Concerto

Can love escape from the darkness into the light?

Amazon reviews
4.5/5

When Catriona Drouot, a young music therapist, honours an opera diva’s dying request to help her son, Umberto Monteverdi, recover his musical gift, she knows it will be a difficult assignment. She had shared a night of passion with the once-celebrated composer ten years before, with unexpected consequences. The extent of her challenge becomes apparent when she arrives at her client’s estate on the glittering shores of Lake Como. Robbed of his sight by a near-fatal car accident, the man is arrogant, embittered and resistant to her every effort to help him. Still, Catriona sings a siren’s call within him that he cannot ignore.

Caught up in the tempestuous intrigues at Umberto’s Palladian mansion, Catriona discovers that her attraction to the blind musician is as powerful as ever. How can she share what she has hidden from him for the past decade? Soon she realises that hers is not the only secret that is rippling uneasily below the surface. Dark forces haunt the sightless composer, threatening his life – for the second time.

Concerto is a sensual and romantic story of lost love and forgiveness, destiny and difficult choices, and of a heroine determined to put things right at last.

Selected reviews

An exceptionally beautiful and heart-touching read which will stay with you long after you finish… This book was a passionate, sweeping love story from start to finish, full of hedonism, romance, and gorgeous descriptions of some of the world’s most luxurious and beautiful places. – Musings of Another Writer

One of the most beautiful romantic storylines that I have read in quite some time… I felt like I was at the opera from the comfort of my sofa, while reading this beautiful story. – Bookread2day

Totally recommended… With its gorgeous settings in the Riviera and Italy, this novel is a treat for all the senses, a kind of modern beauty and beast, with secrets, villains and dangers in the palace where the beast Umberto has retreated. Meanwhile music makes a beautiful redemptive healing thread throughout the novel, thoroughly apt and marvellous. – Lindsay’s Romantics

Extract of the book

There was a grinding of brakes and a sleek red sports car swerved violently to avoid Catriona. She jumped back on to the pavement, the colour draining instantly from her face. The driver of the Maserati stopped dead, backed his car a few metres and climbed out to confront her.

Heart beating and trembling, despite the shock of the moment she recognized the man who had been on her mind for the whole day. His angry expression shifted only slightly as he saw her. ‘Aaah! Little Miss Curious … we meet again, eh? Do you realize I nearly killed you? You stepped off the pavement without looking, almost under my wheels. If I wasn’t a damned good driver, I’d have left you in a dozen bits!’

Catriona’s feeling of guilty self-reproach dissolved under this tongue-lashing. She felt her spine bristle with antagonism. Admittedly she was at fault, but he had no right to shout at her in the street like that, and with such insufferable arrogance.

Her golden-brown eyes were stormy as she glared back at him. ‘You were driving too fast, we don’t expect lunatics to come down the road at eighty miles an hour. You’re not on a motorway here, you know. Don’t you realize you’re in the centre of town?’

‘I was barely doing thirty,’ he said through gritted teeth. ‘Have you ever driven a car, Mademoiselle? If you have, you should know that drivers depend on people doing the sensible thing, like looking before they step into the road!’

She glanced down the road to see the bus receding into the distance. ‘Now I’ve missed it!’ she said furiously. ‘I’ll have to wait another half hour for the next one.’

‘At least you’ll get there in one piece,’ he observed disagreeably.

Catriona turned away, her head held high, and began to walk down the road. She cursed under her breath, feeling the weight of her shopping bag on her arm, and her spirits sagged at the thought of this unpleasant second encounter with Umberto Rolando Monteverdi.

Just then she felt a hand on her arm. Turning, bristling and ready for a further argument, she was surprised to see her adversary smile. ‘I’ll drive you home. Come on, why don’t you get in the car?’ He cocked an eyebrow. ‘After all, we’re heading in the same direction, aren’t we?’

Catriona almost refused, her mood defiant, but then she spotted the figure of Jean-Jacques walking back up the street. He’d clearly witnessed the whole episode and must be thinking this was the perfect opportunity to speak to her again. She cursed inwardly. 

‘Fine. You can drive me home, thank you,’ she said curtly.

Umberto opened the door of his car and gestured for her to get in. He climbed into the driver’s seat, immediately buckling the seat belt. He glanced at Catriona. ‘It would be a good idea to do your belt up,’ he suggested, indulgent amusement dancing in his eyes. ‘Me being a lunatic, as you pointed out.’

‘You don’t need to tell me, I was going to do it,’ she answered defensively, ignoring his quip. Yet she had to admit she would have forgotten to do so entirely, so disturbed was she by the aura of the man sitting beside her.

She watched appreciatively as he drove, unable to avoid admiring the way his long, capable fingers that knew so well how to coax music from the piano were equally adept at handling the wheel. Suddenly she was shocked to realise she was imagining what else those hands were skilled at. 

They drove out of the city centre in silence, neither of them speaking during the first mile or two. Catriona sat motionless in her seat, intensely aware of the silent, authoritative figure beside her. To the unworldly eighteen-year-old he seemed so much older than her, a man not a boy, and the thrill of that realization made her feel suddenly grown up. Slowly, they climbed the long, gently sloping carriageway, pines, cypresses, and ilex growing on the wooded slopes on either side. There was not much traffic. They began to eat up the distance, very soon passing the bus that had left her behind. The car moved like the wind but was luxurious and smooth in its speed. Catriona had never ridden in one of these low sport cars and always thought they looked so uncomfortable – she was used to her mother’s spacious BMW or her own small Citroën. 

Umberto gave her an arrogant quirk of a smile. ‘You’ll be home before the bus at least.’

They were now facing glorious views: on one side the whole of Nice stretched out below them; on the other, beyond the city, low rolling hills undulated in the distance, dim in the twilight of the setting sun. Stone walls separated villas and open spaces from the road as the car wound its way up and down the terraced landscape towards Mont Boron. They passed large gardens big enough to accommodate private orchards. Here, lemons hung pale and innumerable in the thick groves, their branches so close to each other that it seemed as though they were embracing. Even the trees, like the Mediterranean people themselves, seemed happiest when clustered together jovially, Catriona thought, smiling to herself. Women, vague outlines in the orchard’s under-shadow, were still picking the bright fruit, moving about slowly as if in the undersea. There were heaps of lemons stacked in wicker baskets under the trees, glowing like primrose-yellow smouldering fires. Catriona had never really noticed their beauty before. 

Umberto had brought down the car’s soft top and a fragrant breeze played through the Catriona’s hair, mingling the sweet scent of mimosa and jasmine from the gardens and the sharper zest of the lemon groves. It was getting dark now; on the steep terraces high up above the sea the cliff houses seemed to be nearly on top of each other in places. The evening shadows sloping down from tall gates and garden trees – olives and medlars, mulberries and almonds – accentuated the feeling. The car glided through the dusk; over the brow, down the cobblestone streets between the houses, and across the side of the naked hill they went.

To their right, Umberto pointed to the horizon above La Baie des Anges, where a red sunset mingled with curdling dark clouds and some gold. ‘Look at that! A concerto of colours, eh?’

Catriona nodded, unable to speak as emotion welled up in her, a lump forming in her throat. Everything looked so much more beautiful this evening, and she knew it had much to do with the presence of the man sitting so close, making her heart pound so alarmingly.

‘The Bay of Angels,’ he mused in a low voice, as if talking to himself. ‘A beautiful name. La mer de Nice est la mer azure des dieux, faite pour porter les Vénus et les Amphitrites, the sea of Nice is the blue sea of gods, made to carry the Venuses and the Amphitrites.’ He turned to Catriona, his green eyes sparkling like the distant waters. ‘Théodore de Banville wrote that. Do you know the legend attached to it?’

She cleared her throat. ‘No, I don’t.’

‘Well, there’s actually more than one legend.’

‘Will you tell me one?’

Cela me fera grand plaisir, that will give great pleasure. It is said that after Adam and Eve were kicked out of Paradise and they were standing outside the locked gates, looking at their new hostile surroundings with nowhere to go, they heard the sound of rustling wings. They glanced up and a band of angels were flying overhead, motioning to them. They watched the angels, who flew across the waters and then began to hover over a glorious bay, in front of an expanse of land as lush and beautiful as the forbidden Eden they were no longer allowed to enter so they stopped and made their life in this magical place. That is how the magnificent bay down there was named La Baie des Anges.

Catriona glanced sideways at the finely chiselled profile, the sleek angle of cheekbone, the jut of the strong chin. Was he himself angel or devil? Or perhaps some magnificent combination of both? He was certainly a man one would find hard to forget. 

She tore her eyes away and swallowed hard. ‘That’s a lovely story.’       

He glanced at her and grinned. ‘So, are you going to tell me what you do with yourself in Nice, Katérina de Vere? That is, when you are not trespassing or stepping under cars?’

He had remembered her name, she noted with a skittering of her pulse, though he had translated it to Italian and made it his own. ‘I’m a student at the Conservatoire.’

‘A fellow musician, eh?’ he said, his Italian accent strong and lilting. For a split second he took his eyes off the road to glance at her again and the intensity of his emerald green irises made Catriona think that she had never seen anything like it before.

She looked away shyly. ‘You’re very kind, but I’m hardly a fellow musician. I know who you are.’

‘So, you were coming to spy on me yesterday?’

She tried to remain calm. ‘No. I’ll admit that I was curious to know who our new neighbours were because ever since we moved here the house has been empty. But when I saw you I knew your face was familiar, and it’s only when I left that I realized who you were.’

‘So, what do you think of my music?’

She hadn’t had the opportunity to listen to his music yet, but Catriona was not about to admit to that. ‘I’ve bought your first CD. Does that answer your question?’

Umberto raised his dark eyebrows and gave her a disarming grin. ‘Umm, not sure, actually. It seems to me a little evasive, but I won’t dig.’ That made them both laugh. ‘So, what instrument do you play?’

‘The piano and the violin, but I’m majoring in singing. I’m hoping to become an opera singer.’

He gave her a sidelong look. ‘An opera singer? That’s quite ambitious. You’ll have to sing for me one day. Are you any good?’

The directness of his question threw her. ‘I … I’ve been told that I’ve got potential,’ she said, embarrassed in case he thought her conceited. ‘I mean, I’m not afraid of hard work. I know it’s not easy and I realize that even talent and hard work often aren’t enough to make a career of it.’ She knew she was gabbling now but Umberto unnerved her so much she couldn’t help herself. ‘Hopefully, I’ll be lucky. That’s an essential ingredient of success, isn’t it?’ 

He let out a bark of laughter. ‘So, I’ve just been lucky, is that it?’

Catriona’s face reddened. ‘Oh no, that’s not what I meant …’

Umberto threw her a glittering look. ‘Maybe you could become my muse … what d’you say, eh?’

Was he mocking her? Catriona smiled demurely and quickly changed the subject. ‘I loved the way you played the “Moonlight Sonata” the other night.’

‘Is that a subtle way of telling me it kept you awake?’

She coloured a little and laughed. ‘No, no! It’s just at night it’s so calm that the breeze carries any noise.’

‘That’s not good. I’ll make sure the windows are closed next time when I’m practising, I would hate to wake the whole neighbourhood.’

‘Oh no, please don’t!’ Catriona exclaimed with such fervour that he turned and looked at her in that strange intense way he had, which had made her stomach flutter more than once on their journey.

‘You are very beautiful,’ he said suddenly. ‘The sweetness of your soul shines through to your face … in your voice too, Katérina de Vere, the opera singer.’ He laughed softly and, unexpectedly taking her hand, placed it under his on the wheel so that she felt the warm, strong clasp of his fingers. A delicious dizziness engulfed her whole body, a tingling she had never experienced before. Her eyelids lowered, and for a few moments in the velvety smothering darkness she gave herself up to her rioting senses.

There was a bend at the corner of the road and then the car slowed to a crawl. ‘We’re here,’ Umberto murmured, releasing her hand. He drew up outside her house, then turned to stare at her lazily.

‘As we’re neighbours, you must come in and have a glass of wine. It’s from our family vineyard outside Milan.’

Confused and more than a little alarmed at the effect he was having on her, Catriona tried to react naturally, giving him a pale smile. ‘Thank you, I’d love to, really I would, but my mother will be waiting and I wouldn’t like to worry her.’

‘Yes, of course you mustn’t do that. Quite right, another time.’

‘Yes, well … I’d better be off …’ she repeated unnecessarily.

Catriona reached for the door handle. She fumbled with it a moment and Umberto bent across to help her, his lean face inches from hers, his elbow brushing against her knees as he opened the door. Catriona told herself it was the chilliness of the air that explained the shiver now feathering along her spine. ‘Goodnight,’ she murmured, turning to face him, hoping he couldn’t hear the acceleration of her heartbeat. ‘Thank you for the ride.’

Umberto inclined his head in a silent acknowledgement.

‘I–– you’re not cross with me, are you? I mean, for not … for not coming in for a drink.’

Umberto smiled once more, a slow, enigmatic smile. ‘Goodnight, Katérina. Go on in, don’t catch cold.’ 

The darkness in which she had been lost seemed to be in his eyes now, in those dilated black pupils, and in those shining green irises fixed so brightly on her that she could see her own reflection in soft focus, cloudy and shimmering. In that one second, as Catriona stepped out into the night, the woman latent in the still-virgin page of her young heart awoke, and she knew that she would be in thrall to this man forever.

Reviews

A beautiful read… With emotional writing, the book is a treat for prose lovers. Another wonderful, escapist book from Hannah Fielding, with a gorgeous, romantic setting. – NetGalley review

The vivid setting and rich description of Lake Como transported me there… With an intense story line and passionate writing, the book had me hanging on to it word by word…  – NetGalley review

Very captivating… The author artfully creates a vivid world… full of emotion, intrigue, and passion… I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a well written romance novel. – NetGalley review

The story took many twists and turns… This well-written novel reminded me a great deal of Danielle Steel’s work. Fans of Ms. Steel’s work will enjoy this novel a great deal. – NetGalley review

Acaptivating, enigmatic tale… a sweeping saga laced from start to finish with palpable emotion, colourful imagery, longing, desperation, heartbreak, greed, jealousy, first loves, and heartwrenching romance. – NetGalley review

An exceptionally beautiful and heart-touching read which will stay with you long after you finish… This book was a passionate, sweeping love story from start to finish, full of hedonism, romance, and gorgeous descriptions of some of the world’s most luxurious and beautiful places. – Musings of Another Writer

Totally recommended… With its gorgeous settings in the Riviera and Italy, this novel is a treat for all the senses, a kind of modern beauty and beast, with secrets, villains and dangers in the palace where the beast Umberto has retreated. Meanwhile music makes a beautiful redemptive healing thread throughout the novel, thoroughly apt and marvellous. – Lindsay’s Romantics

One of the most beautiful romantic storylines that I have read in quite some time… I felt like I was at the opera from the comfort of my sofa, while reading this beautiful story. – Bookread2day

A captivating, enigmatic tale about the power of love…Concerto is a dramatic, mysterious, enticing, love story that does a wonderful job of highlighting the magic of music and its ability to, universally, heal the mind, body, heart, and soul. – Goodreads review

A beautiful, emotional tale which will leave a smile on your lips at the end. – Book Vue

Words almost escape me with how beautiful this story was… A truly wonderful, romantic story that will sweep you away…  – Debra’s Book Cafe

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