Harmony by Sienna Mynx
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
I pulled this one up on my Kindle because I was watching the HBO movie "Bessie" with Queen Latifah (who is the definition of awesome), and I wanted to read something set at this time, and especially IR. I had downloaded is specifically because of the time setting and the storyline, and this was the perfect time to read it. I wasn't disappointed. This was a very good book.
Disclaimer: I will use the term 'colored' for black people because that is what black people were called at this time. This term is not appropriate to use anymore, but in the context of this story, it's timely.
Harmony sings the blues at the Cotton Club. Music is in her soul and it's her gift, how she pours out her anguish over the loss of her grandmother and her man. Her dreams of escaping a life bound by the restrictions of race and lack of money are given full rein when she sings. When her brother goes missing, she exploits the fact that powerful gangster Vinnie Romano seems captivated with her voice. She asks him to help her find her brother, knowing he'll have a price, and one that she's willing to pay. Set in a time of Prohibition when gang violence is near an all time high, this book delivers on the intensity.
I bought in on the chemistry between Harmony and Vinnie from their first meeting. I like that you initially don't know what Vinnie's motives are. He's a hard man and he keeps his heart buried deep. Coming over from Sicily with nothing, he's earned his status as a Boss with blood. And Vinnie definitely has an intimidating vibe. I like dangerous heroes, although I can't same I'm fond of mobsters. They aren't my cup of tea since I don't like brutality and the ruthless killing for profit and status associated with that kind of business. What hooked me in with Vinnie was his extreme appreciation for Harmony's singing and his love of blues music, a music that was strictly colored music at this time. They actually called them race records. For Vinnie to connect with such soulful music showed that he was deeper than he might have appeared. While at first, you don't get that race isn't an issue with him, you wonder that it can't be if he would connect so deeply with a culture so different from his own. Vinnie made me care about him. As Harmony sees his layers and the lion's heart he has, so did I. I appreciate loyalty and honor, and I don't tend to associate those with mobsters, but Vinnie clearly has those traits. He's a fascinating guy and I could see why Harmony loved him.
Harmony is equally layered. She's tough and independent and fiery passionate, but also sweet and demure. She's an artist and a believer deep in her soul, a dreamer, even in this world where colored people aren't allowed dreams. I loved how determined and fearless she is at the end of this book. That was a really bad and scary situation and she did something that only a lioness would do to save her man. Kudos to her for that.
I remember there is a great movie that I saw a long time ago called "Machine Gun Blues", starring Cynda Williams and Nick Cassavettes, about a colored blues singer who falls in love with an Italian mobster. It has a sad ending (sorry for the spoiler), and I always wished it had ended differently. I would like to thank Ms. Mynx for giving me a happy ending version of that seemingly doomed love affair. There is a time in this book where you aren't sure you'll get a happy ending, and I think I hardly breathed as I read the final pages of the book. The thing about Kindle books is it tells you how much time you have left in the book, and the last 20% was agony for me. But Mynx delivered.
I have a problem with erotica, and I try to avoid it. I just don't like all the 'anything goes' sex. I like to know there will be limits on what kinds of sex acts are depicted in the book. I don't mind steamy vanilla sex and plenty of it (so long as it doesn't take over the story), but I don't like the kinky stuff. A reference during the first love scene had me worried, but that stuff didn't take place on screen in the book, so I heaved a sigh of relief. While I do think this did have a bit more sex than strictly necessary, I can understand how important it was to show the passion and desperation of these two lovers, and how their love comes to the surface past their guarded armor and facades.
I won't say I'm a mafia/mobster romance fan, but I really did like this book. And since I'm a sucker for Early 20th Century romance, and I like reading about the 20s and 30s, it kind of comes with the territory. Prohibition was a very violent period in American history, and there are a lot of untold stories. I loved seeing what it was like a young colored woman and her Sicilian lover, that they did have a chance at a happy ending, even in their world of blood and strife. I learned some historical facts as I read that found very fascinating, such as which states it was legal to marry interracially during this period.
The writing was crisp and very organic and visually-stimulating. I felt like this was a cinematic read, and I would love if someone did make a movie out of this one day. I would definitely go see it! The music aspect was well-conveyed and integral to this story. The editing was pretty good, with only a few errors, mostly near the end.
I'd have to give this 4.5/5.0 stars because this was an intense, passionate and involving book that kept its hooks in me even when I was afraid to keep reading. I really cared about Harmony and Vinnie and I wanted desperately for them to get their happy ending together. I can see why Sienna Mynx is such a popular author.
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