Author: Jay Northcote
Publisher: Jaybird Press
Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Links: Amazon
Received from Publisher
Blurb: Imperfect harmony can still be beautiful…
John Fletcher, a former musician, is stuck in limbo after losing his long-term partner two years ago. He’s shut himself off from everything that reminds him of what he’s lost. When his neighbour persuades him to join the local community choir, John rediscovers his love of music and finds a reason to start living again.
Rhys Callington, the talented and charismatic choir leader, captures John’s attention from the first moment they meet. He appears to be the polar opposite of John: young, vibrant, and full of life. But Rhys has darkness in his own past that is holding him back from following his dreams.
Despite the nineteen-year age gap, the two men grow close and a fragile relationship blossoms. Ghosts of the past and insecurities about the future threaten their newfound happiness. If they’re going to harmonise in life and love as they do in their music, they’ll need to start following the same score.
Review: Unable to bear the reminders of his lost love, John has avoided any form of music since the death of his partner of over two decades, David, on New Year’s Eve two years ago. With music a symbol of the joy they had found through their playing together, John could no longer bear to pick up his fiddle or sing, and had even given up his former job as a music teacher, opting instead to work as a supply (substitute) teacher. When his mother became ill with cancer, John moved back to his childhood home to spend time and care for her during the final weeks before her death two months earlier.
During his neighbour’s recovery from hip surgery, John happily plays taxi service for her, including to Maggie’s weekly community choir practice. Usually John drops her off and picks her up afterwards, but when foul weather causes John to offer to see Maggie safely inside, he is introduced to Rhys, the choir leader, and John finds himself intrigued by the unique, charismatic, younger man. Rhys hardly looks like a stereotypical choir leader for largely over sixties, with his peacock blue hair, eyebrow piercing and arms covered in tattoos. Small, slim, vibrant, confident and in his early twenties, Rhys is almost the opposite to John’s solid frame, quiet personality and forty-two years. Rhys’s enthusiasm at the prospect of another male joining the predominately female voices in the choir is too hard to resist and John doesn’t have the to heart to refuse, agreeing to stay and participate for the evening. Despite his initial misgivings, John finds himself enjoying both the choir and watching Rhys as he leads it. As John becomes a regular, he and Rhys slowly strike up a friendship that continues to grow as they spend more time together outside of choir practise.
Imperfect Harmony is a lovely, gentle re-awakening to love. It’s second chances and finding comfort and healing. What I loved most about this book, though, was that while there was healing and new love, the old loves weren’t forgotten or relegated as insignificant in the face of the new. I liked the way the author allowed the characters to still be impacted by their past losses without it becoming the dominant focus. The past partners (David, in particular) are referred to directly. They aren’t dismissed as if unimportant or taboo. They are, after all, an integral part of the characters’ pasts. It made their growing relationship feel very natural.
Rhys has his own background of loss and guilt, with the death of his boyfriend a couple of years earlier. That loss gave him an understanding of John’s grief and that there was a part of John’s heart where David would always be, because Lyle would also always have a part of Rhys’s heart. The first time they have sex is a sweet, endearingly awkward and incredibly sexy scene. It highlighted their budding relationship without either of them magically forgetting the loss of their partners as if all were suddenly okay.
The characters are well-written and well-rounded. They have their understandable fears and concerns. The issues are there, giving the characters and the story a realism that added to the interest of the story, and they are dealt with believably, without them becoming melodramatic or overpowering the love story. John’s concerns over the nineteen year age gap is the primary source of conflict. His fears that Rhys would move on as they grew older or, if they did stay together, that he would inevitably leave Rhys with the loss of a second love were, while frustrating sometimes, completely understandable. Although I did love John’s subconscious – his dreams of David encouraging him to just live his life were often smarter than he was himself!
But it’s not just re-discovering the love of another man that this story is about; it’s also about John re-discovering his love of music. The scene where Rhys witnesses John play his violin for the first time since David’s death is so beautiful and emotive, I almost felt like I was there, too. The sadness, yet hope for finding joy again in the playing was depicted perfectly.
With wonderful, endearing characters and a sweet romance, Imperfect Harmony was an enjoyable and satisfying read that left me with a smile. You could even say this book struck just the right chord!