REVIEW: Elusive Harmony (The Warrender Saga Book 10) by Mary Burchell
Lindley Harding was a singer nearing the end of his career; Laurence Morven was a new star-and rival-coming up over the horizon. And Lindley’s daughter Natalie, who loved them both, found herself torn two ways as the bitterness grew between the two men. Was the situation going to ruin her life?
Huzzah! I’ve waited a year but Endeavour Media has answered my hopes by releasing the next book in the Warrender Saga. Since it’s part of this series, of course it features classical music, specifically opera. But the main focus is actually on relationships.
Natalie Harding has lived with her operatic singer father’s career for her whole life. He is one of the rare, the few, the acknowledged stars of his generation or indeed the 20th century. Rapturous fans follow his appearances and throng to meet him after performances. And to such talent, allowances are made regarding everyday life. Her mother had made Lindley Harding’s career her life work – catering to his needs and being his emotional support. After Valerie Harding’s death, Natalie had taken over but has done it gladly as she realizes how rare and special her father is. True her father can be demanding of her time and lean on her but he is Lindley Harding.
When Natalie learns, via her father’s agent (Dermot Deane who was in Unbidden Melody) that her father will not get the plum tenor role in a new opera, she worries about his reaction. Her father does put on a bit of a snit but also manages to pass it off as unimportant that he won’t debut the role and a new tenor voice will. Lawrence Morven has been gaining critical notices – mainly in Canada and the United States – but he’s still up and coming rather than the established star.
He’s also handsome, kind and helps Natalie when they first meet. But her father has priority in the claims on her time and Lawrence appears to have some kind of relationship with his frequent leading soprano whom Natalie dislikes on sight. Great opera stars – especially flighty tenors who can be rogues as well – need women who can ground them and support them. Minna Kolney is all about herself.
As rumors and gossip begin to swirl about whether Lindley Harding’s voice is past its prime and Lawrence Morven is about to step into his place, Natalie finds herself torn between them. Her beloved father needs her support more than ever but will this – until now – unthinking job of being his prop cost her a chance to leave the nest and find a love of her own?
Mary Burchell (Ida Cook)’s experience and knowledge of the opera world is once again front and center. She must have seen her share of temperamental tenors who need constant coddling before going onstage to wow the audience and garner endless curtain calls. This is a fleeting gift from God and one that must be nurtured and protected before being lost to age or bad vocal management. Her time spent listening to the best voices and countless operas would have enabled her to describe what takes place in this story – the worry, the jealousies, the fear and the acclaim.
If I did get a bit tired of Natalie pushing Lawrence away and jumping to conclusions, the reasons make sense and flow from the way the plot unfolds. Natalie has supported her father for so long and is so attuned to this world that it takes time for her to make a change and distance herself from putting her father first. The book is told from her view point only but Burchell conveys Lawrence’s dismay and – yes – anger at always coming in second place. But he too understands this environment and what Natalie’s role means for her father. Not that this makes Lawrence any happier but he sticks around until Natalie finally makes her break from the past.
There are several cameo characters from past books including Deane as mentioned above as well as Oscar and Anthea Warrender who plays a pivotal role. Those who have read the Florian books will recognize the grand fashion house that Anthea and Natalie visit during a stay in Paris.
So the romance here is balanced by the relationship between father and daughter. Mary Burchell’s intimate knowledge of the opera world once again shines and adds depth to the story and she manages to find yet another angle to explore in it. Those raise what might have been only a B- grade up to a B for me.