Title: Imperfect Harmony
Author: Jay Northcote
Publisher: Jaybird Press (self published)
Length: 66,000 words
Genre: Contemporary gay romance
Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh
Release Date: Friday 15th of April 2016
Series info: This book is a standalone
This book will be exclusive to Amazon for 90 days, after that it will be available at all major retailers.
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.
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.
I feel as if I have to apologize. Are my reviews boring you yet? Because this is yet another very special book by Jay Northcote that touched me in deep and profound ways.
On the surface this is a story about two men learning to live again after having lost their partners far too early in life. It is about learning to trust again—yourself, your feelings, other people and life itself. It is a wonderful May to December story, a trope I tend to adore. It is a touching tale about second chances and being brave enough to embrace them. And through it all flows a love of music and songs so vivid it made my heart sing. For all of these reasons this book will be ranked among my favourites.
But, for me, Imperfect Harmony, was so much more than that.
Jay Northcote gets grief. She knows it can be almost debilitating and at times cruel. The grief hurts but when the pain gets less there’s the guilt about getting ‘over’ it. And she sure gets it right when she has her characters reflect on how it can sometimes suckerpunch you and leave you devastated when you least expect it.
“It was weird how grief worked. You could be fine for days, weeks, months sometimes as the time stretched out. But with the right trigger you were thrown back into it, and the feelings were so strong it was as though no time had passed at all.”
At one point in the book, during one of their sessions in the nursing home, Rhys dances with Mrs Pickering, an old lady with Alzheimer’s who’s been begging him to play a certain song for a very long time. I read the whole scene with tears in my eyes because I could see it clearly in front of me—the simple act of kindness meaning the world to somebody who, with most of her memories, had lost so very much.
And that brings me to something else that touched me deeply and made me think. This story paints the contrast between two men who can’t quite get themselves to live full lives again because of the painful memories they live with and an older woman who has lost most of her past and present because her memories have been lost to her. Whether it was the author’s intention or not I can’t say, but it made me realise that all our memories, even those that hurt us, are valuable. They are proof we have lived and loved. No matter how painful some of our memories are, I firmly believe, losing them is even harder to bear.
And yet, while this book certainly gave me all the feels, I wouldn’t call it an overly angsty read (which is a good thing because I don’t deal too well with angst J) For me this was the most wonderful and realistic of love stories. Everything Rhys and John do, say and feel felt real and recognisable to me. I found myself rooting for them from the moment they were introduced, hurting when they did, and rejoicing when they found their happy. Yet again I’m delighted to highly recommend a Jay Northcote title to you!