Heartstrings in B-flat Minor

Scott Johnson

Publisher: iUniverse Pages: 194 Price: (paperback) $13.99 ISBN: 9781532024849 Reviewed: January, 2018 Author Website: Visit »

In this dark tale, Sheryl Taylor spirals out of control as her public and private personas can no longer peacefully co-exist in the face of mounting troubles.

Sheryl, a competent and admired tour leader, is a rising star at the Kearns Travel Company. However, when her paths cross with con man Sterling Jackson, she falls in love with the dashing man, ignoring warning signs that all isn’t as it seems. Sterling, who pretends to be a doctor, uses hypnosis to play mind games with Sheryl – derailing her career ambitions and bilking her out of every cent – until she stands at the precipice of total ruin. Her family intervenes, but the question remains: Will Sheryl continue her downward trajectory or stand tall against her charismatic boyfriend?

The book is an easy read with generally proficient writing and a strong sense of place as readers follow the characters to Jamaica, Egypt and Chicago. However, the author often strains the bounds of credibility, glossing over some things and avoiding others.

For Sterling to keep Sheryl under control, for example, he implants a “trigger” in her mind that will cause her to do his bidding when she hears certain words. Sheryl wouldn’t be the first woman to be hoodwinked in the name of love, so why resort to such a cheap contrivance? Likewise, Johnson veers between the past and the present in a vague way that ignores the advent of any sort of modern technology. The denouement appears to be several months after Sheryl escapes the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt in 2011, yet no one thinks about using a computer to expose Sterling in his charade.     

Most readers will hurtle towards the end waiting for Sterling to get his comeuppance, but the author adds a twist that changes everything. Some will find this twist disappointing, while for others, it will be a satisfying conclusion to a story that sadly suggests that life isn’t always fair.

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