Review: Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost

Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost
Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost by Z.A. Maxfield
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoy this author’s voice and writing, perhaps even more than the book itself. The ghosts were the absolute highlight of this story while the main couple left me cold. In particular the ingénue in Fitz drove me nuts with his idiocy and often “too stupid to live” moments. He has a lot and his bumbling, socially awkward manner should be endearing but soon turns frustrating for me as a reader. Not everyone may feel this way but for me the best part of the story by far were the ghosts; an element that didn’t even make much sense or seem to fit in well. Yet I’m very glad it’s there.

The story starts off with socially awkward and isolated Fitz at a school for gifted artists. He’s a pianist, yet his talent and constantly remarrying mother have kept him isolated and alone for most of his life. So when smooth talking Garrett strikes up a relationship, Fitz is overjoyed and overwhelmed by the attention. No matter what Garrett does wrong, Fitz feels he should be a loyal friend and boyfriend; even if it means at the expense of Ari, Fitz’s ex-stepbrother and older crush. Although Ari is trying to get Fitz to see him as a potential boyfriend, the chaos surrounding Garrett seems to distract Fitz. Thankfully a couple of interfering ghosts know just what to do.

The plot is decent enough but punctuated by some ridiculous and totally unnecessary made up tension. For the majority of the story Fitz thinks he wants to be with Garrett, despite all manner of horrible and idiotic actions, while Ari waits patiently and sometimes impatiently for Fitz to grow up and recognize their connection. This isn’t a bad idea in theory but unfortunately the players aren’t endearing enough for me to buy off on this concept. For starters, the ending is just eye rolling ridiculous. I honestly wanted everyone to just disappear so the ghosts (Julian in particular) could sparkle and make the book more interesting. The resolution to Garrett is just over the top and somewhat silly so I was really disappointed the book chose to go that route.

Especially considering the fact that Fitz acts pretty manic for most of the book. He’s supposed to be a very shy, introverted young man with no social skills to speak of and that certainly comes across. In the very beginning of the story, this is somewhat charming and endearing. Unfortunately for me this ends pretty quickly as Fitz refuses to see Garrett for the person he is and then proceeds to have multiple “too stupid to live” moments of idiocy. Fitz isn’t an idiot yet behaves like a manic person with absolutely no common sense and ability to reason. He should have been smarter and the line between naïve and stupid is crossed too easily and too many times in Fitz.

Which makes the counterpoint of Ari less than satisfying. Ari comes out of nowhere and is depicted as a somewhat perfect specimen of man. He’s gorgeous, brilliant, rich, sophisticated, caring, and deeply in love with Fitz. He is a nice addition to the story, given Fitz’s actions, but he’s somewhat confusing. Ari never really made sense to me as a character or love interest, especially at the end with the happy for now ending. All of a sudden Fitz makes a mature and level headed comment that he doesn’t know how he’ll feel in the future due to his age. Yet Fitz has spent the entire novel being anything but mature and level headed so the ending is out of character and confusing. Though I do appreciate the story’s attempt at a genuine and pragmatic ending, it just didn’t make sense with the characters and their actions so far.

Now having said all of that, the story really shines with Julian and Serge. There’s no real good reason for the inclusion of ghosts but honestly I didn’t care since they were so adorable and fun to read. As a solid couple with no tension and angst, they were simply entertaining with their compatible antics and banter. Their dancing together, chemistry, the story, cooking, and simply their presence in the story, no matter that it doesn’t make sense, it gives a richness and vibrancy to the narration. In fact I found their scenes to be the best and most exciting of the book. They are what kept me reading and wondering what they would do next; that and the great writing.

Although the story didn’t do much for me outside of the ghost element, the writing and descriptive quality are very good. The banter, dialogue, prose, and setting all are wonderful and the pages fly by much quicker than I expected. It’s one of the many reasons I like Maxfield as an author so much, even if the characters aren’t exactly to my liking. The story is an easy and fun one to read despite the flaws. I’m not sure I’d recommend this particular book but I’m not sorry I read it. I’ll admit I’m looking forward to the next St. Nacho’s book a lot. I hope it’s a home run.

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