The Brahms Deception

Music scholar Frederica Bannister is thrilled when she beats her bitter rival, Kristian North, for the chance to be transferred back to 1861 Tuscany to observe firsthand the brilliant Johannes Brahms. Frederica will not only get to see Brahms in his prime; she’ll also try to solve a mystery that has baffled music experts for years.

But once in Tuscany, Frederica’s grip on reality quickly unravels. She instantly falls under Brahms’ spell-and finds herself envious of his secret paramour, the beautiful, celebrated concert pianist Clara Schumann. In a single move, Frederica makes a bold and shocking decision that changes everything…

When Frederica fails to return home, it is Kristian North who is sent back in time to Tuscany to find her. There, Kristian discovers that Frederica indeed holds the key to unraveling Brahms’ greatest secret. But now, Frederica has a dark secret of her own—one that puts everyone around her in devastating peril…


“Marley’s second excursion into musical history (after 2010’s Mozart’s Blood) plays what-if with the relationship between Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms, 14 years Schumann’s junior. Musicologists from our own near future compete for the opportunity to ‘transfer’ back in time and observe their study subjects firsthand for eight hours. Unattractive, frustrated Frederica Bannister gets her wealthy father to pull a few strings, undergoes the transfer—and does not return. Kristian North, enraged at losing the chance to observe Brahms, feels vindicated when the transfer scientists call him in to go after Frederica. The writing is competent and well paced, and Kristian is a sympathetic, heroic figure.”

—Publishers Weekly

Editor’s Choice
“This finely researched tale speculates on Brahms and Schumann’s relationship. The characters, setting and plot convince the reader of the veracity of the unfolding story. Unexpected plots and subplots and memorable characters keep the reader hooked from the opening sentence.
The Brahms Deception is one of the best books I have read in long time, and I recommend it very highly. I am looking forward to reading Mozart’s Blood, Marley’s previous novel.”

—Monica E. Spence, Historical Novels Review

4 1/2 Stars
“Combines time travel, romance, historical figures, and a thrilling plot to captivate readers from beginning to end. Marley’s knack for combining historical intrigue and romance will keep readers with a love for books like Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife and A.S. Byatt’s Possession on the edge of their seats.”

—Romantic Times

The Brahms Deception is the follow-up to Louise Marley’s Mozart’s Blood. (I wrote about this novel here, and the new book has a few glancing references to its protagonist, Octavia Voss, but the ties are light — it’s not a sequel.) It is a book that will put readers in mind of A.S. Byatt’s unforgettable 1990 Booker Prize Winner, Possession: A Romance. Both novels, after all, depict academics who discover a secret love affair between the heroes who’ve become the raison d’etre of their careers. Both have intertwined love stories that play out in the past and present.

In Possession, Byatt weaves her literary lovers — Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte — from whole cloth, while making it seem impossible that they aren’t part of the English literary canon. She achieves this by creating portions of their poetry and building a vividly-evoked culture of scholarship around the two. Marley is writing about music, not poetry, and she chooses real composers, authors of music that is woven deeply into the tapestry of Western culture. The fictional romance between Schumann and Brahms is stitched into a small gap within their well-documented personal histories. It is a classic alternate-history technique, well-conceived and carefully executed.

—Alyx Dellamonica,

I loved the book and immediately wished there was a sequel. I tried to figure out the twists and turns, but more often than not I guessed wrong. I really like the way that Marley handled many of the aspects of time travel, including the always troubling issue of how a change in the past ripples forward into the future.

You could say this is a suspense novel, a romance novel, or a novel about music. Whichever you enjoy, there’s a good chance you’ll like The Brahms Deception.