REVIEW: On Wings of Song by Mary Burchell
Although Caroline had a lovely voice and would have very much liked to become a professional singer, she had always put her feelings second to the talent and ambition of her beloved cousin Jeremy, who was going to become a singer himself.
But when she accompanied Jeremy for moral support, when her cousin went to audition for Sir Oscar Warrender, the great conductor said firmly, ‘It’s the girl who interests me,’ — and before Caroline knew where she was, she had been launched on a musical career of her own.
But how was Jeremy going to feel about it all?
“On Wings of Song” is the final book in the Warrender Saga. Burchell returns to a few of the past plot lines with aspiring singers hoping for a lucky break, a scheming soprano vixen, and the (almost inevitable) secretary heroine. Ah but there is one switch up: a heroine who snaps back when she gets mad and turns that anger into furious determination. I loved how that affected her hero.
Caroline Bagshot and her cousin Jeremy both sing. Jeremy has won a place at a prestigious music academy while Caroline has quietly pursued private lessons as well as attending secretarial school because someone has to bring in some money to their household. Now she works for a famous agent, Kennedy Marshall, whose business has just merged with Dermot Deane (see “Unbidden Melody”). Among their new clients are the famous conductor Sir Oscar Warrender and his soprano wife Anthea. By good fortune, Caroline discovers something that leads to her meeting with the Warrenders and emboldens her to ask for a chance for Jeremy to audition for Sir Oscar.
Things don’t go quite as planned though Jeremy rebounds when he meets and apparently catches the interest of a rising French soprano. When Caroline tells her teacher that Warrender praised her voice and encouraged her to find the financial means to raise her training to the next level, the means are found. However Caroline finds it odd that her benefactor, an old friend of her teacher’s who shares Caroline’s view of the French singer, seems so disinterested in Caroline’s progress. Firmly snapped out of her self-pity and whining by her teacher, Caroline is determined to enter and win an important singing contest in order to pay the woman back. But what will happen when her growing feelings for her boss clash with what Jeremy tells her about him?
Remembering back, I can’t imagine some of the earlier heroines of this series taking such a firm tone with their bosses or – to a lesser extent – Sir Oscar. Caroline and Ken have a few clashes including an early one that almost results in Caroline’s dismissal. But instead of being meek and mild, she verbally takes charge and makes Ken sit up and take real notice of her. Caroline also doesn’t quaver in front of Sir Oscar but seems to me to take his dictates calmly and professionally. There’s a lovely moment when an aria from “Adriana Lecouvreur” that Caroline sings during her training fits perfectly with the events and place in the story – even if Caroline doesn’t quite realize it. One muff was that the last slight misunderstanding Caroline was told about was never quite explained away.
Then comes a moment when something fires Caroline’s determination and even Sir Oscar notices with approval. As I read this scene, I mentally applauded Caroline and then took fiendish glee when she smiles a bit of revenge on a rival. She keeps her head up and owns the moment when she and her slightly wary hero finally cut through the misunderstandings that have kept them apart. This series is one I looked forward to ever since Sunita loaned me her paper copy of the first book years before it was digitally reissued by Endeavour Press. With few exceptions, it lived up to my hopes and is one I’ve enjoyed finally reading. B