Rating: 3.25 stars
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Hugh came to Rome to study music. Each night, he plays his piano and some nights … so does he. The man who lives in the apartment next door. They play together as if they’ve known one another forever, the push and pull, the rise and fall, the intertwining of hearts and minds and souls. One night, Hugh’s mysterious partner surprises him with a white envelope against the door. Within it is a page of music, a song Hugh’s never heard before this night, but when he plays it, it’s as if he’s always known it.
When Hugh actually meets his neighbor, face-to-face, it’s a shock. The man is tall, dark, and gorgeous, yes, but there’s something about the way his eyes meet Hugh’s, something about the dark, burning intensity. Simone won’t go out on a date with Hugh, but he will enter Hugh’s apartment for dinner. And when they kiss, it’s everything Hugh imagined. Between kisses and touches and sex, there is always the music. No matter how much it hurts to play, no matter how hard Simone bites, or how roughly he uses Hugh, there’s always the music calling in his dreams … and it’s killing him.
Dark Sonata is the first story in the Elysium series, but it is intended as a standalone. The writing carries across a dark, lyrical, melancholy in Hugh’s isolation, his confusion, his desire, and his fear, but sometimes the style peeks through the writing, jostling the mood and the characters. Hugh is 18 and a virgin. He’s lived for music all of his life, drawn to it in a way he cannot — and has no desire — to explain or examine. When he’s touching his piano, he feels alive, as though the music replaces the blood in his veins. And it’s Simone who brings him the music, bringing him an addictive joy, as well as pain.
There are moments in the story where Simone makes it clear he doesn’t require Hugh’s consent, knowing Hugh can neither resist him nor fight him off, and while there are some moments of dubious consent, I wouldn’t call it assault. Just something sensitive readers should know. Simone and who he is — and who he thinks Hugh is, or who he wants him to be — is part of the mystery of this book. So my thoughts on him, and their overall relationship, will be hidden behind spoiler tags.
Their story is tragic and painful and there is so much potential there for both angst, agony, and redemption … and then the story ends abruptly and we’re given a happily ever after that wipes away everything the two of them endured for one another. I felt like I was getting ready to ride a roller coaster, but it stopped at the top and now I’m told the ride is over, leaving me with very mixed feelings for this story. The writing is strong, the idea is strong, the characters are beautiful … but the resolution left me dissatisfied.