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  • Writer's pictureH.L. Howard

"Our Verdict - Get It". A Recommended Review with Kirkus




H.L. Howard

Melvilleverse Press (319 pp.)

$17.99 paperback, $9.99 e-book

ISBN: 9798987097632

A middle-aged man and a much younger woman conduct a rocky romance via songs.

Tauri is a Chinese businessman living in America. He’s on his annual trip to his hometown, Chongqing, in southwest China, scouting investment opportunities when he meets Libi, a young woman. Libi, seeking investors for a photography studio business, ends up forging a connection with Tauri despite their 30-year age gap, a connection that Tauri believes to be romantic. Sparks fly, but Tauri is still—unhappily—married to Aquri, whom he begins divorcing as he maintains a fraught and sporadic connection with Libi over WeChat. Tauri spends the following years trying to decode messages Libi sends him through the creation (and updating) of a music playlist (his cryptographic efforts are supported by zodiac and tarot readings). Though it seems the author intends Libi to come to the understanding that she wants to be with the older Tauri, much of the narrative seems dedicated to a near descent into madness and obsession, during which Tauri has to consistently assure himself that his paramour wants him back and is sending messages through song (“Something was off between his understanding and what was genuinely in Libi’s mind. Libi showed her love and affection via this playlist. But she constantly put him down in this real world”). At times the story feels repetitive, with too little input from Libi, who rejects and then pulls Tauri back in several times over the course of the novel, leading the reader to wonder whether the desired effect is that of a meditation on the long journey it can take to find happiness or an exploration of delusion. That being said, the breathless intensity of the protagonist’s fixation makes the book a compelling read, pushing the reader to reckon with Tauri’s pursuit of happiness.

An offbeat romance with an intriguing premise that will leave readers guessing right until the very end.

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