LOVE SET TO MUSIC (Taster) – the third novel in the MALCOLM CRAIG series

I have completed the third novel in the Malcolm Craig series and have published the book as a paperback and as an Epub E-book. Read more at: Fiona’s Store – fiction with a musical theme

This is the third novel in the Malcolm Craig series. Because of tax problems with the United Kingdom Inland Revenue, famous tenor, Malcolm Craig and his wife, Marina Dunbar decide to emigrate to South Africa in 1956. This novel covers the first seven years of their lives in South Africa. Although they are still performing they find that they have to teach singing to make ends meet. Their marriage is still as tempestuous as ever and they are on the brink of divorcing one another. Marina has an affair with a popular radio announcer and Malcolm feels genuinely drawn to his young studio accompanist, Kate Kyle. Kate, in turn, thinks the world of Malcolm despite a huge difference in their ages.

Love Set to Music, third novel in the Malcolm Craig series, by Fiona Compton
Love Set to Music, third novel in the Malcolm Craig series, by Fiona Compton

Thanks to Pearl Harris for writing a review of this book:

Review by Pearl Harris, writer, proofreader and editor. http://www.freewebs.com/pearlharris/
Review by Pearl Harris, writer, proofreader, translator and editor. Her website is: Pearl Harris 

Review by Jean Collen:

Jan 13, 2016

Fiona Compton has pointed out that the novels in the Malcolm Craig series are partly novels with a key and partly biographical/autobiographical novels. She has written these books under a pen name, presumably because she did not want to write the story as rather sensational fact, but preferred to write it as a mixture of fact interspersed with fiction. Possibly she wrote the Malcolm Craig series in this way so that she would not hurt or embarrass family and friends of the protagonists. I found Love Set to Music most interesting. I imagine that the character of Kate Kyle is Fiona Compton herself, thinly disguised. Neither Kate Kyle nor Malcolm Craig are covered in glory and some might consider their spring/winter relationship unseemly even over fifty years later. They obviously felt deeply for one another and Malcolm Craig’s wife, Marina Dunbar, was not without blame. I look forward to reading the final book in the series and sincerely hope that it will reach a satisfactory conclusion otherwise the emotion generated by the affair which changed the life of Kate Kyle/Fiona Compton radically without bringing her lasting happiness would have been a meaningless waste of time.

Here is a random sample from the book:

Kate – April 1962

After I finished my secretarial course I was working in the cables department of a city bank in Simmonds Street. I was taking lessons in piano and singing and preparing for various exams so I had to get up at the crack of dawn to practise my scales in singing and piano before I went to work. I was exhausted by the end of the day! Liz was on her April school holiday but I was working a five and a half day week in the bank with no sign of any holiday in view. My father had promised that if I did well in the exams he might allow me to leave the bank and study singing and piano full time until I completed my diplomas in both subjects so I was determined to do well no matter how exhausted I was. Becoming a professional musician was far more appealing to me than spending the rest of my life typing out letters and cables in the bank, and working overtime when the Rhodesian Sweep cables arrived and had to be decoded so that the bank could notify all the lucky winners that they had won a lot of money in the sweep.

One day Liz phoned during my lunch hour. She was very excited.

“Malcolm needs a small studio audience for his Edwardian programme tomorrow night and he’s just phoned to ask if I’d like to go. I suppose he’s been in touch with you too, Kate?” she asked.

My heart sank for he hadn’t asked me. I felt a stab of pure jealousy that my friend had been asked to go to the recording and Malcolm hadn’t bothered to ask me.

“No, he hasn’t phoned me,” I replied, barely able to speak for my mouth had dried up completely. “Perhaps he’s not planning on asking me at all.”

Liz was silent for a moment. She had probably assumed that Malcolm would invite me and she must have known that I was feeling very hurt not to have been invited.

“Well, it’s still not too late. Maybe he’ll phone you once you get home,” she said brightly, and then found an excuse to ring off quickly rather than commiserate with me any further. I continued eating the sandwiches my mother had made for my lunch, although I could hardly swallow them because there was a persistent lump in my throat. I did my best to keep a brave face and not let the tears that were welling up in my eyes run down my cheeks.

Malcolm

Marina and I were having a snack lunch in the studio. Eunice always managed to think of something interesting to put in our lunch boxes. As far as I was concerned the lunch break was the best part of our day in the studio. I really was not cut out to teach other people how to sing. I had managed to get out of most of the morning’s lessons by spending time in the office telephoning friends to invite them to the recording the following evening.

“I think I’ve contacted enough people for the recording tomorrow,” I said to Marina.”We don’t want too many in that small studio otherwise the applause will sound like Wembley Stadium at the cup final instead of a few genteel guests in a refined Edwardian drawing room. I had to laugh at Liz. She was so terribly excited about it. She could hardly contain herself!”

“Did you manage to get through to Kate?” asked Marina. “I know it’s sometimes difficult to get through to her at the bank when it’s busy.”

“Kate? I didn’t think of phoning her at all. I stopped phoning when I reached the right number.”

“But you know she and Liz are such great friends now. She’ll be terribly disappointed if you don’t ask her and she finds out that Liz is going. I wouldn’t be surprised if Liz didn’t phone her right away to tell her the exciting news. You know how they both adore you!”

I hadn’t even thought about whether Kate would be disappointed, but I realised that Marina was quite right. Kate would be very hurt indeed if I didn’t invite her to the recording. Despite her reserve, I didn’t need Marina to tell me that she thought a lot of me. She was probably as fond of me as I was of her. Why on earth hadn’t she been the first person I phoned instead of leaving her out altogether?

I looked up her number in the studio diary and made the call. I don’t think I have ever heard anyone happier to hear my voice in years.

“Will it be you and your parents, Kate, or do you want to bring your boyfriend with you too?”

I hoped she didn’t have a boyfriend, but if she did, I’d have to put a good face on it and receive the spotty youth with good grace.

“I haven’t got a boyfriend,” she replied in a small voice. For some reason I was very pleased to hear this. “It’ll just be me and my parents. Thank you so much for asking us, Mr Craig.”

There was a pause and she added, “I thought you had forgotten me.”

“Never, darling,” I lied bluffly. “Marina and I will meet you in the foyer of Broadcast House at half past seven. You won’t be late, will you?”

“No – we’ll be sure to be there on time,” Kate assured me solemnly.

Kate

We were usually pretty casually dressed when we went to rehearsals for the choir. Sometimes Liz was still wearing her blue school uniform if she hadn’t had time to change after some activity at school in the afternoon. We had never seen any of the other broadcasters formally dressed when they arrived at Broadcast House to record their programmes or read the news, although we had heard that BBC news readers had worn evening dress to read the news in the nineteen-thirties – and possibly beyond.

I was glad that Liz and I had dressed smartly for this particular trip to Broadcast House. When we arrived in the brightly lit foyer, there was Malcolm Craig clad in evening dress with a flower in his lapel, while Marina Dunbar wore a low-cut red evening dress, with a mink stole around her shoulders. Their great friend, widower Steve Baxter, a well-known broadcaster on Springbok radio, was obviously going to attend the recording too for he was also formally clad for the occasion although his usual attire for his own broadcasts was a sports jacket and open-necked shirt.

Although she was not taking part in the broadcast Marina was playing hostess to the people Malcolm had assembled for the recording. She ushered us all into the small studio where the recording was to take place and urged everyone to take their seats.

“Keep a seat for me in the front row, won’t you darlings,” she said to Liz and me.

Our parents sat together further back while Liz and I took our seats in the front row on either side of the coveted seat we were saving for Marina, or Miss Dunbar as I still called her. We were beside ourselves with excitement. Malcolm seated himself at a small table to the right of us, ready to begin the recording when he received the nod from the controllers who were seated in the enclosed glass booth at the back of the studio. He took a sip from the glass in front of him and glanced around at the audience.

Liz’s father asked in joking tones, “What’s that you’re drinking, Malcolm?”

“Water,” he replied dryly!

There was no further repartee between them after that exchange. Malcolm told us to clap politely after the items and talk in undertones to each other to create the atmosphere of a refined Edwardian drawing room. Although most of the audience applauded after the violinist and soprano had finished performing, it was only Marina who chatted to us brightly about the performers, and Liz and I did our best to respond with the necessary degree of ladylike decorum. For some reason everyone else seemed overwhelmed by the occasion and uttered not a word.

Malcolm got up from his chair in the corner and walked over to a spot directly in front of us to sing two ballads. Of course I had heard some of his recordings on the radio and I had heard his voice in the studio when he was showing me or one of the other pupils how to sing something properly. I had even heard him singing the Messiah when I was 13, but to experience him singing right in front of me was something I would never forget. Oh, Dry Those Tears and Parted – both sad Edwardian ballads, which he sang in his beautiful voice with all the feeling he could muster. I was completely mesmerised! I almost forgot that I had to chat politely with Marina and Liz after he stopped singing.

At the end of the recording everyone surged around him, congratulating him on his performance. Liz and I were the last in a long line of his admirers.

Malcolm asked us jokingly, “Well, was I all right?”

“All right? You were brilliant, Malcolm!” said Liz with all the confidence of youth.

“I’m glad you approve,” smiled Malcolm. “Perhaps you’ll come to some of the other recordings if you enjoyed this one.”

We nodded eagerly. I certainly couldn’t wait for the next time!

As we left the studio, I caught sight of Marina chatting to Steve Baxter while Malcolm was having a serious discussion with the accompanist. I thought I should say goodbye to her before we left, but I had the impression that she was not pleased that I had interrupted her intimate conversation with Steve Baxter.

“I’m so glad I was able to attend the recording,” I said. “Mr Craig was wonderful.”

“Yes, darling. We’re both very proud of him, aren’t we?” she replied in mocking tones, patting me on my arm. My face grew hot with embarrassment. and I suddenly felt deflated and childish. I realised then that I would be well advised not to offer such fulsome praise in future! Marina and Steve must have thought me very young and gauche.

After that magical evening it was difficult to settle down to sleep and it was a particularly dull thud that I had to force myself awake early in the morning to be in time to catch my regular bus with the other workers on their way to spend all day in shops and offices in the city.

Several months later, I did my music exams in piano and singing. Liz and an Afrikaans girl called Sonette du Preez, another pupil of Malcolm and Marina’s did their exams at the same time and Marina accompanied us all. Liz and I were suitably impressed by Sonette’s beautiful soprano voice when we heard her singing through the door of the the exam room. We decided that she had a much better voice than either of us and would probably do brilliantly in the exam

On Friday I went up to the studio apprehensively, wondering whether the exam results might have arrived. Malcolm answered the door and said heartily:

“I believe you sang very well on Tuesday, my gel!”

I looked at him intensely and said, “No, I was absolutely awful.”

“How do you think you did?”

“I’ve probably failed,” I replied with conviction.

He gave a little chuckle and marched back into the studio, leaving me to wait in the kitchen till Sonette finished her lesson. He called me in excitedly and handed me my card. I had obtained honours for Grade 8. I always expected the worst so I was always surprised if I did well. When I heard that Sonette with her brilliant voice had only managed 72 per cent for Grade 5, a mere pass, I felt disproportionately pleased, while congratulating her. Liz had passed Grade 6 with 72 per cent also. Marina and Malcolm seemed delighted with my results, and for most of that lesson, we drank tea and made firm plans for my diploma. Marina was wearing a black derby style hat and looked particularly striking in it. We all got on so well together that day.

I got honours for the piano exam too. My father was suitably impressed and agreed that I could stop working in the bank soon and study music on a full time basis.

Fiona Compton

©

26 August 2015.

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JUST THE ECHO OF A SIGH (Taster)

Just the Echo of a Sigh, the first novel in the Malcolm Craig series by Fiona Compton.
Just the Echo of a Sigh, the first novel in the Malcolm Craig series by Fiona Compton.

Book available as a paperback and epub digital book at: Fiona’s Store – Fiction with a Musical Theme

Taster

PROLOGUE

FELICITY GREGORY

“Your tiny hand is frozen; let me warm it into mine…”

Malcolm Craig cast his eyes over the first few rows of the audience in St Mary’s Church Hall.  There were few signs of the latest liberated fashions of the twenties amongst the women in this staid, largely middle-aged crowd. Even most of the young women there were clad in the fashions and sombre colours of the previous decade. Not many flappers, with bobbed hair and close-fitting cloche hats were to be found in this conservative crowd. Many of those in the audience were still mourning the loss of their loved ones who had died in the Great War or had come home physically or mentally maimed. Others had succumbed to the Spanish ‘flu pandemic at the end of the decade. The only vanity the women displayed were cumbersome ornate hats which blocked the view of the stage to those seated behind them.

He was reaching the climax of the aria from La Bohème where his full attention should have been on the delicate high note at the end of the aria, when he caught sight of Felicity at last. She was further back than he had expected, seated demurely between her stern father and her scrawny twittery mother. Her two younger brothers completed the Gregory family party who were present at St Mary’s especially to hear Felicity’s young man singing.

Malcolm was going to London the following week to begin rehearsals for the new season of the touring Kings Opera Company. Despite his outstanding voice, his singing would be confined to the chorus, with only the occasional small role to fulfil, and although he would be given leading parts to understudy it was unlikely that many of the principals would be absent and give him a chance to stand in for them.

He took the last note of the aria in a delicate falsetto, and the audience erupted into cheers for Mr and Mrs Craig’s’ gifted son. He acknowledged the applause gracefully and drew his accompanist, the old Church organist and choirmaster, who had known Malcolm since his early days as a mellifluous boy alto, forward to receive his share of appreciation for the performance. He looked directly at Felicity and was gratified to see that she was applauding wildly. With the lights up, he saw that her face was flushed and her eyes were shining. She was aglow with the unaccustomed excitement of the occasion. All this applause was for her boyfriend who had acquitted himself beyond everyone’s expectations in his first solo recital.

Tea would be served to the audience after the concert, as it was on every occasion. The vicar believed that half the people present came to enjoy the liberal tea rather than because they were really interested in the event itself. Already stalwarts of the Mothers’ Union were gathering in the hall kitchen, competing with the applause as they clattered cups and saucers into position on the long trestle tables. The last thing Malcolm wanted to do after his recital was to make polite conversation with his large family and Felicity and her parents over a cup of weak lukewarm tea and a slice of seed cake. He wanted Felicity all to himself, to hold her tightly in his arms and see her rejoice in his good fortune. But he knew he would have to break the news of his change of career to them before he could relax and enjoy the success of the evening. He joined his parents and his older brothers and sisters, as they waited for tea to be served. Already he was feeling far more nervous about the ordeal to follow than he had been about giving the recital.

“That was wonderful, Malcolm,” said his mother proudly. ‘You’re as good as a real professional singer now. It was so good of you to sing for your old friends at St Mary’s and help the vicar to raise money for the Organ Fund.”

His father growled in agreement and his older sisters and brothers crowded round him, eager to be associated with their talented and attractive young brother, who, at the age of twenty, towered above his parents and siblings.

“Glad you all enjoyed it,” he replied nonchalantly. “But I could certainly do with more than a cup of tea after that lot! I’m exhausted!”

The vicar creaked up the stairs to the hall stage during the tea. He called authoritatively for silence so that he might give his prepared vote of thanks to Malcolm. He announced triumphantly that the Church had raised a considerable amount towards the Organ Fund from the proceeds of the concert. Gloved hands applauded warmly, if mutely, and Malcolm smiled modestly, silently acknowledging the gratitude of the congregation.

Some of Malcolm’s old school mates approached him diffidently. When they were younger they had been his boon companions, cheering themselves hoarse in support of the local football team, but now Malcolm’s burgeoning gift set him apart from them, although he himself had not changed for he had always been able to sing. Since he had begun serving articles in a Birmingham firm of accountants, studying singing in his spare time and singing tenor solos for various choral societies, he had not had time to go to football matches any more. He had also been advised that he could ruin his voice if he cheered on his team with abandon every week.

He reached Felicity at last, relieved to see that her parents were momentarily away from her, doing their duty by mingling with their middle-aged, middle class companions.

“That was beautiful, Malcolm,” Felicity whispered, as he reached for her hand, warm through her glove, quite unlike the tiny hand of his recent aria. “My stomach was turning over with excitement when I listened to you. Were you singing just for me?”

“Always for you, darling,” he replied hoarsely.

Her red hair shone like a bright cap on her well-shaped head. She looked pretty, pert and modern with her new hairstyle, but Malcolm regretted the loss of her unruly curls which she used to pin up with pretty tortoiseshell clasps. On the few occasions they had managed to be alone together he had delighted in freeing her hair from the clasps and running his hands through her shining luxuriant curls as he held her close…

This book is available at Fiona’s Store as a paperback or as an epub ebook.

FIONA COMPTON’S FICTION

Fiona Compton is the pen name for Jean Collen’s fiction writing. I have published 5 fiction books on Lulu.com as paper backs and as epub digital books.

I Can’t Forget You was my first novel, originally published in 2010.

I Can't Forget You by Fiona Compton
I Can’t Forget You by Fiona Compton

Pearl Harris, translator, writer and proofreader, wrote the following review:

Aug 21, 2010

Once I started reading Fiona Compton’s romantic novel, I could not put it down. I soon became involved in the emotions and events of the main characters’ lives. Derek Bailey attracts females and trouble wherever he goes, due to his charisma and talent. How the women in his life deal with subsequent events must touch a chord in the heart of every female reader who has ever fallen prey to the charms of a philanderer. The writing style is flowing and the dialogue authentic. Place descriptions set the scene firmly in 20th-century Britain. I particularly enjoyed the Scottish dialect (the author having been born in Scotland, this too is genuine!)and the descriptions of daily life in London. This is no run-of-the-mill romantic novel. Due to the author’s musical knowledge, “I can’t forget you” has a depth and authenticity lacking in most novels of this genre. You will not want to put this book down before discovering what the final outcome of the hero’s romantic entanglements is to be.

At the same time, I published a collection of short stories – The Song is Ended and Other Stories. 

The Song is Ended and other stories by Fiona Compton
The Song is Ended and other stories by Fiona Compton

Here are two of the reviews:

By mjpotenza

Any fan of short stories will enjoy this selection of entertaining tales by Fiona Compton. The author presents women’s viewpoints, emotions, and experiences accurately and uniquely. The women characters are interesting, complex, and sympathetic (the men are mostly cads). One wonders how much is autobiographical. The writing is descriptive and precise. The style flows nicely, making for easy and pleasant reading. The Wedding Singer, Miss Stratton Disappears, and The Sunset Gleams, to name a few, all have the right combination of humour and sadness. In short, these well written stories are very enjoyable.

By Pearl Harris

10-Sep-2011

Each short story in this collection is refreshingly different and will touch a chord in the heart of most female readers. All the characters are masterfully and realistically portrayed. Many of the incidents depicted are those which affect all women at various times in their lives and with which the reader can readily empathise. Some bring a chuckle and a feeling of optimism, others a feeling of sadness. All left a lasting impression on me. Fiona Compton’s voice is a charming mix, evidence of her Scottish, South African and musical roots. These stories particularly appeal to me as an expatriate South African, as many of them richly evoke the South African lifestyle. However, all are timeless in their own right and certainly worth reading by both women and men, whatever their nationality.

I have published three novels in the Malcolm Craig series and hope to publish two more to complete the series.The first novel in the series is called Just the Echo of a Sigh

It was published at the end of 2013.

Just the Echo of a Sigh, the first novel in the Malcolm Craig series by Fiona Compton.
Just the Echo of a Sigh, the first novel in the Malcolm Craig series by Fiona Compton.

The second novel in this series about Malcolm Craig is called Faint Harmony

Faint Harmony, second novel in the Malcolm Craig series, by Fiona Compton.
Faint Harmony, second novel in the Malcolm Craig series, by Fiona Compton.

I have recently published the third novel in the series, entitled Love Set to Music

Love Set to Music, the third novel in the Malcolm Craig series, by Fiona Compton
Love Set to Music, the third novel in the Malcolm Craig series, by Fiona Compton

All the books mentioned in this post are published in paperback and epub format. Have a look at my storefront on Lulu at Fiona’s Store – fiction with a musical theme

I have created a “like” page on Facebook at: Fiona Compton

Fiona Compton – September 2015.