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The Broken Wing by Mary Burchell

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A wonderful read, but hugely disappointing both as a romance and as a rags-to-riches/stardom story, in this second instalment of Mary Burchell’s Warrender series, set in the world of opera.

There’s no romantic tension between the hero and heroine Tessa. He’s present from the start, so there’s no “meet cute” (a term I hate, but still) and it’s boss/secretary – which is never terribly sexy, frankly – and his name is Quentin Otway. He seems more like the gay Rupert Everett character than a romantic hero.

Then he says something so awful to her at the beginning that I don’t see how she can come back from it. He’s a “perfectionist” so he can’t bear anything imperfect.

And heroine has a limp. Some sort of club foot or something (we’re never told) and this has supposedly prevented her from having a proper career in singing because she can’t skip around the stage like a spring lamb. I mean seriously, Montserrat Caballé, anyone? Pavarotti? There’s a reason “when the fat lady sings” is such a cliché – opera stars are hardly known for being gamine.

Besides which as famed composer Oscar Warrender later points out, what’s to stop her from singing in concerts? Quite how no one else, including her singing teacher, has ever considered this is stupid.

The scene with the supposedly Evil Sister Tania is wonderful, when she usurps Tessa’s voice, but she never gets her comeuppance. And it’s all rather sugary-sweet-sisterhood later on, in the same manner that ruined the later Charmed series.

And let’s not forget that Quentin did have a “flirtation” with Tania at the start – after meeting Tessa – so the heroine feels really second best.

Then right at the end, what should be her star-making moment of utter glory doesn’t happen. But hey! She has a proposal from Mr Wanker. Who confessed to being so threatened by her talent that it’s likely she’ll never have a career.

“And I will be whatever you want me to be. If you love me best without the stardust round me, I’ll be your quiet, retiring Tessa for the rest of my days. In any case, I don’t think I ever want to go on a platform again.”