Author: Lauren E. Rico

Counterpoint by Lauren E. Rico

Counterpoint by Lauren E. RicoCounterpoint by Lauren E. Rico
Published by Harmony House Productions, Lauren E. Rico on March 28 2019
Pages: 210
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four-stars

Brilliant young pianist Alexandria is poised for classical music superstardom…until the night she unravels in front of thousands at her Carnegie Hall debut.

Brilliant young pianist Nate is poised for classical music superstardom…until the night a horrific accident took away everything—and everyone he loved.

Now fate—and a wily cowboy pianist named Wyatt—have brought them both to Texas for a summer of intensive study and healing. And, though the two butt heads almost immediately, it’s soon clear that, together, Alex and Nate possess a dazzling chemistry that eclipses anything they might have done alone.

But the real test of their longevity as partners—on stage and off—comes when Alex’s overbearing father threatens to destroy everything they’ve both worked so hard for. Painful choices must be made and lives will be changed forever.

While Nate wrestles with the gut-wrenching guilt of his past, Alex is forced to confront the grim prospects for her future. And suddenly, each must decide if there is enough power in their music and enough courage in their hearts to breach the chasm between them.

Lauren E. Rico speaks directly to the soft spot I suspect I’ll always have for classical music and the very rare bit of romantic fiction written around it, because there’s just so much to explore in what’s typically considered a big-ego, elitist and inaccessible world. And well, that it was a world that I belonged to, very briefly so long ago, makes the classic music romance, so to speak, a wistful step back into that passionate, intriguing and cut-throat space.

The unique meeting of accomplished classical pianists, both child prodigies, both fallen in their own ways and unable to pick themselves up until the intervention of a mysterious do-gooder who wanted nothing more but to get them going again….no surprise then, that I jumped on ‘Counterpoint’ as soon as the ARC was available.

Nathaniel Calloway’s and Alexandria Mickelson-Fitch’s stalled careers start to collide in a way that neither could have ever imagined, thanks to a Texan cowboy professor who seem determined to get their back their tarnished stardom. Cue the resulting family drama, the heaving chests, the loud denials and affirmations came to the fore that catapulted the storytelling into soap-opera territory at times.

There were clear hurdles to jump over here: obsessive, helicopter parenting, volatile tempers with sometime immature outbursts (throw in the broody artistic-temperament) and so much ego-shuffling. I was sceptical of the quick switch from hostility to near-instalove, got frustrated when adults started behaving like teenagers who suddenly couldn’t see reason and devolved into self-absorbed, entitled, snivelling messes who couldn’t handle themselves let alone others.

Still, I lapped up every descriptive passage of the music that both Nate and Alex played, lapped up their duets and the heady sense of the music that spilled from the pages and left me wanting more as I rode every wave of high and low with them. The music’s made magic in Rico’s hands and I could only wish there were more of such stories from her.

four-stars

Solo by Lauren E. Rico

Solo by Lauren E. RicoSolo by Lauren E. Rico
Published by Entangled Publishing on May 8th 2017
Pages: 364
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four-stars

When graduate student Katherine Brenner walked into my class, I couldn’t stand her -- all perfect skin and big, blue eyes -- just like the woman who broke my heart.
If it wasn’t for that blizzard, if her car hadn’t broken down outside my house, if she hadn’t looked amazing by the firelight, I never would have kissed her. No matter how hard I try, every excuse I make not to see her comes up flat.
I can’t stop thinking of her lips. Or the way her curves fit perfectly in my hands. There’s a million reasons why this won’t work. I’m her professor. It’s against university policy.
And if this gets out, I could lose everything.

There was so much I loved about this book, not least because the subject matter had me so captivated. Not only was it the forbidden relationship that had developed out of an initially antagonistic one that drew me in, but the fact that it was built around and based on a love for classical music that had me turning the pages and losing sleep, bringing me back to a time when it’d played a large role in my life. It felt like a reminder of (or maybe even a stunning tribute to) the power of music and it was easy to be swayed when Lauren E. Rico’s clear investment in her characters and love for the subject shone through so clearly.

Yet ‘Solo’ is also a story of two people trying to rise from the ashes after years of conflict and hostility—I wished the book cover and the suggestive and short blurb reflected this! After getting past my incredulity, the story took over and I gobbled it down hook, line and sinker, loving the complexity already written into this problematic set-up from the very start.

Drew Markham has it out for his graduate student (taking out his anger unconsciously on a woman who resembles his ex) while all Kate is trying to do is to lie low and distance herself from her ‘celebrity’ status as a Senator’s daughter. Serendipity brings a huge snowstorm to their small mountain town however, just as an assignment deadline looms large, and forces this switch that morphs into friendship, tentative attraction and eventually, full-blown affection.

I think the bottom line for me was that both Kate/Drew were sympathetic enough characters that it was easy to cheer for them as a couple. As an aspiring female conductor with enough gumption to get through grad school on her own, Kate gained my admiration early on, although it was harder to warm up to Drew’s volatile nature, especially when he wronged her too many times for my liking. Nonetheless, I liked how natural it felt as Drew and Kate took days to work out their differences—the injection of maturity and the communication really helped—but also how their HEA doesn’t come without consequences as well. The dose of realism that you could see coming miles away was painful to take in, though not unexpected and Rico doesn’t shy away from laying it out. But once Drew/Kate got going however, their rocky road together was far from easy and even as I’d hoped for a more conclusive epilogue, their happiness seemed hard-fought and consequently, deserved as they weathered the whole fall-out.

four-stars