Book Review: Blue Notes

Blue Notes
Shira Anthony

Blame it on jet lag. Jason Greene thought he had everything: a dream job as a partner in a large Philadelphia law firm, a beautiful fiancé, and more money than he could ever hope to spend. Then he finds his future wife in bed with another man, and he’s forced to rethink his life and his choices. On a momentís notice, he runs away to Paris, hoping to make peace with his life.

 

But Jason’s leave of absence becomes a true journey of the heart when he meets Jules, a struggling jazz violinist with his own cross to bear. In the City of Love, it doesn’t take them long to fall into bed, but as theyíre both about to learn, they canít run from the past. Sooner or later, theyíll have to face the music.

Blue Notes is a beautifully-written novel about Jason’s self-discovery of his attraction to men. Jules hits on Jason and Jason finds himself strangely attracted. Throughout the novel, his best moments of self-discovery come when he listens to his heart rather than his head.

However, the plot is a little thin. The first two-thirds largely focusses on Jason and Jules’s time together, Jason’s growing realization of what this means for his orientation, and Jules finding success with his music. It was all well-written and an interesting read, but there really wasn’t much of a difficulty to overcome (aka a plot). There are some impending issues, like Jason’s upcoming return to the USA and what it means for his relationship with Jules, and the eventual confrontation with his ex-fiancee and what will happen there, but those don’t really come about until the last third of the book.

As I reflect back on this novel, I can’t help but compare it to a beautifully-shot artistic movie. There are some wonderfully described scenes and a quiet lust that burns underneath everything. But a strong plot would have made it move along better. (The late-coming difficulties of the return to the USA and the ex-fiancee matter could have been brought forward a bit and hyped up to become a plot. This novel has all the elements it needs, I just feel that it didn’t make the best use of what it has.)

I do have some minor qualms with some of the language choices, but that comes down to author preference — such as Jules constantly thinking of Jason as “The American” and Jason constantly thinking of Jules as “The Frenchman”; and the repetitive use of the exclamatory phrase “shit” whenever there is some anal play (which created unfortunate mental associations). There were also consistent POV issues as we flipped between character POVs repeatedly throughout pretty much every scene.

Despite these things, Blue Notes had a certain charm to it. It didn’t suck me in and demand I keep reading until 3 AM, but it did keep me coming back every day until I finished it. The love that blossoms between Jules and Jason felt genuine and beautifully expressed. I enjoyed experiencing Jason’s self-discovery of his new identity as a gay-maybe-bi man; it was touching and, like the relationship, felt genuine and realistic.

I must also complement the character development. Often I find that the first book in a series is absolutely flooded with characters, as the author feels it necessary to introduce every single character who will be used for the rest of the series. This leads to awkward scenes filled with gay men that are poorly-written and remain as an amorphic blob in my memory of the novel. Shira Anthony avoids that temptation. If she introduced any characters for use in future novels in this series, she did so with such skill and grace that not a single character felt tacked on. Every character utilized in this novel felt like they were crafted for this novel only, not thrown in for use in future books. I must give Anthony high praise for this.

I figured that Blue Notes would be the first in a series, as so many books I read are, and I confirmed this when looking it up on Amazon. But Shira Anthony crafts Blue Notes as a wonderfully self-contained novel. Blue Notes really was a pleasure to read.

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