Perfect Rhythm: A Review
This review contains spoilers.
Perfect Rhythm is the story of mega pop star Leontyne Blake, also called Jenna Blake when
she is being a pop star, also called Leo when she is not, heading back to her estranged
parents’ home in small town Missouri because her father’s health is in serious decline. Leo
has been estranged from her parents since she rejected her father’s passion, Classical music,
and since they found out she was a lesbian. (I say it like that because while her parent’s
do have a hard time with her being a lesbian, mostly her mother, the majority of the narrative
is about her dislike of Classical music and love of pop music.) Initially believing that she’ll only
stay a week, Leontyne stays longer, trying to resurrect a relationship with her parents while
falling in love with her dad’s in-home nurse Holly Drummond. Holly initially sees Leo as a
vapid, narcissistic diva who abandoned her parents in their time of need. Through
communication and time spent together, Leo and Holly develop a believable, healthy, loving
I loved the characters. Every person in this story, from the main cast to the side characters, are fleshed out and real. Leontyne felt stifled by her father’s rigidity and her mother’s passiveness as a teenager, but she has a real drive and passion for her music. Her father, theoretically, was a great Classical violinist, but I didn't see how he did anything to warrant how other characters were in awe of him. He has a doctorate in something? Owns a violin? He’s completely disdainful of everyone else’s differing thoughts or opinions. I spent a lot of the book wondering why everyone but Leo liked him, and was so desperate for her and him to be reconciled.
Her mother is a little emotionally manipulative and weak, although she grows as a character as her husband's health deteriorates. By the end of the novel I came to like her character. Fair Oaks, the small town Perfect Rhythm is set in, is home to a cast of different characters. There are a couple of stereotypical small-town-small-minded people, but for every one of them, there’s a queer-coded a baker.
Leo and Holly's characterizations really get revealed to the reader as they interact with
each other. The narrative switches between the two women, so the reader gets insight into
how the characters view themselves and each other.
Leo is reaching burn out. She’s reached her thirties and no longer wants to keep up her pop star persona. She misses the control she once had over her music and onstage presence. Her manager is over-demanding and dismisses everything Leo says. Holly enjoys her lift in small town Missouri and being an in-home nurse. She has a large, supportive family, and just cannot quite understand why Leo is so purposefully distant from her family. So when Leo comes home, after her mother calls to let her know her father has had a stroke, Holly assumes that Leo is the one who caused the distance. I liked that Holly wasn’t perfect, that she made those assumptions about Leo only knowing Leo from her on stage persona, and that she was wrong and admitted to that.
While acknowledging that she is romantically attracted to Leo, Holly doesn’t believe a relationship will last between them because she is asexual. Holly has had relationships in the past that were completely toxic because of the other person’s inability to fully understand her asexuality. Leo has never heard of asexuality before. Jae spends time educating the reader on asexuality, but, unlike every other book I’ve read with an ace romance, Jae writes out the information in the way that her characters would actually talk about it. It felt natural to the story and not a dry text being copy and pasted in. There’s even a very in-character sex scene that did not feel like it ripped away Holly’s sexuality or agency.
At times the plot is a bit predictable, but the novel is so well written and the characters are so well developed that I didn’t even care that I knew exactly where the story was going.
There was only one aspect of the entire novel I disliked, and my dislike may have been mostly due to the fact that I listened to the audiobook. It isn’t the narrator—she did a fabulous job. Hearing Leo constantly mentally objectify Holly bothered me. Holly will do something like eat or cuddle a puppy, and Leo’s internal monologue will be about how sexy Holly is, about her body parts, or how much Leo wants to have sex with Holly. Holly is asexual. She isn’t sex repulsed, but it just isn’t interesting to her, and she’d rather be doing anything else. While the internal objectifying thoughts do diminish significantly after Leo finds out Holly is ace, the entire dynamic just reinforced a lot of societal norms about how everyone is going to sexually objectify you. Also I, apparently, get deeply uncomfortable hearing a woman being objectified, so I don’t know how many more F/F audiobooks I’ll try out.
Overall I really appreciated that the characters weren’t perfect, and that Jae took the time to let her characters grow and develop. The book can feel a little slow paced, but I think that just added to its strength, because it let the romance develop naturally as relationships typically do. I liked that the end isn’t wrapped up in a neat bow. There’s still growth that Leo and her mother need to do in their relationship. (There is an entirely too cheesy moment between Leo and her dad but it works fine). And I liked that the Jae took so much time to have the characters really go over what it would mean for Holly, ace, and Leo, allo, to have a relationship.