Review: Louder than Love by Jessica Topper

Posted: March 26, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

This review was originally posted at West of Mars. It is being posted here, at its new permanent home.

Everyone, it seemed, was talking about Jessica Topper’s Louder Than Love coming into Rocktober 2013. There were a lot of raves about it—along with some criticisms, as well. Those balanced reviews made it totally irresistible, and when author Topper got in touch with me, I was over the moon.

That was before I started reading, even, and I’m pleased to say the book lives up to the hype. I loved Louder than Love. Yes, the beginning is slowed by too much backstory—which I told Jessica I’d have beaten out of her if we’d worked together before she sent it to her editor (and you should have seen my face when I realized who the acquiring editor at her publisher is, too. Let’s just say she’s someone who edits some of my other friends and acquaintances, and I hold her in very high esteem).

The story is that of Katrina Lewis, a widow who’s been grieving for her husband for long, it’s become a part of her. Pete died years ago, but she’s still trying to put her life together when we meet her. She’s got a young daughter, and it’s in her quest to put together a program for this daughter—and the other kids at the library Tree volunteers with—that she meets obscure singer Adrian Graves.

Blond, tattooed, and sexy as anything, he’s also drunk when he shows up for the kiddie program, and Tree’s not really sure what she’s gotten herself into.

All’s not what it seems, and that’s the jist of the story. Adrian and Tree—Kat, he calls her—navigate her friends, his past … and finally, they reach the point where Kat has to acknowledge her past and make the overdue commitment to move forward to a new life, one without her precious Pete. Can she, or can’t she? That’s what the book ultimately hinges on.

At its heart, Louder than Love is a romance, so right there, you know how it’ll end. But what is worth mentioning—and what makes the book so darn good—is that beyond the slow, backstory-filled start, this is a fabulously crafted book. I can’t tell you how many times I set it down and thought about the structure, the pacing, the clever building of the characters.

Now, you can counter by saying Adrian’s past is hardly a shocker. Or that the only unexpected twist to the storyline is that he doesn’t relapse into heroin use. Yeah, I’d agree with both those statements.

But I’ll also argue that some of the best books work the formula in such a way that you don’t really realize you’re reading formula until you think back over what you’ve read. That’s the mark of a good writer, one who sweeps you along in the story, who creates characters who you wish were real, who makes you turn off your critical thinking skills and instead react emotionally.

I can’t wait to see more from Topper. And I have to confess that I hope her invite for me to join her at a Buffalo RWA meeting holds true. That would be one heck of a fun day, and I suspect I’d learn just as much as the people I’ve been casually asked to present to.

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