It’s rare that a book comes along that combines a love story and a touching plotline with such page-turning quality, but Tillie Cole’s latest offering kept me hooked throughout. At first glance, this might look like just another tale of opposites attracting, of a bad boy falling for the good girl, but this incredible story delves so much deeper than that. It’s an extraordinarily moving, beautifully written and, at times, almost unbearably painful tale of music, love, family, hope, and once I started reading it, I resented every single moment I had to spend away from this book and these characters. It was unlike anything I’ve ever read—filled with musical detail and infused with raw emotion—immediately earning its spot as one of my most beloved books of the year.
I’d played my music to a packed crowd. Spoke to people, but I could feel the sadness I’d pushed down low fighting to be freed anyway. Ready to consume me. To bury me in the past.
For Cromwell Dean, playing music has never been a choice. Once a classical prodigy who composed his first symphony when he was just a child, Cromwell not only hears music—he can see it—sounds transforming the world around him into a multi-coloured wonderland. Now one of Europe’s hottest new DJs, Cromwell Dean knows all too well what an overwhelming and entrancing effect music can have on people, moving crowds with a flick of a wrist and making them lose themselves in his mixes. And while his music continues to make others feel so much, he chases numbness with each new beat, desperate to quiet the painful memories that never stop haunting him.
Whatever lived inside me, that made me this way with music, was clawing to get out. It was getting harder and harder to subdue.
But while doing his best to keep the whole world at arm’s length and to avoid any real connections in life, a beautiful stranger somehow breaks through his walls by voicing the very thing he refuses to admit to himself.
“Your music has no soul.”
Bonnie Farraday might have spent most of her childhood idolising an English boy she never even met, his beautiful symphonies becoming the ray of hope she so desperately needed as an aspiring musician growing up in a small town, but nothing about his synthetic beats or the person he appears to have become reminds her even remotely of the boy who inspired her for so long. When they suddenly find themselves at the same college, attending the same classes, what was once a far-fetched dream quickly turns into her worse nightmare.
He’d once played with such meaning, such purpose and soul. Now, everything about him was cold. He played music that meant nothing. Made me feel nothing. Told the world nothing.
As hard as they fight it, however, they grow closer and closer each day, and it doesn’t take very long for Bonnie to realise that pain alone has dimmed Cromwell’s love of music. It is his love for her that slowly brings colour back into Cromwell’s life, until his music becomes the very thing tethering Bonnie’s heart to hers.
I had made many wishes in my life, but Cromwell had been the wish that I never made. The granted wish that, in the end, was the one I cherished most.
I’m not quite sure how she does it, but Tillie Cole seems to have the ability to shatter your heart into a trillion pieces with every book she writes, making you not only welcome the pain, but also want to savour every single moment of it. This is so much more than just a love story—it’s poignant and unflinching and at times incredibly hard to take, yet it left me feeling uplifted and hopeful, and with my heart full to the brim. Just make sure you have plenty of tissues handy to catch all the tears.
He was, and forever would be, the beat in my heart.