Published by Lake Union Publishing on March 16, 2021
Genres: Historical, Music, Romance
Review Copy Provided By: Amy Harmon
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From the bestselling author of What the Wind Knows and From Sand and Ash comes a powerful love story about a musical duo who put everything on the line to be together.
New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing.
Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob—and Benny—would rather avoid.
It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist. Benny’s songs and Esther’s vocals are an explosive combination, a sound that fans can’t get enough of. But though America might love the music they make together, some people aren’t ready for Benny Lament and Esther Mine on—or off—the stage.
I was provided a review copy; this did not influence my opinion of the book.
“Most people aren’t ugly right to your face. They just make life difficult when your back is turned.”
Reading Amy Harmon’s book are like reuniting with an old friend. They comfort me, bring me happiness, and give me faith in humanity, and after a year like 2020, this book was a welcome distraction.
“She said if you want people to change, you have to show them what it looks like.”
Common among her books is her ability to question your moral compass without coming right out and doing so. The Songbook of Benny Lament, touches on the struggles for African American’s during the 1960’s. She does this through the lens of a romantic relationship between an Italian American male and an African American female.
Benny Lament and Esther Mine could not be more dissimilar and yet, similar at the same time. He is an only child and was raised by his father. Benny’s dad works for the head of the mob (who happens to be his late mother’s brother). Esther Mine was raised in a household full of brothers by a mother and father. The two connected through their mutual love of music. Both used music to escape and both had dreams of ‘getting out’ leaving their struggles and life behind while pursing a music career.
During the 1960’s in America, theirs wasn’t a condoned relationship. But love is love and these two were meant to be and weathered many painful struggles and dangerous hurdles to be together.
“The thing is . . . when you’re close to me, everything inside me goes still. My heart stops. My breath slows. And my mind opens up, like I’m pushing open the windows and breathing in spring. Everything is so quiet that it’s . . . loud. So loud that it drowns out everything else. That’s what you do to me. And I like it.”
The way she pulls emotions from my heart is both painful and exciting. Harmon draws her readers in one word at a time until she has snared them, and then she slowly and meticulously unravels their emotions until they are no longer in control. We are puppets to her master hands.
Beautiful, emotional, heart-wrenching, and engrossing with a slow progression that sucks you in, Amy Harmon chronicles race relation struggles of the sixties through a poignant romance.
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