Joanna Davidson Politano
Historical Romance / Christian Fiction
Pages: 384 pages
Publication Date: October 4, 2022
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When concert pianist Vivienne Mourdant’s father dies, he leaves to her the care of a patient at Hurstwell Asylum. Vivienne had no idea the woman existed, and yet her portrait is shockingly familiar. When the asylum claims she was never a patient there, Vivienne is compelled to discover what happened to the figure she remembers from childhood dreams.
The longer she lingers in the deep shadows and forgotten towers at Hurstwell, the fuzzier the line between sanity and madness becomes. She hears music no one else does, receives strange missives with rose petals between the pages, and untangles far more than is safe for her to know.
But can she uncover the truth about the mysterious woman she seeks? And is there anyone at Hurstwell she can trust with her suspicions?
Joanna Davidson Politano casts a delightful spell with this lyrical look into the nature of women’s independence and artistic expression during the Victorian era–and now.
THE LOST MELODY
Deleted Scene from
by Joanna Davidson Politano
Context: At the start of the story, Vivienne Mourdant, a concert pianist, has just lost her musician father and received a surprising inheritance. She isn’t sure what to do about it yet, until her manager slips in and tells her what she shouldn’t do. This was originally the second or third scene of the book, in the first chapter or two.
Reason for deletion: I ended up rewriting most of the book after the first draft and totally reordering the way the mystery unfolded and the timing of each piece of information being laid out. The beginning also stretched for far too long before she was onto her quest, so I deleted a lot of the lead-up scenes and got into the action a little quicker.
When the solicitor departed, shrugging into his shabby coat and top-hat, before I’d calmed my nerves, another knock sounded at the study door. “Come in.”
The peculiar and erratic Marcel Beauchene bowed low in the door, his dark curls falling over his face, then flying back as he popped up. “You’re holding up well, are you?” He eyed me as he said it, approaching the desk where I sat.
“Well enough to maintain my performances.”
His expression melted into a broad smile. As my longtime manager, he was an honorary uncle of sorts but Marcel loved the way a scientist would. He went out of his way to keep me safe and flourishing, a machine he kept oiled and maintained, but he never descended into flowery shows of affection. It was always about music for him, and exposing the world to its beauty at any cost. It was not me but my musical talent he looked after with such care.
He slipped into the chair opposite me and set his hat on the desk. “Forgive the intrusion, but I happened to be standing outside, waiting on an audience with a most sought-after young lady, it would seem. Your father’s solicitor, I believe?”
I leveled my gaze at him. “You sneak.”
“Concerned party.” He threw his hands up, palms out. “A family friend looking out for a newly orphaned client.”
“I’ve always held my own.”
He exhaled. “Yes, but you needn’t. Not while I’m around.”
I eyed this man I’d known for so long. Perhaps he did care after all, just a tad under his passionate love for beautiful art.
“You won’t be concerning yourself with this ward of his, I hope, will you?”
My skin went cold. “You heard that part?”
“Because if you do, people will begin associating your name with an asylum. You know what that’ll do for your career, and I don’t want you becoming all tangled up in whatever mess your father has left behind.”
“Marcel, I wasn’t—”
“Now, don’t let’s argue about it. I know you’re a sensible girl who’ll keep clear of all these family secrets and odd goings-on now that your father is gone, so you can focus on your performances.” He sat back, watching me. “Night has gone and it is day now, isn’t it? Time for music at last. For beauty.”
“Yes.” I took a breath, but he spoke first.
“And time for a whole new beginning for you.” He patted my hand and rose, plopping his hat over his curls again. “Come next season, we’ll have you on the most glorious—”
“What about this season? It’s barely spring.” Awareness of those unpaid notes tightened my chest.
“Tsk, and your father barely in the ground. I’m your manager, my dear, and that extends to managing your reputation as well. How unseemly it would be, parading around the continent giving performances while you’re meant to be in mourning? Rest for the summer, enjoy the scent of flowers, and we’ll meet in a few months to discuss what comes next.”
“And until then?” Emptiness sliced through me. Not even one performance? “How will I make my living?”
“You’re a clever woman, Vivienne Mourdant. I’m positive you’ll manage something.” The Frenchman bowed low, dipping his hat then rising to pop it back on his head. “Well, then. You know where to find me if you need anything, yes?” His gaze searched my face. “He spoke fondly of you, that last time I saw him. He was quite aware of your immense talent, even if he wouldn’t say it to you.”
I clamped my hands into fists in my lap. “I think perhaps you misheard him.”
“I may be aging, but my hearing is impeccable. He always knew you had immense talent.” He offered a quick smile. “And I’m glad I can count on you to stay out of this mess with his ward. You’re nothing if not sensible, dear Vivienne, and I know you want nothing to do with this sort of thing.”
Few people actually knew me, as it turned out. I was a Chopin Nocturne—surprising, complex, and impossible to master. Many tried. I’m happy to report that they all failed.