The Stars That Tremble
Title : The Stars That Tremble
Author : Kate McMurray
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Contemporary
Length : 200 pages (e-book)
Published : September 30, 2013
Rating : ★★★★
Giovanni Boca was destined to go down in history as an opera legend until a vocal chord injury abruptly ended his career. Now he teaches voice lessons at a prestigious New York City music school. During auditions for his summer opera workshop, he finds his protégé in fourteen-year-old Emma McPhee. Just as intriguing to Gio is Emma’s father Mike, a blue-collar guy who runs a business renovating the kitchens and bathrooms of New York’s elite to finance his daughter’s dream.
Mike’s partner was killed when Emma was a toddler, and Gio mourns the beautiful voice he will never have again, so coping with loss is something they have in common. Their initial physical attraction quickly grows to something more as each hopes to fill the gap that loss and grief has left in his life. Although Mike wonders if he can truly fit into Gio’s upperclass world, their bond grows stronger. Then, trouble strikes from outside when the machinations of an unscrupulous stage mother threaten to tear Gio and Mike apart—and ruin Emma’s bright future.
On occasion, I’ll throw down an imaginary gauntlet to an author who has absolutely no clue what I’m doing and challenge them and their book to get me to like, or accept, a subject with which I’ve got an “issue.” I’ve got “issues” with opera. I particularly dislike Turandot and the aria “Nessun Dorma.” Yeah. So. Giovanni Boca can no longer sing and has turned to training the next generation of singers. While holding try-outs for his summer program for young musicians he hears a fantastic young singer, Emma McPhee, who also happens to have a gorgeous father, Mike. Emma’s amazing natural talent gets her into the program. It’s a bonus she’s got a gorgeous father. Mike finds himself really attracted to Emma’s opera teacher, Gio. When Gio asks Mike to lunch, ostensibly to discuss Emma, Mike is nervous. He doesn’t really get why he’s nervous like it’s a date, but he is nonetheless. Gio is nervous about going out to lunch with Mike. He quickly admits it’s not about Emma, but he wants to have lunch with Mike as he really likes him. As they’re talking Mike explains how he came to be a single gay father after his partner, Evan, was killed in the line of duty saving a child. Mike has been raising Emma alone for eleven years. Gio feels humbled. This man has lost so much, how can he possibly be interested in some prissy former opera singer? Mike can’t see how a worldly and accomplished international star would be interested in a blue collar worker. They decide to wait til the summer program is over before they begin dating. Their resolve lasts a couple of days.
Anything involving children and the myriad ways a parent can help their child establish their career path at the tender age of fourteen is cutthroat. Opera is no different. A parent subtly threatens Gio if her daughter doesn’t make it into the Olcott school, where Gio teaches. As it turns out, Emma isn’t exactly thrilled when she finds out her father is dating her music teacher. Emma idolizes Gio as an opera singer and star, but that’s very different than being the guy who is butting into the relationship she has with her dad. Mike is torn. Emma is his world, but Gio makes him happy. Mike realizes he deserves to be happy. Things come to a head at the auditions for Olcott. The determined parent makes numerous accusations against Gio to force the school’s hand into accepting her daughter. Gio and Mike are both devastated. Their attempts at happiness after years of simply healing from their losses may be snatched from their fingertips.
Kate McMurray picked up my imaginary gauntlet and smacked me with it. This book was fantastic. If you have knowledge of opera you’ll have a leg up. Part of the story takes place during the instruction of opera. You may end up Googling a lot of opera terms. Personally, that is one of the things I love most about Kate McMurray’s writing. She delves into a subject and doesn’t talk down to the reader. You can’t have a character immersed in the world of opera without actually discussing opera. On top of that, the romance was fantastic. Mike was so unsure of himself. In most aspects of his life. Every time he manages to get back on top he finds himself beaten down again. Consequently, he had a lot of problems simply accepting when things were good that they were actually good. He also had difficulty putting himself in a position of vulnerability. He figured he was just going to get smacked down again. Gio was more stable and emotionally healthy than Mike but still had his problems. As a couple they did a fantastic job of shoring each other up.
I did have an issue with this book, and it had nothing at all to do with the opera. One of the more important plot strings was a little obvious and unbelievable to me. It worked, but I felt it to be really unlikely. Honestly, that’s all I ask of a book, but at the same time I don’t want to fall out of the story thinking to myself, “Yeah, that would never happen.” It was as though the story were fine Egyptian cotton and then a string of acrylic, worsted weight yarn shows up. But anyway, it wasn’t the opera that bothered me. If anything, I actually found my personal issues with the aria “Nessun Dorma” helped underscore the bittersweetness of the song for Gio. Again, I have to appreciate I went out of my comfort zone.
Rated 4 stars by Faye