Release Blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway: Melody Of The Heart
By Blake Allwood
Melody Series, Book 1
Yeah, life sucks. I’ve lost everything: my inheritance, my career, my dignity – if I’m not careful I’ll even lose my father’s prized Steinway… Now I’m supposed to sacrifice my pride by trying to turn a backwoods mechanic from a honky-tonk piano player to a classical virtuoso in less than a year. An impossible task I’d been duped into by my orchestra conductor who also happens to be my ex.
I travelled to West Virginia and convinced the poor mechanic to let me take over his life for my challenge and quickly realized he had more to offer me than I did him. Now, I feel guilty about it all. Guilty or not, my only choice is to win the challenge, or face career suicide and financial ruin.
Will I be able to teach the sexy mechanic how to compete or is this just a fool’s errand?
My world turned upside down when the little piano man burst into my shop demanding that I learn classical piano; all because one of my students entered some contest she didn’t even want to win.
It’s not like I didn’t love playing the piano, but classical? No… not my thing. Give me good old dirty blues or honky-tonk but I’d rather pull my oil stained fingernails out one at a time than play his kind of music.
I was ready to say no, except he seemed desperate, and I’m very gullible whenever a cute man is in distress. I hadn’t anticipated how much he would change my world. Not only has he opened my eyes to his style of music, but my heart now soars with the melody of his music.
The real question is, how am I supposed to survive when he inevitably leaves our small town and me, for good?
“I’m sorry, sir, but she’s already decided. The conversation is over.”
I walked into the shop to see my six-foot-three broad-shouldered best friend, who was usually a teddy bear, directing a frustrated gaze at a much shorter, much-less built, blond man with wire-rimmed glasses. The guy was attractive, despite the agitated look on his increasingly red face that was angled up at my friend.
“Um, what’s going on?” I asked Ray.
“This man is from the contest we entered. He’s saying it’s too late to back out now that Ella’s been selected.”
“The ball is already in motion. We can’t change direction now,” the man said, and from the way he was wringing his hands together, he appeared to be on the verge of some sort of breakdown. I could sympathize, but this was ultimately Ella’s decision, and we had to support it.
“Sir, I’m sorry, but the girl isn’t interested. I’m her teacher, and I know she’s not going to pursue piano any further. You’re wasting your time.”
The man visibly deflated in front of me, and I fought an inexplicable urge to wrap a supportive arm around his shoulders. “You’re her teacher?” he asked.
I nodded and he hesitated a moment, like he was making mental calculations, then asked, “How well do you play?”
I was taken aback by his question, and the suddenly hopeful glint I saw in his beautiful eyes. “Me? How well do I play?” He nodded and waited for me to continue. “I’m fair, but not great. Why does that matter?”
“Because, the board has given me the option of enrolling you into the program if Miss Frankford doesn’t agree to the offer.” His expression was serious.
“You’re kidding. I’m a mechanic.” I laughed so hard I thought my sides would split. It had to be a joke, right?
Ray’s eyes lit up, and he came over to where I stood as my laughter gave way to shock. “This is totally your guy. He’s been a protoget since he was a kid.”
“Prodigy,” I corrected. “I’m not a prodigy. I’m barely literate in music. I know almost every blues song ever played, and do okay with “Stairway to Heaven” on the piano, but I’m certainly not an ideal student for your fancy lessons. I’m sorry.”
I turned to leave when I felt the man’s surprisingly strong grip clamp down on my elbow. “You don’t understand. I’ve invested everything into this. If it doesn’t work, I’m ruined.” He sounded slightly panicked.
I looked down at the man’s perfectly manicured hands as I pried his fingers from my elbow, but didn’t let go. “Look,” I said, holding my own hand next to his, palm up. “Take a nice long look. Your fingers are long, delicate, and soft. I’m sure you’ve never done a hard day’s work in your life. Mine… they’re scarred, and stained with oil that’ll likely never come off, even if I stopped working on cars today. I have calluses thicker than leather hide. Trust me, mister, I’m not your guy.”
I released his hand and walked away without looking back. I was sure as I closed the door to my office that this was all a farce Ray had drummed up to give me shit about later. Things were beginning to make a lot more sense, now I thought about it that way.
Ella, winning some elite contest when she barely played. I mean, she played well enough for an eight-year-old, but there were certainly a lot of kids her age who played better, and were more committed.
The clincher was me taking her place. What the holy hell? I wondered if maybe there’d been a hidden camera somewhere, especially considering how angry Ray had been. That had to be an act, right?
I opened my office door, ready for the camera reveal, but Ray was back under the hood of Mr. Johnson’s Chrysler, and the stranger was nowhere to be seen.
“So, what’s the gig? I mean, no cameras?”
Ray chuckled. “Hey, it’s all legit. Crazy, but legit.”
“I don’t buy it, Ray. There’s got to be some sort of angle here.”
“Nope, I checked the dude out before we entered the contest. He’s an award-winning pianoist from New York and everything.”
“It’s pianist, there’s no o in it. So, why would he make up shit about me being his student for a year?”
“Don’t know, but he was pretty adamant. Even after you left, he tried to get me to talk you into it. Said he was going to lose his pants if you didn’t.”
“He said he was gonna lose his pants?” I asked, quashing a highly inappropriate mental image of the attractive man not wearing pants.
Ray laughed. “Not in so many words, but that was the gist of it.”
“You don’t think this is some sort of scam?”
“Maybe, but his bags were with him, so if it is, the man is full-out committed.”
“Damn you, Ray, this is all your and Angela’s doing. Let me go find him, and see if I can’t get to the fucking bottom of it. God, I hate you sometimes.” Part of me wanted to just let it go, but I remembered the look on the man’s face, and the panic in his voice. I was drawn to him enough to want to put things right.
“You do not. You’ve a right to be pissed, but you adore me, and you know it. Besides, you owe me after…”
“Don’t go there. I know I do, but after this shit, we’re even, got it?”
Ray winked at me and gave me a thumbs-up as he disappeared back under the hood. Not that I’d ever really be even with Ray and Angela for all they’d done to literally keep my ass off the streets.
One main street ran through our town, and there weren’t many places he could go on foot, so it only took a few minutes for me to find him sitting in Libby’s Park, next to the river. He was looking out over the rapids. His glazed expression told me he was staring, but not really seeing them.
“So—” I said, startling him. “—what’s the real story, and don’t try to bullshit me? I know how to recognize bullshit a mile away.”
He shook his head and sighed deeply, the look on his face all but resigned to defeat. “It’s just what I said. The contest requires me to teach someone for a year. We selected Miss Frankford, and she’s declined, so it’s my neck on the line to get chopped.”
“And, tell me again, what that has to do with me?” I asked.
The man sighed again, this time almost making me laugh at how dramatic he was. “That’s more a dig at me. My former boss, well, he was my ex as well as my boss. He threw you into the mix as a way to embarrass me. I shouldn’t have brought it up, but I got a little desperate in there.”
“So, your former boss was also your lover?” I asked, intrigued, not only by the story, but by the admission, intended or not, that he was gay.
“Yeah. Oh wait, you aren’t a homophobe, are you? Because, that would be excellent. Getting my ass kicked would just be the cherry on top of this shit pie.” He sounded more resigned than apprehensive at the possibility I’d take issue with his sexuality. My smiling at him likely helped ease any uncertainty.
“No, I’m gay. But, isn’t that like sexual harassment, or something?”
His chuckle was bitter. “Yeah, and I’ve already talked to my attorney. I’ll probably win in court, but it’s going to destroy my fucking career. No one will ever hire me to perform again.”
“Yeah, that sucks, but you’ll win, that’s something.”
He shrugged. “Well, I might as well go face the music. I’m sorry for the insane morning, Mr…”
“You can call me Orli. Everyone around here does.”
“Well, Orli, I wish I could say it’s been a pleasure.”
He stood to go, and before I knew what I was doing, I asked, “So, what is it they want me to play?”
The man slowly turned around. “Have you ever heard of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat Major?
I shook my head.
“What about La Campanella by Liszt?”
I shook my head again.
“The Oriental fantasy Islamey by Mily Balakirev?”
“No, sorry, I don’t know much classical.”
He chuckled mirthlessly. “They’re some of the most difficult pieces ever written. They gave me one year to teach Ella—and in her absence, you—how to play these technically impossible pieces well enough to qualify to play in Salzburg, Austria.”
“So, it really is a vengeance quest against you then?”
He appeared shocked by my being so forthright, but slowly nodded. “There’s a lot to it, but yes, I suppose it is exactly that.”
“Can you really teach me?” I asked, fully regretting the decision I’d already made internally.
“Can you play?” he asked.
I laughed. “I was taught by my great-grandmother who played in honky-tonks, but I’m not horrible.”
The man looked torn between hope and resignation. “Do you have a piano, so I can hear you play?”
I nodded and remembered the three cars I’d agreed to have done by the weekend. Oh well, I thought, Ray might get to work some overtime, since this was his damned fault anyway.
“Where’s your car?” I asked.
He shrugged. “I’m from New York. I don’t have a car. I rode the train to Martinsburg, and had an Uber drop me off here.”
“Well, you’re going to need a car if you’re here for long, ’cause we only have one Uber, and Sally only works when she needs money to buy yarn to pay for her knitting obsession.”
“Let’s hear you play before we commit to anything,” he said, and followed me back to the shop.
Enter the Giveaway:
To celebrate the release of Melody Of The Heart, Blake is giving away an e-copy of Melody Of The Heart. 3 winners will be chosen!
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About the Author:
Blake Allwood was born in west TN, then moved to Kansas City MO after attending college in Iowa. He met his husband, Shaun, in 1995 and they officially married in 2015, once the United States legalized gay marriage.
In 2017, he and his husband sold their home, purchased an RV and began traveling the country with their two dogs. Their travels provide the inspiration and settings for many of his novels.
Typically, Blake can be found writing in the RV or by the fire with his laptop and their Jack Russell Terrier, Buddy, curled up between his legs or
demanding his attention. Denver, their Siberian Husky mix is often asleep at his feet or playing tug of war with Shaun.
Aiden Inspired (Apr 2019) is his first published novel, featuring two disparate characters from New York and Washington State who meet and develop an unlikely bond.
His second novel, Suzie Empowered (Feb 2020), is a follow-up novel featuring Aiden’s sister Suzie as she overcomes her fear of relationships with straight men due to a sexual assault in high school.
Blake returned to gay romance with his release of Bobby Transformed (Mar 2020) about an Iowa farm boy and a big city publisher.
These first three novels share characters and can be read as a series or each as a stand-alone novel.
Romantic Renovations (June 2020), is a stand-alone novel that features a popular home renovation star and a large property owner in Seattle, Washington. Blake veers from his contemporary romance themed novels and dips his toes in the crime mystery troupe for this one. He is currently working on two additional books to make this into a series.
His Chance series was released in the summer of 2020, consisting of three books: Love by Chance, Another Chance With Love, and Taking a Chance For Love
The Big Bend series, based in the area around Big Bend National Park in Texas will be released over three months beginning June 2021.
Please let us know how you enjoy Blake’s books by using the contact us page or join the discussion of Blake’s and other M/M romance author’s books by connecting with Blake Allwood’s Book Club on Facebook.
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