By: Ruth Sims
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: July 2010
Reviewed by: Pamela Victor
Review Date: October 21, 2010
There are two great loves in Dylan Rutledge’s life: music and Laurence Northcliff. Set in Europe in the late 1800s, Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story follows Dylan’s frustrations and triumphs in a quest to fulfill both these passions. Readers first meet Dylan as a gifted but impetuous musician, straining at the reins of The Venerable Bede School for Young Gentleman in 1888 England. Laurence Northcliff is a young teacher and one of the few adults who recognize Dylan’s profound musical abilities. Laurence takes Dylan under his wing to foster the pupil’s gifts while helping him work within the constraints of a staid society. Though the teacher fights the impulse, there is one thing between these two men that cannot be contained… “His heart was thumping crazily as Dylan’s eyes met his gaze squarely and without guile, expressive lips parted. For one clear moment, Laurence saw the truth: All I need do is reach out and he would be mine.”
Counterpoint is romantic through and through. Seeped in classical music, Impressionist paintings, the artistic scene in 19th century Paris, and true love, Ruth Sims’ novel offers up a tender, sentimental tale of a young man devoting his life to his passions. On her second foray into the M/M historic romantic fiction genre (her debut novel The Phoenix was published in 2009), Sims writes with careful detail to plot, draws well-defined characters and provides a lovely descriptive voice. Her careful and thorough inclusion of historic flavor and color provide a definite charm to Counterpoint, a cultured world in which the names of George Sand, Paganini, and Renoir are dropped like pearls for the reader to recognize and admire. Readers soak in the smoky enchantment of long-ago Paris through Dylan’s eyes and ears. “There was music everywhere if one was only aware of it. Not only in the splashing of the many fountains, concertina tunes of street musicians, or the sound of a piano hidden away somewhere unseen, but in the cursing of men, the clopping of hooves, jingle of harness bells, barking of dogs, and the creak of cartwheels as well.”
The second half of Counterpoint is devoted to Dylan’s attraction and fidelity to Geoffrey Dohnanyi, a brilliant Gypsy violinist. Whereas Laurence was Dylan’s lightning, Geoffrey is the thunder. “With his loose shirt, open collar, bare feet, and tousled hair, he had never looked less like an English gentleman, Dylan thought, but more like some exotic wild creature. Heat struck Dylan in the pit of his stomach.” Although Sims touches fleetingly upon the culminating moments of passion between Dylan and his lovers, Counterpoint is far more a romantic than steamy read. The few sensual scenes are sweet but mild, allusive rather than explicit, and wholly secondary to the story.
Throughout Counterpoint, there are mentions here and there of the risks of homosexuality in the 1800s, as men could face imprisonment, the loss of their families, and societal exile if they were found out. Nevertheless, Sims doesn’t allow her main character to take the prejudice to heart, as he seems to perceive such consequences as unfortunate inconveniences to be stepped around. Dylan is a character who is as comfortable with his sexuality as an Englishman could be at the time, and readers may find his confidence and surety to be refreshing.
Counterpoint is the story of Dylan’s tales of love and loss. It’s a romance full of nuance, emotion and heartbreak in his relationships with two very special men and the music he creates both with them and for them.
Quill says: Travel back to Paris in the 1800s in this tender historic fiction romance of a passionate musician and the two men he loves.
For more information on Counterpoint: Dylan’s Story, please visit the publisher's website at: www.dreamspinnerpress.com