A kind-hearted jazz musician meets the love of his life and tries to save her from an abusive husband in this suspenseful romantic thriller.
An Orlando-based jazz pianist and music teacher, Jeremy Conner is reluctant to take on new students, let alone one who’s a 10-year-old child. But he soon finds himself enamored with the talented young Emily Swindell, and even more enamored with her gorgeous, charming mother, Tracey. As their friendship blossoms, Jeremy discovers the dark truth beneath Tracey’s “perfect wife” façade: She’s trapped in an abusive marriage with Eric, her controlling, alcoholic husband. Connected by their love for jazz, Jeremy and Tracey inevitably fall in love, but Atteberry (Let It Go, 2010, etc.) includes plenty of twists to sustain the suspense. Eric enlists his buddy, Ryan, to spy on Tracey, not realizing that Ryan is obsessed with Tracey and has ulterior motives. Ryan, with the help of his tech-savvy cousin, plants a tracking device on Tracey’s car and follows her every move. Jeremy, “a man of faith, character, and high standards,” finds himself questioning his relationship with God as he witnesses Tracey’s suffering. Tracey, meanwhile, tries to appease her increasingly volatile husband while plotting an escape. Although the novel veers into darker territory, Atteberry tempers the narrative with wit and humor, and a sure-footed, breezy style enhanced with snappy dialogue. Among the colorful cast of characters, a few lean toward caricature—as is the case with Eric, whose transformation from a doting husband into a violent “psycho” is never fully explained. Also, the focus on faith and religion feels distracting at times; it gets in the way of the plot instead of helping it. The novel is most compelling when dealing with the everyday choices, challenges and fears of its characters. Romance and jazz added to the mix makes for a potent cocktail.
Despite an implausible climax, Atteberry does justice to the genre in a charmingly played romance with plenty of twists along the way.