A story of forbidden love, lost dreams, and family turmoil. The first book in a new historical series from bestselling author Tess Thompson, Duet for Three Hands is equal parts epic love story, sweeping family saga, and portrait of days gone by. Set against the backdrop of the American South between 1928 and 1934, four voices blend to tell a tale of prejudice, fear, and love. The Bellmonts are the epitome of the rich and elite in Atlanta society, but behind the picture-perfect façade are hidden moments of violence and betrayal.
After marrying into the Bellmont family, Nathaniel, a former concert pianist who is nearly ruined by his wife’s unrelenting ambition and unstable mind, finds hope in the promise of his most recent protégé. His brother-in-law, artistic Whitmore Bellmont, and the maid’s daughter, Jeselle, have a secret relationship despite their drastically different circumstances and shades of skin. Unfortunately, most of the world disagrees with their color blindness.
As a musician, it is always a delight to be able to pick up a novel that centers on the world of music and delves into the mind of a musician. When I first picked up Duet for Three Hands, I knew within a very few pages that this novel would make my “Best of 2015 Reads” list. I found this compelling novel reminiscent of The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser or of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, both which dealt with racial inequality in the south, but each which maintained a warmth and vividness of characters. Tess Thompson’s writing style and quality of narrative demand be considered alongside other writers of the aforementioned stature.
Having once lived deeply immersed in a world of music and art, I well know and understand the deep pathos of emotions that the artistic soul feels and expresses through their performance. These same emotions so many times are pronounced in the everyday activities of their lives, and quite often they have trouble connecting with the world outside their sphere. This becomes evident in the characters of the novel, and Tess is masterful in her portrayal of the soul of the artists that reside between the covers of her book.
The character and soul of the main male protagonists, Nathaniel, in Duet for Three Hands, was best described by a quote from Henry David Thoreau when he said, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Truly, Nathaniel was a man whose entire life was immersed in his music. He lived and breathed the very music he played, and it all suddenly was swept away in a tragic accident. His long awaited love that he desperately wanted, he watched wither and die before his very eyes.
Tess Thompson understood the need for complex characters and plot lines that keep the reader captivated and engaged. Her Ability to paint a tableau with her pen and to underscore the storyline with a symphony of emotion brought a collision of literature and the world of music and art to the printed word. Duet for Three Hands gives the non-musical the gift of experiencing the soul of music and the non-artistic the gift of experiencing the beauty of art from the eye of the artist.
Folded into the stories of love and passion, is also a social message about the glaring disparity of equality of many issues that plagued our society during the late 20’s and early 30’s in the Deep South. While ensnaring you in a story of love, hate, and despair, the dramatic storyline and plot will keep you reaching for the next page in hope for a better tomorrow.
I recommend 5 STARS for this novel, and a hats off for a fabulous job.
Tess Thompson is a novelist and playwright with a BFA in Drama from the University of Southern California. Her first novel, “Riversong”, became a bestselling ebook in 2012, reaching #1 on Nook and spending 35 days in Amazon’s Top 100. Riverbend and Riversong, also Amazon bestsellers, continue the tale of life in fictional River Valley, Oregon. The Legley Bay Collection, named for the fictional Oregon coast town of Legley Bay, includes “Caramel and Magnolias”, followed by “Tea and Primroses,” released February 16, 2014.
Like her main characters in the River Valley Collection, Tess is from a small town in Southern Oregon. She currently lives in a suburb of Seattle, Washington with her two young daughters, Emerson and Ella, and two kittens, Midnight and Mittens, that Santa brought for Christmas. She is inspired daily by the view of the Cascade Mountains from her home office window.