#82 Crapometer

Single Title Contemporary Romance: DAMN RIGHT I'VE GOT THE BLUES

How you are raised and your cultural background shape the person you become. But do these things define you? Melina Sharpe and Orlando Ramos were each raised on the edge of two disparate cultures. Melina is the Hearing child of Deaf parents, and Orlando is the American-born son of Cuban immigrants.

Melina, a Juilliard trained jazz pianist, lives and works on the Upper West side of Manhattan. She works for her friend and mentor, Louie Ayers, a crusty old blues musician. Now long past retirement age, Louie has been asking Melina to take over his piano tuning business for the last three years. A request that has been steadfastly refused. Melina does have one secret pleasure. She hasn't completely given up her life as a musician and plays regularly at the "open mic" nights in small bars and clubs throughout the city. She can't let herself believe this means anything, having internalized what she was told by a former boyfriend about not being "good enough." Fluent in Sign (her first language), fluent in music, a young American woman unsure of herself in plain English.

Orlando is the successful manager and owner of a chic private cigar club; Club Cohiba. He is the very definition of responsible, an educated, upstanding citizen working side by side with his parents, Estella and Gilberto Ramos. Orlando's life is what he wants, a perfect blend of Cuban roots and American upbringing. The one area that's lacking is his love life. His mother tells him it's time to get serious and settle down. Privately, he agrees with her, but the women he has been dating don't inspire thoughts of permanence and babies.

Orlando is a regular client of Louie's, and Melina is often the one to show up for the frequent tunings required for the club's grand piano. On the surface, they have nothing in common. He likes his suits and ties, and he can't understand why his mother likes her: frayed jeans, multiple piercings, and all. Melina can't help being overly aware of him. He is the man leading roles are made of. He's sophisticated, elegant, and h-o-t. As fate and business find them together with increasing frequency, they discover mutual interests, and growing desire.

Louie calls in a marker and presses Melina to perform in Club Cohiba, and Orlando finds himself drawn to her, physically and emotionally. He's blown away by the powerful, sexy woman revealed through her music. This irritating young piano tuner is a chameleon, and it's more than just the addition of feminine accents: make-up, dress, and heels. Melina, too, recognizes a strong sexual attraction, the start of an attachment that frightens her. She agrees to explore their relationship--with strict boundaries--at the same time allowing Louie to coax her further back into the world of music and performing, certain she will be hurt by both in the end. She begins to share bits about her background with Orlando, feeling sure he will decide she isn't what he wants. Along with flaming passion, she discovers laughter and fun with this charming man.

When her mother is seriously injured in a car accident, Melina goes to her hometown in upstate New York. Surrounded by her Deaf family, Melina is thrust back into her childhood role of interpreter, liaison, and outcast. There is much more to being deaf than a lack of hearing; there is an entire Deaf culture. The world she was raised in and will always be a part of, but separated from, by the incidental fact of being hearing. She decides to stop fighting what seems to be her fate, and accept responsibility by taking on the piano tuning business.

Orlando's doubts about the relationship surface during their time apart. His Cuban heritage has influenced him in fundamental ways, not least of which is a profound sense of alienation. He too spends his life straddling two worlds. Much of his life has been spent awaiting a return to the Cuba his parents left behind. One foot in his parents' past, the Cuba of high society landowners whose children married other members of the Cuban elite. The other foot in American values, tripping his way through the superficial fast lane of statuesque New York models. Unlike other first born generations of Latin immigrants, there were no idyllic childhood summers spent in his ancestors' land, no family vacations sharing the special places of his parents' hearts. The experience of Cuban immigrants in the first wave to come to America when Castro took power was different than that of most immigrants. They didn't expect to be permanent political exiles, and had been robbed of property and social position.

Louie rejects Melina's offer to take over the business, instead pushing her to expand her career as a performer, and continue to take some risks. Beginning to accept herself as the musician she is, Melina also starts to see the woman she wants to be. In doing so, she tells Orlando she can no longer accept their relationship as it stands--going nowhere. Louie dies of a sudden heart attack, and she is devastated, feeling she has lost the one person whose love she doesn't need to question. Her fragile sense of control shifts, but her sense of purpose deepens. Louie makes it clear, post-mortem, the control over her life is hers by leaving her the business, to sell or keep as she chooses.

Orlando faces his youthful fantasies, and accepts that the image in his mind, of a woman who is no more than a reflection of himself, Cuban heritage and all, may not be where his happiness lies. Perhaps this is why he avoids dating women who might come close. Maybe (she) doesn't need to have had the exact same experiences to understand old hurts.

Melina and Orlando each struggle to find their place, and discover who they are. Through allowing each other into their respective worlds, they are able to recognize their kindred spirits and need to belong. Orlando learns to accept his position in life by deciding what he is willing to give up. Melina learns to take gracefully, and that accepting a hand up doesn't accept loss, but rather, true gains. As their love grows, so does their understanding and respect of each other, themselves, and recognition that where they belong is together.

This is less a synopsis than a character study. You’ve got four events: Melina tunes the piano at Club Cohiba; Melina performs at Club Cohiba; Melina goes to upstate New York; Louie dies.

What you have here is a compelling set up but it makes me think the novel is all interior dialogue. I hope that’s not the case.


caren1701 said...

FYI, sign language is called American Sign Language, or ASL, by the deaf community.

Sounds like an interesting read, if I read the blurb for this one in a bookstore I'd probably buy it. Break a leg!

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark is correct about the action (more needs to happen, or at least we need to hear more about it here). However, I really like the characters you've set up. The piano-playing music-loving hearing daughter of deaf parents? The son of immigrants who has never seen his parent's homeland? Very nice.

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

Odd ... this character-driven synop is what some pubbed writers say editors at one particular publishing house prefer ... I guess it's different strokes for different folks.

The thing I like about this synop is that it shows very clearly the characters' growth arc ... I'd bet, looking at the synop, that it's not all interior dialogue and that the events described are turning points in the story ... and not the entire plot points of the story.

I'd buy this book.

Anonymous said...

First of all: Being familure with the deaf culture I found absolutely nothing wrong with the reference to Sign as opposed to using the longer, more formal term of American Sign Language or the shorter, ASL. I found it to flow quite naturally.
I was intrigued by the character development, and by the diversity of the two main characters.
I would read this book.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad Louie leave the business to Melina. So much better than the Rich Friends' character going to bed with a guy and then finding out he's totally rich!