Playing by Heart

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 26 Oct 2017

Member Reviews

This is a beautiful historical fiction, taking place in 18th century Milan. 
It centers around the strong faith of two sisters, Emilia and Maria, their extraordinary talents and their struggles to keep their freedom in a male-dominated world.
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I didn't like this book as it was a little too simple for me.
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I really loved this book. It's hard for me to like historical fiction sometimes, but what got me was the setting and culture. There's something romantic about Italy in the 18th century. It's a completely different culture both in values and social norms. This reminded me a little bit of Donna Jo Napoli's Daughter of Venice. There are gender stereotypes, but it's reflective of the culture and society at the time. I liked Emilia's strong desire to play music. The fact that I play as well only makes me more sympathetic and empathetic to her character. Those are the kinds of stories I really enjoy. This is such an underrated story that needs more readers.  I don't know much about the events in Italy at the time, but it was believable enough and I really enjoyed the detail Great read!
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Playing by Heart is the beautiful story of two sisters Emilia and Maria. Set in a spot on historical setting in Milan it's an excellent read. Tackling issues of trying to follow what they feel their future should be with their father's wishes, these sisters will grab readers attention right away. It was an excellent, well crafted story that I'd love to read again.
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Good read .     Finished in a few days. 
Enjoyed it.
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Even though this is an arc all opinions are my own. This was a sweet historical romance that had me crying from the start. Our main character Emilia wants to do nothing more than to fall in love and carry on with her music. But as the 2nd child, this is not possible and she seems to be headed to become a nun. She then loses someone close and writes a piece of music that turns everyone’s head and they sit and finally notice her talent. She falls in love and discovers herself. Would recommend for all those who love a good historical book with a side of romance.
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Unable to review as the wrong book is being delivered to my kindle. 
Each time I send Playing by Heart I receive Kindred Spirits.
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This book is based on a true story about two talented Italian sisters who lived in the 1700s. Emilia is an accomplished musician who also becomes a well known composer, and Maria is proficient in seven languages and various areas of academia. Maria desires to enter a convent, and Emilia wants to marry a young violinist. Unfortunately, in that time the father decided what each daughter would do for her future, and most marriages were arranged. Can Emilia and Maria attain their desires, or will they be forced to make sacrifices according to their father's commands?
I really enjoyed this book, and I couldn't put it down until I found out what happened to the girls. The character development was well done, and while I was reading I felt like I was actually in Italy in the 1730s. I loved that this novel was primarily about classical music - no one writes about music much anymore unless they use pop or rock. I love historical fiction in general, but I thought this book was very well done. I appreciated the fact that though Catholicism is addressed, it is done in a historical manner. The book is a clean read as well. I definitely recommend this book!
I received an eARC from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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My feelings about Playing by Heart ended up being pretty mixed because it didn't start out very well, the writing felt weirdly clunky (lots of short sentences make a weird rhythm) and I didn't like Emilia that much, but the book ended up growing on me. I think the book took a turn for the better when Emilia's mother died and left the family dealing with that and Emilia starts thinking about something other than wanting to get married and whining about being in her sister's shadow and even their dad becomes maybe a bit more human. Not gonna lie, the mother's death actually made me cry too.
I expected this book to be more romance focused, but that part turned out to be a bit more of a side plot and the more important thing was actually Emilia and Maria's relationship. It was nice to see Emilia slowly get over her jealousy towards her older sister and realize she actually had talents of her own. She made some really unselfish decisions in order to protect Maria too.
Emilia's crush on Antonio develops a little too fast in my opinion, she literally decides in like two seconds that hey actually I like this guy instead of hating him. At least the original dislike comes more from rivalry since they're both musicians rather than Antonio actually being a douche or something. He's just an awkward boy.
The Author's notes at the end reveal that Maria and Emilia are actually based on historical siblings with the exact same skillsets that they have in the book (languages and science for Maria, music and composing for Emilia), and I thought that was pretty cool. Luckily the book sisters achieve their dreams in a nicer way than their real life counterparts who actually just waited for their father to drop dead before they got to do the things they wanted in life. Book father was a bit easier to persuade, but that required a whole lot of good luck too. I really can't imagine living in a world where girls needed to ask for their father's or husband's permission to do basically anything.
Despite the rocky start Playing by Heart left me with happy feels in the end, so it wasn't a bad introduction to YA historical fiction to me. It had a lot of nice female characters (even a stepmother that's actually a good person!) which is always great and it was a pretty easy quick read once I got into it properly.
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Well, this was a surprise. I never thought I will be able to love historical romances again, or even think of it as anything remotely touching. But this was the right one for me.

I mean, Emilia wants to be married and not bound to a convent. She wants more than some Tom, Dick or Harry. And she is willing to go ways for it, to ensure that she has a stable place in life and nothing to worry about.

What made me really care about her is her willingness and flaws, she can be envious. She is envious, but when things really comes down to choices she will still place her sisters above all else. And she will still sacrifice herself for her family, and when she does love I really like her. I guess it her was strength and the want to be able to control her life and not just leave it to chance, even if it means a lot of time spent talking to people. Finding plans. But you know what, this is the kind I really want to read about more. Emilia works for her own future, she may love someone beneath her but she never gives up hope of ever seeing them together.

As for all the women, I really like Adrianna. I mean, she is a great mother even though she is more like their sister instead. Another note is that she isn't what we always see, she is sensitive and does quite a bit to help Emilia and Maria. Especially knowing them well enough. As for Maria, I guess she had fell a little flat apart from her single minded devotion to God but never really doing much to suggest to her father that going to a convent was for her. But she did do what she did for god when she learned that she could not become a nun. But that's about it.

As for Antonio Bellini, I just really like him. He may be a musician, but he does have some past which becomes relevant. It is rather understandable why he will want to do that. And why he doesn't want the title, it does make me understand him very well. And I just really like a guy who won't compromise himself too much, and is well aware of his own standing. Not to mention, willing to take time to gather a fortune because he loves Emilia and goes through all the ways of the time and respecting her.

As for the ending, it was what I did expect of such a book. And it really made me like them, perhaps it was just the main characters who really clicked with me and the writing which worked so well for me to get into their heads. And really, I will fall in love with a girl who takes an active part in her life rather than just hoping for her wishes to come true.
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I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I had never yet read about the Milan nobility. Loved the devotion found within the family and the string focus on education.  Finding it was based off of true characters was just an added bonus
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Well written, this book will keep you wondering what will happen to the main characters, and hoping for a happy ending.
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Emilia loves music, and she's worked hard to develop her skill. She hopes that by excelling her Father will finally recognize her use and not send her to a convent. Will she have to sacrifice her heart to save her sister?

I found it fascinating that Emilia and Maria are based on two sisters from history.  Emilia seemed true to life, especially in her dealings with her sister. That sense of rivalry, in wanting to shine more than her older sister, was completely understandable. They behaved like sisters, and I really liked that. Emilia's drive to perfect her talent was fun to watch.

There are supernatural aspects to the story, which did lower how much I enjoyed the story. I also wasn't completely sold on the romance. The 'rivalry' between Emilia and Antonio was more like a footnote in the story and could have been removed completely without a change to the story. The happy ending came across as too coincidental. 

For readers who enjoy sibling interactions and a strong female lead working for what she wants, they won't go wrong with this one.
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I was highly intrigued by this book, the blurb although tells you pretty much what to expect captured my attention. I was so happy when I got it, but not long into the book, I realised that it would be so hard for me to read and get into the story. For one the writing is so two dimensional, and I had to force myself to continue reading rather than not giving up. Also, the story fell into the cliche trap so often and didn't move me; I couldn't connect with the story or the characters which make for a bland read.
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