“Listen” by Kris Bryant is not the typical rock star and fan romance, and as Kris Bryant herself said, this is a story about anxiety and about the dreams of youngsters becoming musical prodigies, but somehow life wasn’t kind and they had to choose another path in life.
In fact, this is Jillian Crest’s story, a mastermind of the piano, a young genius of 11 years old who played the piano like no other child her age, who also happened to be an amazing composer of classical piano music. Unfortunately, her parents pushed her to much towards perfection involving music, the way she looked and anything beyond her persona. And Jillian somehow drifted away from her true passion for music and how to play in such manner that her music would touch people and lift them up, because then she wanted to conquer the music, to take it to perfection. Of course, that didn’t last and after some years she broke out of the pressure of having concerts all over the world, due to anxiety issues and Jillian Crest never played the piano again.
After 13 years, we meet Lilly Croft, a beautiful young woman of 28 years old and a successful economical analyst at a prestigious banking corporation, who lives in center Chicago with her tomcat Clio, keeping her anxiety close and anyone else away.
Even the change of name from Jillian Crest to Lilly Croft sounds like someone who would settle down, leaving everything behind and start anew.
She works from home very often, she doesn’t have friends and she avoids even her work colleagues, and more than anything she avoids music, because she feels safe inside her own constructed cell walls.
One day, her boss asks her to work on a temporary project across Chicago and Lilly has to leave the comfort from home to be present daily in an office with colleagues. That’s a major change for introvert Lilly and her body’s answers are pretty high on emotion and she acts kind of weird with them not wanting to chit chat , not wanting to be disturbed while she works and, God forbids, she doesn’t want to go out with them playing pool and having drinks at some local pub.
On one of those days, she hears someone playing the piano from a building set in her way to the train station to get back home.
While she listens, loving it, she notices the player has some issues with a certain note, but she doesn’t want to have anything to do with music at all, knowing all the panic and the anxiety she would have to face, if she had entered.
She left, but she came back the next days and met Agnes, who was a trainer there and who told her about ”The Leading Note”, that was a charitable non-profit organization providing music therapy and music lessons to people, mostly children who can’t afford private music lessons or who can’t get in contact with music otherwise and they like to pursue their chance to it.
And Agnes told her that she probably heard Hope sing and that she is welcome to stop by anytime. She, also, had a tour of the ”The Leading Note” and got an invite for the next Friday’s concert. Of course, Lilly fled before any other contact with music caught up by her own ghosts of the past.
On Friday night she also had to go out with colleagues to play pool and have some drinks at a local pub.
Lilly shows up at the concert, sits in the last row of the concert hall and she loves the music as expected, despite her growing anxiety, but she is mesmerized by Hope, the piano player. She just can’t take her eyes from Hope, inhaling her passion for music and for the way she played the piano. After, a short eye contact with Hope, Lilly went back to the horror of her state of anxiety, her hands sweat, her old demons came back to hunt her and she fled, before the concert was over.
This is the first time Lilly saw Hope.
Then, she had to go out with her colleagues to play pool and have some drinks at the local pub nearby. She kind of won. She was well, back to normal and even with small social skills, until Agnes and Hope came in. This is when they took a good look at each other and Lilly’s nervousness takes over and she blurts out she has heard Hope rehearse “Clair de Lune” and gave her an advice on how to play the note she was struggling with.
Now, remember Lilly is some number analyst at the bank corporation. None knows Jillian Crest, only the ones who were fans so many years ago.
This is how a new chapter in Lilly’s life begins.
Hope D’Marco is and always has been in love with music, she, as Lilly, took music lessons when she was a child after attending a concert, yet she hasn’t pursued a musical career herself. She started ”The Leading Note” out of her passion for music and for wanting all those children who can’t have music in their life to be able to get it free here.
Perhaps, she thought of the past, if she would have been pushed out of her comfort zone, or maybe if she would have got the right circumstances then to pursue a musical career, she would have been a star now. Maybe she wants to give a chance to talented children to come into the spotlight, be discovered and be everything she couldn’t be. She loves her work as a founder and instructor here, although she struggles to get the financial support for it.
She comes from a big family with whom she meets every Sunday at dinner.
Hope is intrigued by Lilly. She knew Lilly was new to ”The Leading Note”, she saw Lilly got up to leave at the concert when she sat down the piano, then somehow decided to stay a while, only to leave some time later before the concert ended. And when they meet again at the pub, she gets to see Lilly closer and she sees Lilly’s hesitant moves, the way she didn’t look straight into Hope’s eyes and she’s intrigued and attracted in the same time by her supposed shyness. Then, when Lilly burst out Hope’s mistake when she rehearst “Claire the Lune” and gives her advices on how to overcome it, Hope takes it easy, but she is certain now she wants to know Lilly more, as there seems more in the depths than the surface shows.
I loved Hope’s behavior towards Lilly’s anxiety condition, how she tries to help Lilly open up and overcome all those fears. She doesn’t even asks her how she knows music, or if she plays an instrument.
I am intrigued on how Hope knew Lilly was a lesbian.
Perhaps she sensed it, or just pursued her own attraction.
They start seeing each other and Hope creates every moment, as Lilly’s social skills really lack, but that doesn’t seem to bother Hope, she gives her all to make Lilly open up to her.
I just love how she is quite a diplomat and she gives Lilly all the space she needs and even helps her when someone almost recognized Lilly at a museum they went. She never questioned that one either.
After a couple of nights out, after visiting each other and Hope meeting Clio and loving him despite her allergies, it was obvious both of them wanted a relationship and Hope even declares it and Lilly’s happy. They both are.
I loved the way their relationship is build up by the author, how delicately sweet, Hope asks Lilly if she can kiss her. It’s very beautifully penned.
After exchanging more than just one passionate kiss, I understand Lilly is mesmerized by Hope, by her delicate gentleness, by her loving care and she is ready for Hope to become her first lover. I am stunned when Hope wants to take it easy. Until now, Hope led the course of events, yet now I sense real emotion from Hope. It’s not that she is not ready, but I think she doesn’t trust her own reactions when she will be physically loved by Lilly.
This is when Hope’s character gets more complex.
I loved Hope’s first orgasm. I knew then how strong she felt for Lilly.
I loved how their love opened up Lilly, socially and even to music.
I was mesmerized by the moments when they made love, once more I loved Hope’s ways from both ends : giving and receiving, but also when Hope always asks Lily to close her eyes and listen and to tell her what she hears : traffic, people, steps, music.
There is a turning point of the storyline when the secret comes to light so unexpectedly.
Will Lilly love Hope against all odds? Will Hope love Lilly against all odds? Will Lilly come back to play music?