REVIEW: The Musician and the Monster by Jenya Keef
Hatred is a spell only true love can break.
Ángel Cruz is a dedicated session musician, until loyalty to his estranged family forces him to work for Oberon: the feared and hated envoy from the Otherworld. Overnight, Ángel is taken from his life, his friends, his work, and trapped in a hideous mansion in the middle of nowhere, under constant surveillance, and with only the frightening fae for company.
Oberon’s poor understanding of humans combined with Ángel’s resentment and loneliness threaten to cause real harm to the pair. Then a long winter together in the mansion unites them in their love of music. Slowly, Ángel’s anger thaws, and he begins to realize that Oberon feels alone too.
Gradually, these two souls from different worlds form a connection like none other. But hate and prejudice are powerful things, and it’ll take all the magic of their love to stop the wider world from forcing them apart.
Dear Jenya Keefe,
I stumbled on your book while browsing m/m new releases on Amazon. “Beauty and the Beast” is one of my favorite stories ever and I enjoy checking out different retellings/homages to it. When I saw that “Beauty and the Beast” was mentioned in one of the reviews, I decided to give this book a try.
As far as retellings go, I thought it was wonderfully done. I had to roll my eyes a bit at the initial set up (the reason for Angel to go to Oberon’s in the first place), but after rolling with it, it was a smooth ride for me for most of the narrative.
I was really impressed how the writer managed to keep such strong allusions to the original in the narrative and at the same time write a contemporary fantasy romance which made sense.
I also loved the slow burn romance between Oberon and Angel. The blurb talks about them bonding over the love of music and they did; it was really beautiful for me.
“It was a bittersweet minor-key melody that had evolved from arpeggio practice and his own homesickness. The first verse was the melody on the guitar, accompanied only by the timekeeping thump of his thumb on the soundboard. On the second verse Oberon’s mandolin came in impeccably, the notes silvery and sweet, precisely timed to Ángel’s guitar. Oberon played with the delicacy that Ángel had utterly failed to achieve.
Ángel closed his eyes and fell into the song. They flowed together, flawlessly, into the key modulation at the bridge. It sounded good. It sounded great. With Oberon playing, it sounded even better than he had imagined it would. On the final verse, Oberon diverged from the accompaniment as Ángel had written it.
He improvised an original harmony that was so perfect, so poignant, that Ángel’s eyes watered behind their closed lids. The essence of the song was transformed by Oberon’s harmony from loneliness and sorrow to something resembling hope—fearful, longing, hopeless hope.”
Not only did I feel the beauty when I was reading about them playing or discussing music, but I also thought that the author showed her own deep knowledge of musical theory and practice. It was not an information dump; it was just part of the story. I felt that the author knew what she was writing about.
I found one aspect of Oberon’s characterization to be rather unusual in a good way. Oberon may look human, but he is not. As the blurb tells you he is an envoy from Otherworld, a fae. I thought the author did a fantastic job of showing how Oberon is not human despite looking very much like one. I have read fantasy romance stories where authors did a good job of introducing distinct alien cultures to the readers where aliens did not look very human, but this is the first romance I can remember where the alien is different and continues being different to the human even as they keep learning more about each other.
I want to note here that one of the couple of Amazon reviews that I have read made this point very well and I don’t usually like to nod and say please read that review (I like to express my own views as much as I can), but it is a very good review.
I loved how Angel remained uncomfortable with some of Oberon’s habits for quite some time. It made sense to me. Because of that, because I thought it made sense, Angel’s own insecurities made more sense too.
Heck, *I* was a bit uncomfortable during their love making for a long time and that’s saying something, considering that they were not engaged in any unusual kink that I prefer not to read about. I consider such discomfort to be a plus rather than a minus of Oberon’s characterization though.
The story does manage to follow “Beauty and the Beast” rather closely to the end. A couple of small moments at the end also caused an eye roll, but for the most part it worked for me.