Review: Still Life with Strings by L.H Cosway

I read that one because of Tasha/ Heidenkind and her glowing review. It is so completely her fault and she knows it. Thanks, I guess – my revenge is coming ;). 

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

My name is Jade Lennon and I stand still for money.

The night I saw Shane Arthur watching me everything changed. A man in a suit always catches my eye, but it was the way he looked at me that was different. Like he knew me or something. He didn’t know me, especially not in my costume. My sobriety rests on staying away from men, but there was something about him that made me throw caution to the wind.

After all, I was never going to see him again? No strings attached, right?

Wrong.

Standing still isn’t the only way I make my money. I also bartend at a concert hall. Never in my wildest dreams did I think Shane was going to show up there. Not only that, but he’s the most recent addition to the orchestra. So now on a daily basis I have to resist one of the most beautiful men I’ve ever met and he plays the violin. For me that’s one hell of a deadly cocktail.

He wants me to teach him how to live. I’m not sure how much a twenty-six year old recovering alcoholic who works in a bar and moonlights as a living statue can teach a world class concert violinist, but I’m sure going to try.

My impressions:

If anybody wonders: this review will be the ultimate proof to what extent I am not a romantic creature. Still let’s start with something positive.

In this novel we have a woman who busks as a blue winged angel or a fairy (depending on your fantasy preferences) – she is the so-called ‘living statue’, standing on a wooden box pedestal for hours without moving until she gets a coin or two. People pay her for the image she creates. Or tease her mercilessly. Or call her an art slut. Anything can happen on a busy street of Dublin. Of course she has a day job as well – she does a bit of everything at the local concert hall, mainly working as a barrista and waiting tables. As I’ve already mentioned the story takes place in Dublin and the author weaves the city and the culture very nicely in. Now there is our male protagonist, Shane. He is a concert violinist who gets a job at that very concert hall Jade works during the day. I will comment on this fact later.

I admit Jade was at first a very likeable character – a young woman with a lot of responsibilities, raising her younger teenage siblings. She didn’t whine about her difficult life situation, she moved forward as fast as she could. What’s more she was proud of herself and her family for all they were acomplishing. Shane was an interesting character as well but for slightly different reasons. His birth mother was Chinese, but he was raised by upper class Irish parents. He demonstrated a talent for the violin early, so has always been privately schooled and trained by private tutors – small wonder he came off as a bit sheltered and craved ‘real life’ experiences and friends he’s never had an occasion to acquire. So far so good.

Still there were several things which prevented me from appreciating all those positive points, with one issue becoming after a while a real deal-breaker. I wasn’t exactly thrilled that the author made the plot moving forward by piling up a bunch of coincidences, one less believable than the other, just to prove that God, Goddess, Mother Nature, the entire Universe, powers that be, Darwinian evolution and also possibly little green aliens were conspiring to bring Jade and Shane together. As if it wasn’t enough that they were two young, healthy adults, quite good-looking and currently unattached. Ugh. Now let me present my case in more detail (spoiler section: highlight to read or skip)

The way Shane was drawn to Jade felt awkward from the very start. Ok, he was drunk and lonely but imagine such a scene for a while: a guy sees a painted street artist and he hits on her because she looks like a girl from a painting his parents own. Of course later on you find out that painting was in fact created by, surprise, surprise, Jade’s mom and it featured Jade of course. How very strange. Returning to that opening scene: right off the bat the guy and the girl have to have wild, primal sex against the wall in a stinky alley – no names are mentioned, no phone numbers exchanged, welcome to the stone age. They are enjoying themselves enormously of course. Later the pair meets again – he proves to be a violin prodigy prince and she is a bartender Cinderella at the–who would have guessed it–orchestra hall where Shane is given a very prestigious post of a concertmaster. Pure coincidence, right? Then you find out that Jade’s twin died at the hands of a psychopathic pedophile cue in the violin, prepare your hankies and way-back-when this happened, Jade was captured on a newsreel that Shane happened to be watching on TV. Shane felt such a connection to her that he had to compose one of his most successful tunes. Just pure luck again, right? Then we are told that Shane was uninspired to write any more music until he finally met his muse, Jade, face to face (or rather magic penis to magic vagina). At that point I was heavily inclined to throw the book against the wall in sheer frustration – unfortunately it was an e-book so I had to restrain myself; I can hardly afford a new e-reader right now. Oh well. I threw a cushion instead.

Then there was that trick, a classic problem of “say what you mean, and mean what you say” with Jade’s character constantly changing her mind about whether she could be in a relationship with Shane or not. I felt as though Shane was in a one sided duo because he did all the work while she sat around dreaming of dark oceans, blue sparrows and diamonds. Why did she dream of dark oceans and diamonds? I would tell you if I knew the answer to that question; unfortunately I were never given an opportunity to find out. Blue sparrows were at least explained near the end.

Finally the inner city background where Jade lived was bowdlerized to a significant extend, making me wonder where all those real Irish thugs were hidden. Apart from that the complete lack of infighting among the members of the orchestra made me snort with laughter – having known personally some orchestra members and professional musicians and having heard their gruesome stories of rivalries and nasty practical jokes I would never ever believe musicians are – like presented here- a bunch of shy, sheltered shrinking violets. It takes a lot of stamina to make a career, no matter what profession, and the world of classical music is not that much different from other branches of the entertainment industry. A minor problem but still.

The last remark: street buskers like Jade rarely work alone on a permanent basis as it was shown in the book – it is simply too dangerous to do so. Also, as a basic precaution, their hats or caps for money are usually cleverly attached to their boxes or their persons (depending on the costume) so you can’t steal from them easily and run away (Jade mentioned it had happened to her once and yet she never did anything to prevent it in the future – too busy daydreaming?).

Final verdict:

A book with a nice beginning and some solid ideas but, overall, not a romance novel which would be able to persuade me to read that genre more often. Sorry.

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7 Responses to Review: Still Life with Strings by L.H Cosway

  1. heidenkind says:

    Well, I am a romantic reader, so the coincidences didn’t bother me at all. I agree that they were over the top, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. 🙂 However, I completely agree on Jade’s waffling over their relationship-no one likes a waffler. I’m glad you read it, though!

  2. blodeuedd says:

    Ok, I just go ick when I read the spoiler, and specially the when her plight got her inspired

  3. rameau says:

    For a moment I thought that was a good cover for an m/m novel and then I remembered this is you reading and reviewing.

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