It is narrated third person from both Hugh and Charity’s perspectives. Pacing was good as was the historical setting including the musical talents of the three friends and the friendship itself. The scenes with the three young women were fun and sparkled. They were probably my favorite part of the story.
I liked the unique situation of the hero, Hugh Danby. He’s handsome and he’s a war hero, but he doesn’t see himself that way. He grieves for his brother and cares about his sister in law and the estate, but feels so inadequate. Mostly this is because of the affect the recurring migraines have on him. He struggled with it privately because most people saw no visible injuries left to heal and don’t understand. Getting it shrugged off as a minor complaint (been there, trust me migraines are nothing like a headache) and the pain affected his temperament and caused depression. He is a broody, snarky person as a result who sees himself as less of a man and undeserving of a woman’s love now. I enjoyed seeing the change in him as the story progressed. He gets a bit of stubborn-stupid going when he pushes Charity away because he thinks she can do better, but I couldn’t fault him for it much since it comes on the heels of him doing something really sweet for her and it triggers his headache. Poor guy, though he would boot me for expressing pity.
Now Charity, she’s a so-so like for me. I liked her for her part in the musical trio and with her friends, but I struggled to like her as a romance interest. Mostly it was her Jekyll/Hyde routine. She’s this shy, blushing creature who is less vocal when around her family or her friends. She can bite her tongue when a jerk at the festival insults her or when another spiteful cat of a girl says some really cruel stuff, but the guy who tells her to keep it down because her pianoforte is against the wall of his bedroom? Oh no, she unloads on him and then proceeds to spend most of the book misinterpreting every word and action from him while letting him have a taste of her tongue and anger. I’m all for a fiery, spirited type and a few misunderstandings can make a story interesting, but her behavior was just childish. You know, like ‘the kid who picks on the other kid because they have a crush on them and it’s the only way they can think to get their attention’ sort of childish. It was really hard to see her as a romance heroine and get into the romance as a result.
I enjoyed the inclusion of many of the colorful secondary characters including Hugh’s valet and Charity’s grandmother. And the friends, Sophia and May have me keen to get their stories.
In the end, I enjoyed the author’s writing and the overall storyline of the new series even if this particular heroine didn’t exactly wow me. I look forward to the next installment of the series. I would recommend it for those who enjoy their historicals on the light side and their romances mostly sweet.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this story in exchange for an honest review.