Private Melody
by AlTonya Washington, contemporary (2011)
Kimani, $6.25, ISBN 978-0-373-86226-9


There is a very sweet romance in AlTonya Washington's Private Melody, but the external conflict has me scratching my head a bit. Perhaps it's a plausible plot to some folks, but I personally have a hard time buying it.

You see, our hero Therin Rucker is one of the main players in the charity body called Educate Youth Encourage Success, or EYES for short. It's an organisation dedicated to empowering lesser privileged children with opportunities to further their education and achieve their dreams, that kind of thing. As an ex-Ambassador, Therin knows many powerful politicians, and right now some of them are actually enraged that he's dedicating his schmoozing and fundraising skills to making EYES a success. They'd rather that he dedicates his efforts to "better" causes, you know, like starting a war. Some of them are enraged enough to try to kill him and his buddies! That puts a dampen on his budding love story with Kianti Lawrence, as you can imagine. Kianti is a musical genius who makes magic with the piano, and she believes in his cause too. It's a match made in heaven, except for the fact that she is on medication for a congenital heart condition and she resents having people hovering over her and telling her to swallow those pills.

Perhaps this is a good time for me to point out that this book has some rather obvious left-leaning politicial sentiments. There is nothing wrong with that, I personally feel, and in fact, I'd be more perplexed if the author left out politics altogether in a story in which the hero is a politician.

Ms Washington does one thing very well in this story - the romance. Both characters are refreshingly free from weird hang-ups for the most part. They have reasons to want only a brief hookup, of course, and these reasons make sense. He wants to focus on some problems in his job and she wants to focus on her career and her efforts to assert some degree of independence. But they can't resist wanting to make things more permanent, naturally. The attraction feels unforced, there is ample romantic build-up in their relationship, and even the usually tired conventions like "making her leave for her own good" are presented very well here as they fit perfectly into the context of the story. It also helps that both characters for the most part come off as intelligent and reasonable people who exhibit a good degree of self-awareness when it comes to their strengths and flaws.

It's just that I have a hard time believing that the villains will go that far over an education-oriented political organization. That aspect of the plot seems dangerously too much like a cheap opportunity for the author to score points using political straw characters. Perhaps it's how the author presented this plot - the whole thing seems way too out there to be believable. Because this bizarre plot makes up a big chunk of the story, it is a pretty significant stumbling block in getting me to fully appreciating this otherwise enjoyable read.

Rating: 83


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