Monday, April 15, 2002

Love's Melody Lost

Shady Ladies Press

Divorced and in the process of redefining her life, Anna Reid, an early 30-something woman in a graduate program for Landscape Design, needs a place to live and, at least, a part time job. She finds both when she answers a classified ad for a housekeeper. She's surprised to find that she will be more of an administrative assistant to the enigmatic Graham Yardley.

The famed master pianist and composer, Graham has locked herself away at Yardley Manor for more than a decade, since a tragic accident took her sight. She bears her blindness as a kind of penance and uses it to keep anyone from coming too close. Graham is not prepared for the energy of life and love of nature that Anna brings to Yardley. Love's Melody Lost is the story of these two women on their path to love each other.

An old fashioned gothic romance of the kind written by the late Victoria Holt, Love's Melody Lost is almost so cliché as to be amusing. -- The beautiful, vibrant, young woman brings life to a fading, historic estate by the sea and sparks the possibility of salvation through love for the mysterious, reclusive, heartbroken estate owner. -- However, Radclyffe gives the cliché a new life. She depicts two interesting and well drawn female leads with unapologetically lesbian content. Her plot is fast paced with several touching moments. And the romantic encounters, when they finally occur are explicit and, to this reader, powerfully erotic.

Radclyffe uses sight and the lack thereof, in an interesting manner. Previously heterosexually experienced, Anna is aware of Graham's physical attractiveness from their first encounter. She describes the appearance of the tall, dark haired, musician with increasing detail as she falls in love with Graham. Yet, the reader is not given a description of Anna until Graham, in a very touching scene, asks the housekeeper, Helen what Anna looks like.

There are a few mildly annoying inconsistencies in the story. The setting's time frame and age for both lead characters seems to change. Anna's height also appears to fluctuate. Radclyffe glosses over Anna's coming out process as well as the question of Graham's being out professionally. And finally the angst is almost too much. "Pig-headed" is one of the nicest ways to describe Graham, exceptional talent notwithstanding. Having said this, Love's Melody Lost is a charming gothic lavender romance.

Other readers have compared this novel to those of the wonderful romance writer, Karin Kallmaker. This reader feels a comparison to Chris Anne Wolfe's romantic fantasies is more accurate. Or perhaps, specifically, it is more like early Kallmaker novels. Love's Melody Lost provides more than enough promise for this reader to look for other Radclyffe titles and will be curious to see how Radclyffe continues to develop her craft.

-MJ Lowe

BN: Love's Melody Lost was re-released by Bold Strokes Books in 2004, ISBN 978-1933110004, $14.95

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