Jeffrey Stepakoff’s The Melody of Secrets is an epic love story set against the 1960s U.S. space program, when deeply-buried secrets could threaten not just a marriage, but a country.
Maria was barely eighteen as WWII was coming to its explosive end. A brilliant violinist, she tried to comfort herself with the Sibelius Concerto as American bombs rained down. James Cooper wasn’t much older. A roguish fighter pilot stationed in London, he was shot down during a daring night raid and sought shelter in Maria’s cottage. Fifteen years later, in Huntsville, Alabama, Maria is married to a German rocket scientist who works for the burgeoning U.S. space program. Her life in the South is at peace, purposefully distanced from her past. Everything is as it should be—until James Cooper walks back into it.
Pulled from the desert airfield where he was testing planes no sane Air Force pilot would touch, and drinking a bit too much, Cooper is offered the chance to work for the government, and move himself to the front of the line for the astronaut program. He soon realizes that his job is to report not only on the rocket engines but also on the scientists developing them. Then Cooper learns secrets that could shatter Maria’s world…
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a really enjoyable book set in a time period that is not too often chosen for recent novels. In the realm of stories about forbidden love, this was one of the better ones that I have read. I liked that it didn’t follow the typical formula and that there were a lot of other things going on in this novel besides the romance angle.
There are quite a few interesting themes in this book, including racism, government, the space program, war and tough decisions the characters face. I was impressed by the beautiful, descriptive writing and many times when I stopped to examine and appreciate a quote.
There is a lot of swapping back and forth between the past and the present, and although I thought it was handled well and I didn’t find it confusing at all, if this bothers you in a novel then you may want to take note that it does happen. Most of the relationship between James and Maria is described through these flashbacks, and I thought it was an interesting approach to showing the strength of their bond with one another.
This is a layered and intelligent novel with a strong foundation. I was happy with the way the author ended the book–it wasn’t as dark as I would have expected for a book where the characters faced so much hardship.
I would definitely recommend this book to others.
This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher and provided by netgalley.