Escapement: An Exquisite Tale of Love and Passion
Henri Worth admits to being “a fool for Beauty. A ferocious connoisseur.” She is a cross-dressing housekeeper to composer Cristofer Vaughn in 19th-century Europe, during the period when two schools of music clashed: followers of Bach and Handel versus the adherents of Wagner and Liszt. Henri is a composer herself, but one handicapped by an era when women composers are not socially acceptable; she sometimes lets Cristofer incorporate her work into his.
One day she accompanies Cristofer to a diplomat’s house so that he can play on a piano which had belonged to Beethoven. Henri is instantly smitten by gorgeous Ava, the diplomat’s wife, who overhears Henri playing her own compositions, and asks Henri to be her music teacher. The two begin a clandestine affair. Henri becomes torn between her love for Ava, wanting to support Cristofer (to whom she owes her life), and an offer by a mysterious count to be Henri’s “front man,” an arrangement which would let her compositions be heard while staying out of the public eye.
Don’t let the novel’s length deter you; the print version is double-spaced. The book contains some beautiful language: “There are those, Henri, who are born possessing a lantern inside their soul. Whose capacity for light is receptive to Creation itself. And it is Creation that compels such souls to give body to what they feel and see and hear…” And yet there are a few passages that come across as stilted: “Nowhere did I catch sight of her proud silhouette.”
The reader will feel for a woman in Henri’s position, suppressing both her musical abilities and her love for another female. Some may be disappointed at the partially ambiguous ending, but I found it an interesting exploration of the world of classical music, forbidden love, and repressed emotion.