Title: Imperfect Harmony
Author: Jay Northcote
Genre: M/M Romance
Publisher: Jaybird Press
Release Date: 15 April 2016
Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh
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.
Luckily there were still some parking spaces outside the church hall where Maggie’s choir met. John made sure they arrived a little early so Maggie wouldn’t have to walk too far. She was managing well on one crutch, but she still tired easily. After he parked, he got out and hurried around to help her out of the passenger door.
“Thanks, love,” she said, patting him on the arm. “I can manage now.”
A vicious gust of wind whipped a strand of hair into her face. It was dark, still sleeting, and probably slippery underfoot. There was no way John was going to leave until she was safely indoors. “I’ll just see you inside. Let me take your bag.”
Maggie let him have it without argument, and he popped it over his arm. He hovered close to Maggie as she made her way slowly to the double doors. He held one open for her and was hit by a blast of warm air. Then he accompanied her inside as she crutched along the corridor towards an open door. Yellow light flooded out, and the sound of a tenor voice singing “I Can See Clearly Now” raised the hairs on the back of John’s neck with its pure, clear beauty.
“I thought you said the emphasis was on fun rather than perfection?” he said quietly. “He’s got quite a voice.”
“That’ll be Rhys, our choir leader,” Maggie said with a smile. “Come and meet him, even if you’re not staying.”
Maggie paused when she reached the doorway and put a finger to her lips. They listened and waited for Rhys to finish singing. John peered over Maggie’s shoulder, hoping for a glimpse of the man the voice belonged to. Rhys, John presumed, was alone in the room. With his back to the door, he stood at a table pushed to the edge of the room, shuffling through some papers as he sang. All John could see of him was that he was small and slight, and quite young, based on the cut of his clothes. A hood covered his hair.
When he finished, Maggie started clapping.
Rhys wheeled around. “Oh my God! You made me jump.” He pushed his hood down and his face lit up as he beamed. “Maggie. How are you?”
John’s eyes widened as he took in Rhys’s front view as he approached Maggie and gave her a careful hug. His hair, which was shaved at the back and sides, was long on top and dyed peacock blue. His eyebrow was pierced, his arms were covered with tattoos, and the front of his T-shirt was emblazoned with a glittery equals sign in rainbow colours. All in all, he was at least twenty years younger than John had expected and completely unlike how John would have imagined a choir leader to look. In this dingy church hall in their small market town, Rhys looked like a bird of paradise that had accidentally ended up in a cage full of sparrows.
*ARC kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review
This was just what I needed at the right moment. A story of two men of differing age, both hiding their grief, but joined in a love of music. This was such a feel good factor read that I didn’t want it to end. Yes I love my books with grit, passion and angst but sometimes you just need an everyday believable, simple and real romance to make your heart sigh and balance the equilibrium. Imperfect Harmony did that for me.
John and Rhys are, at first glance, total opposites. John is in his forties, a school teacher and set in his ways. He carries out his neighbourly duty by escorting his elderly neighbour to her weekly choir session at the church. Rhys on the other hand is in his twenties, bound full of energy and zest, and with his blue hair and rainbow garb, he is not someone you would put together with John. But when John is persuaded to stay and join in the choir, both men find themselves having a sly look at each other, and the looks become more lingering as the weeks progress.
I loved the simplicity of the storyline in that it focused entirely on the development of a love between two, at first opposites, who gradually learn to understand that they are not that different after all. An age gap romance is always a neon sign for me to have grabby hands for a book and this one certainly did not disappoint. The tension between John and Rhys starts small but their budding friendship and shared love of music moves then to another level where love and passion for each other explodes. However I liked that the intimate moments were messy and awkward and both had insecurities about how they were perceived to the other. So bloody sweet at times!
The secondary characters, especially those in the nursing home, had me at times in bits, especially the little old lady tethered to the past with dementia but who beamed with happiness when John and Rhys sang for her. So heartfelt.
So with all their hang-ups and insecurities, it was emotional to see how they both moved towards a new future together. Such a tender, emotive but passionate tale of love between two lost souls. Loved it. Five stars.
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Meet the author
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England, with her husband, two children, and two cats.
She comes from a family of writers, but she always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed her by. She spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content. One day, she decided to try and write a short story–just to see if she could–and found it rather addictive. She hasn’t stopped writing since.
Where to find Jay