In Schwartz’s (Some Women I Know, 2014 etc.) novel, a passion for music brings together a young couple, though they discover that the path to true love can hit quite a few dissonant notes.
Paul Cramer, a classical pianist and MBA student, and Fiona de Maconville, a Belgian cellist studying law, fall for each other as they play duets at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Cramer hopes that the piece that brings them together, “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saëns, won’t be, well, the swan song of the relationship. Attempts to keep the fire stoked are dampened when Fiona’s godparents abruptly summon her back to her native Belgium. With oblique references to the wishes of Fiona’s dead parents, the guardians also smother any hopes Paul and Fiona might harbor of getting together. Paul is just a commoner, not nobility, he is reminded. His Americanness further compounds things; after all, Fiona is only meant to marry another Belgian. Despite these discouraging developments, Paul lands a banker’s job in Europe, which allows him to chase his love, all while encountering a host of interesting characters along the way. Though the entertaining story is served straight up and at a neat clip, the action relies too heavily on fairly improbable coincidences. Also, some plot elements feel gratuitous and do little to advance the central storyline. For example, while in Europe, Paul gets entangled with members of a high-placed family with ties to illegal trade in pharmaceuticals—an unnecessary distraction that doesn’t help put the narrative in perspective. Also, some of the characters, especially the bad guys, aren’t far from caricature. Despite these dissonant notes, the likable lead characters and livelier bits keep the story moving. The various moneyed people, their elaborately appointed living quarters, and their high-wheeling lifestyle add a dash of pizzazz.
A lively composition, shy of a perfect symphony.