The Prelude: A Musical Interlude Novel
Author: KaSonndra Leigh
Publisher: KaSonndra Leigh Books
DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, this review is shorter so as not to rob the writer of her story.
P12 is missing a close quote after "Do we have a deal?"
P34 "She prances right up to where Luca Martuccio's sits."? "...where Luca Martuccio's party sits" maybe?
P71 "respond back" tautology.
I didn't like this novel at all, which makes me feel bad because I want to support independent publishers. I was put off it very quickly, and while I did try hard to read all the way through it, I found myself skipping sections because they were simply uninteresting.
Erin Angelo is the female protagonist who narrates the opening section, and she had lost my support by p13 when an "Adonis" walks in: Aleksandr Dostovsky. His mouth is "a heart-shaped ode to sex". Honestly? I just cannot picture a guy with a heart-shaped mouth in a frame designed to hold a picture of a great lover! It just doesn't work. I can picture a "French fop" from an historical romance with a heart-shaped mouth. I can picture an adorable infant with a heart-shaped mouth. But a leading man? No. I'm not sure what I expected with this novel, but I did expect more maturity and class than this, especially given the Italian opera angle. Are we being told an actual story here or are we merely the uncomfortable audience for an author's 222 page wet dream? Perhaps it would have been better titled Prélude à l'Après-Midi d'un Porn?
"Adonis" tells us that he likes to be called Alek Dostov, although that sounds more like something an American would say than a Russian, and we're offered no real reason to believe that a man like him would shorten his name for the convenience of others. But his "god-like" accent turns Angelo on, apparently stirring things she hasn’t felt in ages. Unfortunately, stirring things like that tends to bring a lot of murk and pollutants to the surface. This does bring on a full-blown asthma attack in Angelo, but she still manages to speak in complete sentences! Yes, she's that amazing!
He gets her inhaler, she gets to suck, and she's finally able to obsesses on his eyes, telling him they're unusual; then she checks herself and apologizes saying that it was inappropriate! This is after this stranger has been stroking his thumb along her cheek and she saw nothing untoward about that! Talk about double standards. And why make Dostov Russian, but then refer to him in terms of Greek gods? Why not just make him Greek? Unemployment is sky-high in Greece right now. A Greek guy looking for work abroad is not an uncommon thing at all.
Angelo is in love with his accent. He says "Did I not?" and she hears it as "Deed I knot?" Maybe it's just me, but I don't see how 'not' is different from 'knot' in pronunciation. You can argue that those three particular words actually mean something else and this is what Angelo sees, but that's not how Leigh conveys it to us. Or if that's what she intended, she ties herself in knots trying to do it! Neither is Dostov a 'maestro' as he's referred to all-too-often. No one at 23 gets that appellation. Maestro means something. It's an insult to music to toss an honor like that away, and it's a betrayal of what Leigh is supposedly trying to do with this novel.
'Maestro' doesn't mean stud, or tough guy, or sex god, or even heart-shaped mouth; it has a real meaning related to music (usually) and Dostov has no cred whatsoever in that regard. What's he done? In 23 years he has not put in anywhere near sufficient time to earn such a title. Nor are we ever treated to any kind of explanation from Leigh as to why he should carry such an honorific, or what he could possibly have done to merit it at so youthful an age.
Bear in mind (or given 'deed I knot' above, perhaps 'baring mined' might be more accurate?!) that this is obviously the guy who's being introduced as the instadore du jour, yet never once does Angelo consider being completely honest with him at their first encounter. She could have explained to him that the supplier had sent the wrong color fabric, and he could have found it refreshing that here was someone who was willing to be completely honest with him given the life he's led. This would have been the perfect opportunity to remove this novel from the "Twilight" zone and put it somewhere these tall tales seem to have an insurmoutable problem in going: into honesty and authenticity, but Leigh doesn't take us there. If Angelo had been completely honest with Dostov right there and then, that would have offered the possibility of a bond, shameless bond(!), being forged between them: something which might have led to a love rooted in something other than developmentally-retarded adolescent fantasy. As it is, Leigh looks like she's writing young-adult chest-pounding romance, betraying the entire genre in the xiphoid process.
When Leigh introduces us to the reason for titling her novel the way she did, I can see where she's going, and it’s admirable, but she fails to convince me that she's chosen the right title or knows how to play this piece. I see no respect accorded to the careers which are assigned to either actor in this drama. I found that very sad; it had me distracted from the story because I was wondering why someone would make their main characters a fashion designer and a musician if they're not then going to go somewhere with it - especially in a novel which supposedly has music at its core.
On that score, I'm not sure that 'prelude' is a proper fit, either. It seemed to me that what Leigh was really looking for was more along the lines of an overture; however, given that both parties had been in relationships before, perhaps prelude - the beginning of a new movement - is better than overture, which to me signifies the start of something brand new. The two are probably interchangeable at least to some degree, but this relationship was supposed to be the start of something brand new, yet neither party to it seemed to be making any original overtures.
I was intrigued by how Leigh introduced the music motif, but disappointed that it then goes nowhere, since it was the only thing which was holding my attention! The main characters are far too one-dimensional to inspire loyalty and too predictable to generate any interest. The setting was no better. I was not at all moved by this story supposedly taking place in Milan, because I felt none of the atmosphere of that city. Everyone in the story acts exactly like they're American, with American speech patterns and even their thought processes are as American as you can get.
Not only is there nothing to make us believe we're in Milan, there isn't anything to make us believe Angelo was ever in Austin, Texas, either. Take this example: "A road that ran along the swamp lands." In Austin, Texas? Texas which is in a three-year drought? Texas which had its driest year ever in 2011? What swamp? Does Leigh not understand that there's a difference between Texas and Louisiana? Or does she think Austin is on the coast with a salt marsh next door? That was suspension of disbelief out the door again.
Why was I uninspired by the two protagonists? We have Angelo, who is supposedly a fashion prodigy at 23. That I could just about buy, but even if I swallowed that unquestioningly, what does Leigh offer me in return, to validate my trust in her? Nothing! I'm sorry, but I can't buy that a fashion meteor like Angelo goes through life thinking of nothing - quite literally nothing whatsoever - save how hot Dostov is. She goes through the entire novel and never honestly contemplates fashion. She never dwells on her work, or ruminates other than briefly in passing on her ideas for designs. She never becomes engrossed in what needs to be done to get her opera project where it needs to be. There is no fashion in her head and that makes this character a complete fraud for me. Romy and Michele were more convincing as fashion designers than Angelo is.
Yeah, we get one evening where she sits and roughs out some sketches of things she wants to make, but that's it, and it's over far too quickly. We get to share none of her thought processes during this time: there's nothing about how she's viewing what she does, nothing about how she gets an idea and translates it onto the page; nothing about how she can see fabric giving a three-dimensional life to her drawings, nothing about the fit, flow and feel of the material. Remember this is told from her first person PoV (alternating with Dostov's), yet we almost never find a fashionable thought drifting anywhere in her mind! The young-Earth creationists have more intelligent design than she does, and I can't buy that she would be even remotely like that were she a real person - not even were she hopelessly in love as well. It's a betrayal of her entire life's choices to depict her this way.
Even Dostov agrees that Erin Angelo is simply uninteresting and has nothing to offer. I know this because when we get into his mind all he has going on is lust for her body. All he wants is her "boobs" under his hands, and honestly, given the way this story is told, who can blame him when she evidently has nothing else on display? We're reminded ad nauseam that he's a maestro, yet never once does a real musical thought enter his brain. He never thinks about his opera. He never thinks about the musical direction in which he's taking it. He never thinks about any piece of music he would compose or play. He never relates music to what's happening in the real world, or sees music in the everyday events of the real world. Not once. Not ever. And he's a "maestro", so we're expected to believe. Well I don't believe it; I've been offered no reason to do so, unless you count him raising and waving his baton all over the place. And yes, do rest assured that he's tapped a few podia with it. His name ought to be Do-stiff, not Dostov.
An example of how inappropriate he is to his position is clarified starkly when he asks Erin to perform in the opera in an important solo role. This made me laugh out loud because it was so brain-dead. Some maestro. An important opera is opening and some untried, untested girl off the street with zero training is thought appropriate? We can tell what an aria-head Dostov is by the fact that his narration runs like this: "I only make it as far as the door to my Aston Martin...". Since we already know the make of car he owns, was there something wrong with merely saying "the door to my car", or are we intended to understand that the nipple-devouring Dostov is a pretentious parvenu?
The entire novel shows that this pair of one-note people don't know the score, let alone how to write or sing along with one. Their entire repertoire consists of nothing more than lusting after the other. Now I can buy that someone is hot, and would be strongly in your thoughts, but for that to be the sole subject of pretty much their entire mental process is patent nonsense. If there are truly people like that, they need competent medical attention rather urgently, and if they fail to get that, then they need law enforcement attention even more urgently before someone gets hurt.
I looked forward to reading this and would have liked to have loved it (or even loved to liked it), but I could not. This novel was not about real people with real careers, hopes, and dreams. It was merely a story of how two sets of repressed genitals got their rocks off. This novel ought to have been titled Tragédie en Musique but that one is already taken, so might I suggest Catastrophe de Mode played at tempo di licenziosità?