A Symphony of Echoes by Cecilia Ryan – 4 Stars
History professor Eric Spears knows the subject he teaches is one that students don’t pursue because they want to; most of them endure it because they have to in order to fulfill credits to earn a degree. It’s that fact, among others, which makes Eric see Arthur, a young man who clearly doesn’t belong in his classroom, in a very different light.
Professor Spears also understands there’s an invisible line between students and teachers that he’s toeing very precariously where Arthur is concerned, but Arthur isn’t technically a student, you see, so maybe those unspoken rules don’t really apply. Arthur sits in Eric’s class, absorbing every word, every lecture, like a sponge because, thus far, Eric is the only professor who hasn’t kicked Arthur out for trespassing where he doesn’t belong.
As a teacher, Arthur’s enthusiasm for learning speaks to Eric on a visceral level. But it’s Arthur’s appearance—the threadbare clothing, the obvious hunger, the persistent cough—that calls to Eric’s compassion. And it’s that compassion that Eric must guard carefully, not allow it to slip over into pity, because Arthur is like a feral animal in some ways, who won’t accept anything handed to him lest it feel like charity. Eric must tread very carefully if he wants to keep Arthur coming back to his classroom.
At forty-seven years old, Eric has a world of experience that should put him leagues ahead of nineteen year old Arthur, but what Arthur lacks in years, he makes up for in his wisdom. Their divergent backgrounds—the privileged son of a lord, and the son of a prostitute whose education has been earned in the school of hard knocks, but who is still incredibly innocent—shouldn’t have much in common, but sometimes all it takes is a willingness to give and the need to earn what’s offered to draw two very different people together.
An attempt at blackmail from one of Eric’s students provides for a bit of angst to the plot, but overall, A Symphony of Echoes is a story that should be enjoyed for its quiet and gentle moments. This is Arthur’s coming-of-age story and Eric’s discovery that happiness and fulfillment doesn’t come with an age requirement. There’s a restrained dignity to this story that reminded me good fiction doesn’t always have to be about turmoil and upheaval. Sometimes it can simply be about affection and admiration and acceptance, which is what this book does well.
Cecelia Ryan has written a May/December romance that should appeal to readers who love a love story, pure and simple. It’s restrained and charming and peopled with characters that define unconditional love and friendship.