Forbidden Melody by Magnolia Robbins begins with Emma Harvey, an exceptionally gifted pianist and daughter to a renowned jazz musician, trying out for a place at the prestigious Bard Music Conservatory for her graduate studies. Her talent shines brightly and catches the attention of one of the professors sitting on the panel, Juliet Hamilton.

Juliet herself is prodigy violinist and first chair in the New York Philharmonic. It’s only when Juliet’s over-bearing father, the head of the school, forces her to take over another professor’s classes that trouble begins.

Not only is Emma her assistant in one class and a student in another, but Juliet finds herself as Emma’s private instructor. There is a lot of friction between the two characters at the beginning. But the friction isn’t what could endanger both their futures at The Bard and beyond.

Juliet and Emma share an attraction for each other that encompasses more than just musical appreciation, it connects them on an emotional and physical level as well. And everything seems to be stacked against the two women as they push the boundaries of friendship, ethics, and career propriety in their need for one another.

The Characters

I did like the characters despite my usual dislike of people doing something illicit that they “just can’t help”. I thought Emma was sweet and fiery and I loved that she wasn’t afraid to buck tradition when she played her music, adding embellishments and making the beloved pieces solely her own. I did think she was a little immature in her approach and to the situation, but then I had to remember the age gap between them.

Juliet is about 15 or 16 years older than Emma, and about as reserved as the younger woman is fiery. And while they may come across as opposites on so many levels, the music they play together is beautiful.

The supporting characters were as you’d expect, no one really stuck out. I was hoping that either of the mains would listen to reason with all the advice they were given but the “love struck” trajectory and resulting angst prevailed. I certainly couldn’t deny the beauty of what they created on stage and off.

The Writing Style

Robbin’s has an easy to read style with steady pacing throughout the book. The chapters are written in first person, alternating every other one between Juliet and Emma. There is the occasional slight bit of overlap between chapters but it almost seemed as though those moments were overlapped by the author on purpose to really highlight the importance of those particular scenes. I could be wrong. Only one time did I stop what I was reading because of character confusion, forgetting that I’d started a new chapter and thus my character viewpoint was switched. However, that should tell you that the book was good because it flowed so well chapter to chapter.

The Pros

The music! I love a good romance that features music or prodigies and with this book I got both. Magnolia Robbin’s descriptions of the songs and their motion, as well as the way the two characters played together really painted a picture in my mind. Some of the songs I recognized, having heard them before or even currently own. There were others that the author painted so well in my head that I was forced to search for the music online so I could listen. I also liked that the author really went into detail to explain what the music would “feel” like to someone who is deaf. It gives you a lot of insight to an entirely new world of perceptions when one sense is lost.

The Cons

Most of my cons are really only personal preference. There were a few small editing mistakes but not anything that detracted from the novel while I was reading. On the personal preference items, there are some things I don’t care for in fiction or romance. Illicit affairs between students and teachers is something I typically am not a fan of, however I think the author handled it fairly well. I’ve also never been a fan of age gaps but it wasn’t terrible perceptible by the end of the book. Despite those cons I found it thoroughly engaging.

The Conclusion

Forbidden Melody is a well written book that pulled me through it in about a day and a half. That’s a pretty good read for me. The way the author writes not just the character’s emotions but the music itself really sold me on the entire thing.

A hazard of reading about beautiful bits of art, sound and color is that some things don’t fully carry through to the reader. However, even though this was a mere book, Robbins did a masterful job in describing the movements of each piece so well it was almost as if I were there listening.

While I’m not typically a fan of age gap romance I think this one was nicely done and I’m glad I made an exception with this novel. My final thought is that the end of this book definitely touched on my #FEEL response. The music was beautiful and the characters carried it in their hearts and took it to a lovely finish.

Excerpt from Forbidden Melody by Magnolia Robbins

Thanks for letting me finish. Emma signed and turned to leave. I found myself reaching out to grasp her wrist before she got too far away. The minute I’d touched her, she turned back to face me. A cold chill ran down the length of my spine and I lost my breath. She was such a dainty little thing. Those big brown eyes stared at me, and I was unsure of how to read her. My hand lingered for far longer than it should have. Eventually, I let it drop to the desk.

“Why don’t you have a textbook?” I asked outright. Emma did not strike me as the type of student who would come unprepared. Unlike some of her more privileged classmates, some of which had got in due to family or wealth, Emma had managed on pure talent alone. “You were supposed to have the materials before class began.”

“Miranda and I had an arrangement, “Emma explained, looking uncomfortable. “I’m surprised she didn’t tell you.”

“I was surprised to be teaching this course at all,” I admitted, leaning back in my chair.

We studied one another while I fidgeted in my seat. “I presume you have it ordered at least?”

“No,” Emma replied. “I was planning on sharing with Lydia.”

“For the entire semester?” My body fell forward again, leaning in towards her. “You don’t think that’s a little absurd?”

Emma’s facial expression shifted to one of annoyance. The book is over two hundred dollars used. I have higher priorities with that money. Lydia doesn’t mind. Just as I was about to reply, I hesitated. Did that mean she was unable to afford her books? I wondered if this was the case for all of her classes this semester. When I’d thought about it, I hadn’t seen her with the text for the undergraduate course yesterday either.

“You can’t go an entire semester without textbooks,” I said bluntly.

“I’ve done it before,” Emma retorted. “Now if you don’t mind, I need to go practice.”

Get This Book On Amazon

(this link works for Amazon UK, US and Canada)




Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781983167522

Magnolia Robbins Online

If you enjoyed this book then you should also look at

Making a Comeback by Julie Blair which has a heavy music theme and also features a musician with a disability.  







Note: I received a free review copy of Forbidden Melody by Magnolia Robbins. No money was exchanged for this review. When you use our links to buy we get a small commission which supports the running of this site

K. Aten on FacebookK. Aten on Twitter
Reviewer at The Lesbian Review
Born and raised in Michigan, Kelly is a latecomer to the writing scene. She works in the automotive industry coding in Visual basic and Excel. Her avid reading and writing provide a nice balance to the daily order of data, allowing her to juggle passion and responsibility. Her writing style is as varied as her reading taste and it shows as she tackles each new genre with glee. But beneath it all, no matter the subject or setting, Kelly carries a core belief that good should triumph. She's not afraid of pain or adversity, but loves a happy ending. She's been pouring words into novels since 2015 and probably won’t run out of things to say any time soon.