The Music Box by Andrea Kane
(Pocket, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-671-53494-X
Silly or not, the first thing that jumped out at me about this book is the price. $6.50 US and $8.50 Canadian. Come on now – isn't that getting a little steep? The problem with publishers who keep charging more for books is that readers get even angrier when the book doesn't measure up to their own personal standards.

That is not to say that The Music Box is not a good book. In fact, I'd have to rate author Andrea Kane's writing skills as fairly high. She knows how to string a sentence together. I just thought there were too many sentences.

This is a very "talky" book. They talk about everything in creation. As opposed to many romances where most of the character's thoughts and feelings are internal, the hero and heroine in The Music Box feel compelled to discuss everything under the sun. They're very open and honest with each other, which is nice I suppose. But I sort of missed the intimacy of a character's solitary thoughts.

There really is so much talking going on that not much happens in this book, unless you include in the heroine's countless sleepwalking episodes. Gabrielle Denning endured a traumatic event in her childhood and now, thirteen years later, the nightmares have come back to haunt her. On hand to save her is Bryce Lyndley, a Victorian gentleman of the first order. Bryce is actually the bastard son of the late Duke of Whitshire. Lady Nevon, the Duke's sister secretly paid for Bryce's education and now, following the death of her brother has sent for her nephew. Bryce has become a well-known London barrister and is a bit hesitant about this "reunion" of sorts. That is until he meets all the swell folks who populate Lady Nevon's estate.

Lady Nevon is a collector of damaged goods – people that is. All her staff members have one malady or another, but Lady Nevon has been kind enough to take them all in, give them positions within her household, and create a family atmosphere. Gabrielle is a member of that family – orphaned since the age of five following her family's death by fire. Bryce arrives at Nevon Manor and is immediately beguiled by the beautiful innocence he sees in Gaby. She reminds of him of Lewis Carroll's Alice and takes to calling her "Wonderland."

It isn't long, of course, before the two are in love. But just as things are beginning to heat up, Gaby's nightmarish memories of the night her parents died return. Being a brilliant barrister, Bryce somehow ascertains that Gaby's memories are tied up with his late father's estate and the murder of another lawyer. As mysteries go, it's hardly a nail biter. But the author does manage to keep the identity of the killer well hidden.

I'm sure there are a great many readers out there who will absolutely love The Music Box. It just doesn't happen to be my cup of tea. I found all of the characters way too nice for my taste. Perhaps the author was looking to create a fairytale atmosphere. That is all I can think when I read and re-read dialogue akin to: "Kiss me…Let me drown in your sweetness." Again, no offense, but it's just a little too saccharine for me.

The fact that Bryce continually refers to Gaby's innocence and childlike qualities also made it uncomfortable for me to make the jump to passion. One minute Bryce is patting her on the head, and the next he's trying to pat her…well…you know. The author was so successful as painting Gaby as an innocent that I simply didn't buy her transformation into insatiable wanton.

In spite of these small criticisms, I did enjoy much of Kane's prose, for much of her writing has a rhythmic poetic quality to it. I also appreciated reading a romance that wasn't written on a fourth grade reading level.

--Ann McGuire

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