REVIEW: Remembered Serenade by Mary Burchell
Fresh out of music college, Joanna Ransome hopes to forge a career as a singer.
She’s touched and grateful for the help and interest of old Mr. Wilmore, who she feels she owes everything. He gets her off to a promising start, and soon enough she’s introduced to the great conductor Oscar Warrender. It seems she can’t take a wrong step, at least career-wise.
And then she meets Elliot Cheam.
Cheam is Mr Wilmore’s nephew, and is convinced she’s nothing more than a conniving gold-digger trying to bleed his uncle dry. His hurtful comments niggle away at her, chipping away at her self-confidence and making her worry for her career. She’s determined to prove him wrong – but can she manage to change such a stubborn mind and continue with her success?
On to book nine in the Warrender Saga and once again, we have a operatic heroine in Joanna Ransome. She’s almost at the end of her music college days and has earned a part in a student production. Her formidable Aunt Georgiana mentions that she lives near a man well known in operatic circles for his astounding collection of operatic memorabilia and his knowledge of the opera world including the obscure opera Joanna will be in. Would Joanna like her to arrange an introduction? Joanna is over the moon and heads down to Sussex to her Aunt’s cottage.
It is there that she meets Elliot Cheam and is almost run down by him as he motors down to see his Uncle – the very man Joanna is going to see. Elliot responds as do many people who know they are in the wrong and that is with embarrassed anger. When Joanna snaps back at him a bit, he pulls up short and ruefully acknowledges that she is right. His attitude hardens a bit when he arrives after Joanna and sees her with his Uncle and in a position in which he feels she is taking advantage of the kindly older man. Despite what his Uncle’s perceptive housekeeper tells her about how Elliot has a quick temper but is always willing to say he’s sorry when he’s in the wrong, Joanna still dislikes him.
Things don’t go much better for a long while until later in London after Joanna has given Elliot some sound advice about a young actress who is looking to sink her claws into Elliot and has no kind feelings for Joanna. Sara throws around the word “Darling” in a venomous tone far too often. It’s the show business version of the word instead of the affectionate one. After watching the play he is producing, Joanna and Elliot reach a dinner truce and find they actually enjoy each others company. After some strenuous denials on her part that she’s trying to cage anything from his Uncle, they part in good terms. Only to have it all blown apart again after Joanna is legitimately invited to Sussex yet again sending Elliot into another snit.
Then when Oscar Warrender takes a hand in shaping Joanna’s career, the situation between she and Elliot deteriorates even further as Elliot becomes convinced – and loudly denounces Joanna for – approaching his Uncle for the money she needs to prepare for what could be the role that makes her career. Hampered by promises she can’t break, Joanna can’t tell Elliot what she’s really doing. Has she also been asked to make, in the person of Elliot, the supreme sacrifice that great artists must be willing to do for their art?
I find that unlike the last book in the Saga, I can understand and excuse more of the hero’s behavior here. Elliot only brings it out when he feels his beloved and kindly Uncle might be taken for a ride and as Mrs. Trimble told Joanna, when he realizes he’s in the wrong, Elliot does do the right thing and apologize. Joanna also has no trouble taking him to task and getting him to back down with some choice retorts on her part. And after he spectacularly blows up at her, well … let’s say he redeems himself without the idea of trying to worm his way back into her good graces. He does start out with the idea of seeing if she’s going to professionally sink or swim but also in a way he does it for her and to hopefully further her career.
Joanna is suitably awed by Oscar and Anthea Warrander and as we’ve seen across almost all the Saga books, Anthea is her usual charming self while Oscar – Sir Oscar now – has by many accounts actually mellowed a bit since their marriage. Joanna’s Aunt is that British Womanhood Force of Nature while Joanna’s mother is a fluttering charmer who nevertheless can unerringly pinpoint key things when she wants to. There is also a sprinkling of other past characters but they serve to add to this story. The new operatic plot point is the singer who acts better than she sings and how Warrender spots this and uses it to advantage in the staging of a new opera. The theme of that work, pointed out to Joanna by Anthea who knows a thing or two about opera plots, ties in nicely with what Joanna finds herself forced to do so art here really does imitate life.
When Elliot and Joanna finally get a chance to air and discuss their issues, helped along by the Warrender Matchmaking Service, I do feel that they truly come to understand each other and since they’re already in love, the ending just flows. I would have liked to have seen more of Elliot actually in the book as most of this focuses on Joanna’s growth as a singer with a unique stage gift but I’ll take this over the last book. B