Alanna Jenkins's Reviews > Whispered Music

Whispered Music by Rachel Van Dyken
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Sep 09, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: books-2012, historical-romance, favorites, regency, romance
Read from September 09 to 11, 2012

Whispered Music is van Dyken‘s take on Beauty And The Beast, and what a brilliant take it is too. We were made aware of Isabelle’s plight towards the end of Upon A Midnight Dream – she had been taken by Dominique Maksylov and her family were setting off on a mission to get her back; Whispered Music picks up where the previous story left off (with the exception of a prologue to introduce more of Dominique’s character as a child. Isabelle is being taken to her captor’s estate in Belgium to become his wife, whether she wants to be or not. Not long into the story, they marry and enter into what can only be described as a tumultuous relationship. Dominique has a very tortured past and is determined that he will not open his heart for anything or anyone, but he is clearly torn as he wants to give his wife at least some modicum of respect. However, his nature means that he is close to being a regency version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – treating her with respect and borderline affection one minute, and snapping at her the next. Isabelle is keen to make the best of her situation, wanting to try and build some sort of affectionate, trusting relationship with her new husband but is quickly frustrated by his repeated efforts to keep her at arms length for all things even slightly personal. This is because Dominique has a secret, one that he’s kept for most of his life and not one that he feels that he’s ready to share with anyone. Question is, can Belle tame the Beast and get him to open up to what he’s missing out on.

I absolutely loved this story, from start to finish I was hooked on Dominique’s pain and Isabelle’s desperate attempts to understand her husband better. Rachel van Dyken has always written fantastic characters in my view, but these two might just be her best yet. Characters that have a dark past are always more interesting, and Dominique has plenty of darkness in him to make maim absolutely fascinating. His pain is tangible through the pages of the book and my heart went out to him for all the things that haunted him to the point where he felt he couldn’t enjoy what was right in front of him. He had suffered so much in his life by the time we reached him as a reader, that I often wondered if there was going to be any future for someone so damaged; I genuinely wanted to see some sort of happy ending for someone so hurt in his life. That’s the mark of a truly amazing character – I rooted for him despite all of his rudeness, bluntness and bad habits. Isabelle was interesting mainly because she was repeatedly willing to forgive Dominique for his treatment of her; it was almost like she understood him before he was willing to let her in.

Isabelle was very similar to the author’s first fairy tale female lead – her sister Rosalind – in the sense that she was just trying to make the best of the situation she found herself in. She didn’t try to fight her husband into taking her back home, or releasing her from their marriage, she just wanted to make the marriage one where she could talk to her husband and find some sense of mutual acceptance and respect.

The author was very clever when writing this story – instead of writing a beastly character and making the reader uncertain of whether or not they should like him, she allowed the reader to see both sides of the story throughout – constantly flicking between writing from Dominique’s point of view and Isabelle’s standpoint. This meant that even when Dominique was being unnecessarily callous to Isabelle, the reader was allowed to understand the reasoning behind such behaviour and see the internal struggle that Dominique faced as a result. This is what gave Whispered Music it’s edge – the complete understanding of both characters motives throughout mixed with a genuine uncertainty for what would eventually happen to this stubborn, damaged couple.

I also enjoyed the introduction to van Dyken‘s next fairy tale character – Hunter, The Wolf. He played a considerable part in this story, acting as Dominique’s conscience when it came to his treatment of his new wife. However, there were also darker undertones to the character – shown mainly in his flirtation with Isabelle; though harmless enough, it was clear to see that he was in some way pained as Dominique was. How his story seemed to tie in with the reintroduction of Isabelle’s family was brilliant; I loved a second chance to see Stefan and Rosalind together and the hints that were dropped at Gwen’s role in Hunter’s upcoming novel. The way I can’t wait to see what his story holds for van Dyken‘s loyal readership, and I know I’m not the only one to hold this opinion.

As a finishing sentiment on this review – Rachel van Dyken was kind enough to offer up quotes at the start of each chapter within this book and I wanted to share a couple that I felt were particularly brilliant:

“Can a man be more than he was born to be? Or will he be constantly haunted by the past? By what he was born into? Are we simply copies of those who bore us? Or can we live past that, can we exceed expectations? Can I exceed the consequences of my birth?”

“When you have lost your way, when the world appears as if it is crumbling around you, perhaps, just maybe, you should close your eyes. By looking outward we forget the strength that is given inward. We can only see part of the picture with our eyes open. But, when they are closed, we see as a whole. We concentrate not on what we can see, but on the faith of what we know to be true.”
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