Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“‘I think the past is tricky. It shapes so much of who we are. Mistakes, especially. But they’re necessary, you know? It’s a fine line between learning from them and being indebted to them […] But you can’t let it hold you prisoner. It was just a lesson, not a life sentence.'”
You know when you read a book that you love to your toes, and you become so effusive about it that it overwhelms the words for your review? Well, this reader/blogger is there. To say that I’m incredibly impressed with Piper Sheldon is an understatement. When I read the first book of her Scorned Women Society series for SmartyPants Romance, My Bare Lady, I appreciated two facets of it: her reworking of the My Fair Lady story and her sense of her self as a writer. I enjoyed that book, titillated by the fact that she chose one of my favorite stories to retell in the context of Penny Reid’s Winston Brothers universe. However, there were a few moments in her story that felt a little slow. I had a grand appreciation for that book, but I wouldn’t say that I would gush profusely over it.
Then, she wrote The Treble with Men. And I’m done.
This second book of her Scorned Women Society series is exponentially better than My Bare Lady. It is a treatise on control. Some of us struggle with embracing the message behind the popular Disney film, Frozen, in “letting go” of life, embracing the moments to connect and improve and feel a passion for life. This is the essence of The Treble with Men. Sheldon nestles this lesson within the world of Reid’s Tennessee and the world of music. Even more, like her My Bare Lady, she utilizes the vehicle of The Phantom of the Opera story to give it life. In doing so, she reimagines this oft-loved tale with a different ending, one that feels wildly better than the original. All of these attributes conspire to scream at the ingenuity of Sheldon’s storytelling. It is all of this and more that should compel you to “one-click” this book.
“I’d shown her my love in the lessons. In the music. I could tell her everything. I could tell her the truth of my love for her, but then what? It would still be me choosing for her. She needed to make a choice about her own life. I wouldn’t be another person telling her what to do. I wouldn’t hamper her growth. I loved her too much.”
What is it about The Treble with Men that makes it worthy of your time and energy? Here’s the list:
- At the most basic level, Piper Sheldon has the best cover of the SmartyPants Romance world. Bar none.
- Her retelling of The Phantom of the Opera is done in such a way to challenge our notions about the original. For many of us, the ending of that story is bittersweet, as we want Christine to choose the Phantom, but she doesn’t. <<<Spoiler alert>>> Sheldon’s Kim Dae does, and it’s glorious. It suggests that the seemingly most difficult character of a story can also be loved. That’s the heartbreak of the original: that the Phantom is unworthy of love because he isn’t offered up in a neat pretty package. With Sheldon’s story, Devlin, the “phantom” character, hides behind a constructed persona as a defense and for good reason. As the reader, you empathize with him, and Sheldon allows us to do so because Kim (Christine Day) is never truly frightened by him; she is intrigued. She sees him better than everyone else in the story. Sheldon offers us an initial lesson that “nothing is ever as it seems,” and we, as human beings, should look deeper for a greater understanding: something missing from OG Phantom of the Opera. This, right here, magnifies Sheldon’s genius as the author of this story.
- The characters are compelling. Both Kim and Devlin are fighting for control of their lives. Kim does so at the expense of the depth of her talent. Thankfully, Devlin “sees” her (just as she fully “sees” him), and he challenges her control. As he encourages her to embrace her passion, this allows Devlin to feel his. These two drive each other forward, propelling them to greater heights, including their chemistry and eventual love for each other. Their feelings of lust and love heighten Sheldon’s story, and it engages the reader more deeply into the book’s pages.
- Secrets always make for greater suspense. The Treble with Men is a book of secrets. Both Devlin and Kim are holding onto them tightly. I won’t divulge anything here, as I don’t want to spoil the book for readers. What I want to do is give a nod to Sheldon’s use of it to build the tension of her book. Sometimes, stories divulge their secrets too quickly, and the pacing and depth of the book are lost. Sheldon suspends her readers for the right length of time that you find yourself enraptured in her story because you can’t wait to see how the secrets upend the lives of the characters. Since those secrets aren’t divulged until later in the story, this book becomes one that you simply can’t put down. Even after we know Devlin and Kim’s secrets, there is fall-out from them that keeps you engaged. Sheldon has paced this perfectly to grab the attention of her readers until the last page.
- And probably one of the most important aspects of this book is its diversity. For one, it is set in the world of music. Kim is a cellist, while Devlin is the conductor. There aren’t many romances written in this world, creating an interesting space to inhabit for the story. Secondly, Kim is a POC. As such, she doesn’t “look” like your average heroine. At a time when diversity is necessary for romance, I love this choice. Even more, while Kim is a driven perfectionist, this doesn’t read as a stereotype; instead, it suggests that it is a personality trait of Kim’s. Sheldon’s choice for her heroine feels important in our world.
I believe I have gushed enough over Piper Sheldon’s The Treble with Men enough. From its cover to its title to its characterizations to its storytelling, this book is another example of what SmartyPants Romance is doing right. It’s opening a world to more voices. In doing so, Penny Reid gives us new authors with new voices that need to be heard. Sheldon’s story is an important one because it reminds us that there is freedom in living our truth and our passions. We shouldn’t work so hard to control every aspect of our lives because we miss out on the prismatic colors of it. Devlin and Kim come to this understanding, and Sheldon’s story finds even greater heights. If you love the re-telling of a favorite story, then you will definitely love Piper Sheldon’s The Treble with Men. I know I did.
In love and romance,