Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost
After reading one of Z. A. Maxfields’s St. Nacho’s novels, I wondered what else the author had written and was surprised to find a paranormal gay story in the mix. My curiosity getting the better of me, I dove in.
Nineteen-year-old piano virtuoso Fitz has spent his life placating his stage mother with continual practice and performances. Now that his mother has left him at home alone while she’s in France, Fitz has decided to live it up for once in his life.
His foray into independence begins with making friends with a guy in the Los Angeles music academy they attend. It ends badly when the so-called friend leaves Fitz stuffed in a dumpster behind a gay club after Fitz rejects Garrett’s sexual advances in the bathroom.
To his rescue, after a lot of haggling, come Serge and Julian, ghosts who died during the Holocaust. Together with them, his former half-brother Ari, and a repentant Garrett, Fitz has adventures and grows up in this often funny and always charming story.
Liking Fitz is key to enjoying the novel. His previous life has made him act younger than his years, and through Maxfield’s adept writing, readers will enjoy his accelerated maturation. Because his mother has so completely smothered him, unwrapping Fitz becomes a mix of the comic, tragic, and poignant.
Liking Ari is nearly as important as liking Fitz. A former boy band member who toured the world, sending Fitz postcards and gifts, Ari has always been Fitz’s anchor in the world. He has attended every one of Fitz’s performances that he could and has been at Fitz’s beck and call whenever Fitz needs or wants him. Now a successful accountant, Ari happily remains Fitz’s only real friend, and readers will applaud Ari’s steadfastness.
As romances go, theirs is an unconventional one since they’ve just been dancing around one another all their lives, just as Serge and the irrepressible Julian have spent their time dancing through death since they couldn’t in life. Fitz and Ari, however, need an extra push to recognize their love for each other, and that push is given by good-time Garrett and ghostly Serge and Julian.
The novel offers all the easy storytelling and sympathetic characters readers expect in a Maxfield book. Adding the paranormal element seems a dollop of affectation that isn’t needed in a story that is powerful enough on its own.