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eARC Review: Not Another Love Song by Julie Soto

Release date:  16 July 2024

Rating:  3.5/5

Synopsis:  Two string players fight their attraction for each other as they compete for center stage in this spicy and emotional romance.

Gwen Jackson and Xander Thorne are both musical prodigies, but each has had very different paths to success. Xander was born into classical music royalty, while Gwen had a natural ear for music that was nurtured by a kind shop owner.

After Gwen performs at his friend’s wedding, she’s mortified when she realizes Xander has no clue who she is—despite having worked together for a year at the Pops Orchestra. But she’s more furious that he arrogantly critiques her performance.

When Gwen is offered the role of First Chair of the orchestra, something Xander had secretly coveted for years, their existing hostility goes up a notch. But their respect for each other's music is undeniable, and their onstage chemistry off the scale. As they begin to explore their feelings for one another, suddenly they're box office dynamite and the fragile romance that's growing between them is in danger of being crushed beneath a publicity stunt...



Despite being another (self-proclaimed) Reylo fanfic, Soto’s recent novel impressed me far more than Forget Me Not, which I did not connect to the characters very well.  Not Another Love Song’s overall cast and interactions were immensely heartfelt for me, and I absolutely connected with them.  My only drawback for this one was the romance.  Gwen and Xander did not act at all to me like they were falling in love—more like they were in the same room and had a lot of feelings they vented on each other.  

Xander and Gwen do so very much act like Rey and Kylo Ren.  They begin the story with a relationship of mild disregard from Xander and fearful awe from Gwen.  There is no meet cute here.  Xander exudes an attitude of lofty superiority, criticism, and antagonism toward Gwen (and everyone else around him).  It’s off-putting to me.  He spends the entire book almost only wanting to be near Gwen because he is attracted to how she plays violin.  Gwen, because she comes from humble beginnings financially and musically, seems under obligation to reciprocate Xander’s attraction because of his status and authority.  She feels bullied to me.  I know some folks like bully romances, but I do not.  

The musical performances, which feel really like action scenes, mesmerized me.  The bright spot in the book had to be getting to see from an insider’s perspective all of the goings on in professional musical life.  Keep in mind, I know where middle C is on the piano and that’s about all, so this sentiment comes from a total noob ignoramus.  

Overall, 3.5 out of 5.  I really like the underlying stories for the main characters as individuals, but the circumstances bringing the two together were too fraught with emotional turmoil and manipulation; I just couldn’t feel any kind of romance there.  

My thanks to NetGalley for the eARC, for which I willingly give my own, honest opinion.

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