Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

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It’s difficult to take a cast of unlikeable characters and make the reader care about them. Not all readers are willing to rise to the challenge, and that’s okay. The payout for those of us who are is bigger somehow.

Lisa Marie Perry has a cast of some tough characters. All of them are morally deficient in one way or another; all of them have seriously fatal flaws. In fact, it’s hard to believe this was published by one of the big houses, but it was. Good for them.

The set-up is pretty fascinating: the central player here isn’t a person so much as a record label. And we can argue the usefulness and relevance of record labels until the Spotify Premium’s up for renewal, but that’s not what Sin For Me is about. It’s about the people who used to control it (Dante and Delilah) and the people who currently do (Emma, Joshua, and Chelsea)—and the betrayals and baggage that remain as Delilah wants her family’s heritage back.

That’s the big story arc. There’s also a smaller one, in that it’s about the relationship between Dante and Chelsea. There was a betrayal between them as well, and it was part of the bigger betrayal that led to the leadership change at Devil’s Music. But it’s that betrayal between Dante and Chelsea that’s just as hard, if not harder, to get past. Dante copes by leaving town and starting life at the farthest point he can get to from the glitz and glamour of the record business. Chelsea, though, isn’t so lucky. She’s stuck in the executive offices, busy self-destructing and stuck in the guilt and anger of what she and Dante did to each other, surrounded by the constant reminders of him and the family legacy that she took from him.

This is enough for a single book, sure, but there’s a couple more subplots, as well: Delilah wants to make a play to get her label back and decides to use Dante to do it; one of the label’s artists is angry and turns first rogue and then violent; and a new talent comes into the fold. And, too, there’s something going on between married Emma and Joshua, something Chelsea doesn’t understand—and neither does the audience.

It’s almost too much, except there’s something soap opera-esque going on here, and the book certainly reads well. I found I had to read in small doses because the characters are so morally vapid, I’d have to resurface just to recalibrate myself. But at the same time, it was hard to put down (yes, it’s true: the famous editor loves trashy, soap opera-esque books as much as she loves everything else her clients throw at her. Maybe more? I’m not telling!).

This, friends, is the sign of a good book. It’s a train wreck you can’t look away from, a delicious taste of something forbidden. But best of all, the book itself isn’t a train wreck. It’s well crafted and constructed, the characters are beautifully drawn, and it’s well written. The various strands of the plot are well cared for in Perry’s experienced hands, and wow, does she do a great job with it.

But if there’s one area where the book isn’t as strong, it’s in the descriptions. I wanted a better view of what these people wear—telling me the sandals are diamond-studded doesn’t really show me much—as well as how this old house has become a record label, with stairs and offices and… just how does this place lay out and work? It was hard to visualize and I had a hard time making sense of what was where.

After all the rich plotting that happens here, I really missed the rich descriptions to go with the lushness of the characters. Here’s one book that demands more than just a broad brushstroke of description. It needs to breathe the way the rest of the story does.

Even before the cliffhanger ending—I hesitate to call it a cliffhanger because it doesn’t leave us on our toes at the edge of the world so much as it merely stops, the last page gets turned and you look up and wonder where the hell the rest of it is—I was hooked on this series. Morally absent or not, I’m dying to know what comes next for our salacious crew, and how they solve the problems that have been laid out in this first volume of The Devil’s Music.
October, when the second book is released, can’t come soon enough.

*Copy from NetGalley, and thanks for it! Can’t wait for #2*

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I’ve been turned into a Cecilia Tan fangirl, and let me tell how excited I was when Susan let me know that Hard Rhythm, the third in Tan’s Secrets of a Rock Star series, was on its way to me. Whee!

Turns out, this one is the story of one of Ricki and Gwen’s employees, Madison. She hooks up with a member of Axel and Mal’s band, Chino. He’s the drummer.

Like I said in my other reviews of the earlier books, I don’t see a lot of rocker in Chino. He’s very much an everyman, and that is disappointing. In fact, we see so little of Chino’s rocker side that I hesitate to call this Rock Fiction.

I gotta admit, of the three books in the series, this is my least favorite. The guys—Axel, Mal, and now Chino—aren’t quite distinctive enough, and their personalities are all sorta blending together. They’re dudes in bands and they’re all doms – how’s that affect your band dynamics there, guys? – and they support their successful women… but what sets them apart from each other? I need more.

The other thing that totally squicks me out is the Daddy-baby stuff. Ugh. Age play just isn’t my catnip.

A few other things and man, I hate to rip on Cecilia, but… this one just didn’t hit the mark. The ending felt rushed and the situation with Chino’s family was too simple, too fast. There was real meat in that subplot, and I really wanted to see more of the struggles and the intricacies and all of it. It came on too slow, resolved too easy, and just wasn’t satisfying. Same for the subplot that occupies Ricki and Gwen, and I’m not going to spoil that except to say what I just did: came on too slow, resolved too easy, and just wasn’t satisfying.

So I dunno. This one didn’t hit the mark. It felt rushed, and almost scattered. Like, what’s really the story here? Is it really Chino and Maddie? If so, focus on that. Or is it Chino and his family? If so, focus on THAT. I’d dig both stories, separately, and in fact, Chino’s family’s story could be some really positive, helpful fiction if Cecilia would develop all that stuff out. It’s important stuff and could really help others. I want that for her, to write something really ground-breaking.

I’m writing this one off as a mis-step in an otherwise really awesome series. I love the first two in this series, and I love how Cecilia makes me bring new eyes to sex dungeons and submission and what it all means. She’s still writing incredible scenes and still teaching me new things and sometimes, it can be hard to expand your world in all directions at once. Cecilia’s not the first author who’s struggled with that as I watched. She probably won’t be the last. But she’s one I’m hoping gets it under control ASAP. And, of course, if she needs help, Susan’s just an e-mail away.

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Here’s the thing about Rock Fiction: if you don’t get the details right, you pretty much shoot yourself in the foot. The world building here matters because those of us in the know, those of us with industry background, will call you out.

And that’s the fatal problem with The Backstage Pass: The Complete Series (read as a box set and thanks to NetGalley for the chance to read it). The details of a touring band are so far off, it’s impossible to suspend disbelief for even a minute.

First off, I’ve never heard of any tour naming their tour busses. I even checked with a number of friends who currently have their hands in tours. Nope. That’s a new one.

The opening act is its own thing. It doesn’t travel as part of the band’s entourage. The headliner doesn’t pick up the expense of the opening act. Touring with a headliner is a privilege; why would the headliner pick up an expense they don’t need to? Profit margins on the road are slim enough as it is.

Band and crew doesn’t eat together. Not as one big happy family, anyway. There may be some overlap, but the two do such different jobs that… yeah, no. Besides, a band as big as this boy band is supposed to be is going to eat very differently than the crew. There are also no dressing room riders anywhere.

The authors of this series need to learn a thing or three about what a bunk in a tour bus really is. Sit up? Comfortable space for two? At first, I thought there were multiple busses, each with a bedroom in the back. It was the only explanation for how these so-called bunks would work.

I about threw my e-reader across the room when Ryder and his love interest spent the night at the arena, in their private dressing room. I still can’t get my brain around that. Spending the night in the arena?

Seriously. That one, right there, did it. Any authority the authors had flew out the window. You’re a headlining act and won’t extend the cost for a hotel room, especially when you do it at other times? Let me rephrase: you’re the headlining act.

Beyond the fact that spending the night in the bowels of an arena is creepy as hell, it’s crossed so far into fantasy that my brain keeps exploding, the more I think about it.

The worst part is that it kept going. We’re supposed to buy that the GED tutor—who herself is a teenager, which again stretches credibility—has this amazing voice and magically becomes an opening act, with no record, no label, no fan base, no manager, not even a demo?

And why does this tour feel like a dumping ground for teenage girls in sundresses who can’t be at home for the summer?

Then the daughter of the bodyguard gets stood up by her band member sorta-boyfriend and instead of reaching out to her father, who is with the band, just assumes the worst and runs away. Yeah. Real smart there, kid. And how about the fact that we never once see the father be fatherly? And then we learn that no, he’s the biggest victim in the family drama that’s kept him from being a good father, but he still doesn’t do a thing to try to fix his relationship with his daughter by, you know, trying to get to know her. Instead, all he does is issue edicts about how she’s not allowed to do this or that.

And, of course, the biggest signal of all: tour manager and manager are two entirely different jobs, and they don’t overlap for a very good reason. When I see that in Rock Fiction, I know right off that we’re dealing with someone who hasn’t taken the time to learn what needs to be learned. In this series, the manager is of course a slimy loser jerk. While there’s a reason the roadie nickname for tour manager is asshole, that doesn’t mean how the tour manager acts toward the band. It means how the tour manager acts on behalf of the band. At things like settlement after a show. Because, you know, the band is essentially his employer. And take note of essentially there. It’s a lot more nuanced than that.

Add in bad editing, both in each book—sorry, but “he ratchet his brain” isn’t even close—and across the series—if you’re going to italicize the stupid bus names in two of the books, do it in all of them—and… yeah. This reads more like Rock Fantasy, not Rock Fiction.

One last note: when I was Skyping with Susan and venting about the errors, her daughter came in the room and listened. “Sounds like every other Rock Fiction on Wattpad,” she said with a shrug. “That’s why I don’t read it.”
Sorry, folks. In a category where there’s so much good, this one’s a pass. If you want really good YA Rock Fiction, look to Sarra Manning’s Guitar Girl, or Nick and Norah, or Fat Kid Rules the World. And those are just off the top of my head. I bet if I searched the archives here at The Rock of Pages, I’d find more. I bet you would, too.

This was one we got via NetGalley, and if you can’t tell this is my honest review, well, I got nothing for you. It sucks when Rock Fiction lets me down in such an epic fashion. It really does.

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You know how sometimes, you’re so beat down by not reading anything good that you’re not motivated to pick up the next book in the stack? And then you finally do and you want to kick yourself because what you’re reading is so much fun that you have trouble putting it down.

Yeah, that.

Jaine herself sent us a copy of her new release, Dirty Like Me, and man, it took way too long to find something that pulled me out of my slump, but this was definitely it. Girl floundering through life meets hot dude. Best friend negotiates a deal for her that gives her more money than she can get her brain around, if she’ll be the hot dude’s pretend girlfriend for six weeks.

Problem is: there’s real chemistry between the two. And they’re both genuinely good people, despite Jesse’s bad boy rocker persona and Katie’s strange life stasis. This, of course, leads to more than a work situation between them, which eventually leads to Katie’s insecurities kicking in.

In a sense, yes, it’s predictable. But what isn’t is how genuinely nice Jesse is. He’s not a tortured, angsty rocker. He’s a normal human being who is considerate of the people around him. He gives a lot of trust to his inner circle, and they all act as though they know they hold a precious gift. Gotta love that.

And Katie’s best friend, Devi, who always ends every conversation with is he good to you – that’s a huge consideration, and props to Devi for asking that question. There’s every reason for a huge rocker type to not be nice to Katie, the newbie on the scene, but Jesse doesn’t take that chance. Like I said: refreshing rocker type.

And refreshing best friend, who looks after her bestie in a way that I wish my friends looked after me. That’s such an important question for any of us in relationships, even if your past isn’t like Katie’s and you’ve never been left at the altar. I’ve written that one down and prettied it up and hung it in my cubicle at work ‘cause it’s a good reminder not just in my private life, but in work, too. Treat and be treated. Be good to each other. I love it.

This book isn’t going to win awards, although it should. Where’s the award for Most Fun Read? Or Couldn’t Put It Down? Or even What To Read When Everything Around You Sucks and You Need to Break Out of the Rut?

Okay, that’s maybe too long of an award category, but man oh man, Jaine Diamond. You get mad props for this one. You hit me at the perfect time and I wish I’d been on top of things in enough time to realize it. Sorry this one’s late.

And thanks for sending a review copy! If you ever want to stop in at The Rock of Pages to talk about your book(s), we’re here for you like raving fan girls. ‘Cause I’m making Susan read this one next. She needs some fun in her life. She’s getting kinda… icky.

This ought to fix her right up. It’s so fun, so hopeful, so fresh.

But… what’s with the title? Who’s the dirty one? And where? That doesn’t come up once. Katie never feels dirty as she’s with Jesse. So… what gives?

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Every time I open a new book, I do it with the expectation that I’m going to love it and it’s going to be great.

Maybe I need to get over that. Because Under the Spanish Stars is one of those books that’s a good read, a strong story, and almost alive with the flamenco culture that frames the story, but… it didn’t knock my socks off.

It’s the story of Charlotte, who goes on a quest given to her by her sick grandmother to discover the history of a painting that means the world to the grandmother. And in alternating chapters, we get not only the story of Charlotte’s quest but also the story of the grandmother.

Abuela’s story is fascinating. As in many of these flashback novels, it’s the better half of the book. The flamenco culture is something that was new to me, and I totally dug it. I wanted more of it, in fact: more description, more of the music. I wanted it to breathe and throb off the page and swallow me whole, the way the best Rock Fiction does.

It didn’t.

But it came close. And for that, we give it props.

This can’t be easy stuff to write about. When you write about a rock band on an arena tour, it’s easy. Most music lovers know what’s up. It’s so much easier to pretend we’re there in the crowd, worshipping the singer or the guitarist or the bassist or the drummer. Most of us have been to concerts. We know how it goes.

And that’s part of why we gotta give Sinclair props. She did her best, describing the opening steps, the stomping feet, the speed of the music, the sweat, the beautiful lines of an arm raised overhead. She almost transported me there.

I bet the reason I failed was more me and less Sinclair. Because I didn’t have that frame of reference; the closest I come is one of the Dancing with the Stars dances, and… even if the characters didn’t tell us, we’d know the two aren’t even close.

Maybe the problem wasn’t the book so much as the reader.

But back to the story itself, and… yeah, still disappointed in it. I wanted more of the culture, especially in the history part. I wanted more of Granada, too, because it’s so different from my life. I feel like I got a quick peek, just enough to tantalize me but not enough to immerse me. And I wanted to be immersed.

This is one I’d say is worth the read. The story is good. It’s solid, if a bit predictable. I’ve gone on about things being at stake in a lot of books I’ve been reading lately, and I kinda feel like this one has the same problem. Not enough is at risk, and the problems that Charlotte faces are fixed too easily. It almost winds up painting Charlotte as a jerk for worrying so much about them, and no one wants the main character to be a jerk. You know?

Pick it up for the Flamenco. Stay for the past history. And just go for the ride with the present day because even though it’s the weakest part, it’s still a nice read.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for letting me have a read! Seriously. Pick this one up and tell me what you think. It released on December 8, which was just a few days ago. Grab it now. Help it boost its First 90 Day Sales count!

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Sometimes, there’s a fine line between junkie lit and Rock Fiction, but this book’s not there. Yeah, Bodhi’s an addict. Maybe even a junkie when we first meet him. But he’s got a zest for life that overlays the junkie status and makes us want to spend a book with him.

And in a move that’s pretty darn fresh for Rock Fiction, Bodhi’s also the talentless face in a boy band.
That’s right. Talentless. A boy band.

Now, the story pretty much focuses on Bodhi and his love for one of his psychologists in rehab. There’s not a lot of Rock Fiction happening here, but at the same time, there is. Hard to explain, but it’s the framework. Bodhi’s rocker status frames how his love, Kimberly, deals with him and things around him, both during and after rehab. And, of course, it affects Bodhi’s life once he’s out of rehab.

And that’s pretty much the story. It’s a forbidden romance story because what sort of true professional falls for her patient, especially when she works for her father at a super high-end, totally professional, catering-to-the-stars joint.

Look, Blow has enough holes in it to resemble what Bodhi’s doing to his septum when his father intervenes and drags his addicted self off to rehab. It’s not just that Kimberly would truly lose her job if this happened in real life—and you all know how I hate that plot line.

But it’s that Bodhi replaces cocaine with Kim, and no one catches it.

It’s that no one realizes Aspen is a problem for Bodhi and throws her out—before she slips him a roofie. Yes, you read that right. And there are zero consequences other than being told she’s now banished. Wow! I’d love to live in a world where you can get away with being worse than a reptile.

Want another plot hole? Here’s one: Bodhi realizes he’s doing all these post-rehab things for the first time without being high. And they’re all so much better now. And he’s involved with a psychologist. One who never talks to him, who doesn’t help him understand and deal with these new perspectives. Nope. Kim’s too busy having sex, being ready to have sex, or shopping with Bodhi’s mega-rich and mega-famous mother.

And yeah, he gets over his addiction in about twenty pages. It’s too easy, too simple. Even when he gets out, even when Aspen gets him high, he’s tamed that devil. He’s not relapsing, no way, no how. Even when he does.

Still, for all that we’ve got Swiss cheese here, this was a fun read. Rebel, Bodhi’s bitch of a manager, deserves her own book at the end of the series (and it is a series!) to explain how she got here, why she thinks pulling people with no talent out of thin air to turn into successful boy bands is a good idea, and even if the other manager who approaches Bodhi and his partners is right that she’s a crummy manager.

Rebel intrigues me. Maybe in a way no one else does.

Blow has some other cool parts: parents who aren’t total screw-ups. Yeah, they weren’t there when Bodhi was growing up and he resents them for it—who wouldn’t?—but they are doing their best now by their son. They love him and they’ll stand by him. But they aren’t afraid to be parental and use the tough love.

Way to go, Mom and Dad. We don’t see parents like this in fiction all that often.

So take this one to the beach or an airplane. Enjoy the ride, enjoy the sexy scenes, set yourself up for a series that’s going to go… who knows where. Just don’t think too much.

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I wrote yesterday’s post awhile ago, and it’s funny that it’s running this week, the week after McCarthy’s second book in the series, Dream Maker, was released. Let me tell you, after reading Dream Maker, I gotta go find that first book.

Here’s the review I wrote before I realized we had two days of Erin McCarthy. Think it’s enough to convince her to come hang out here a bit and talk about this Nashville Nights series of hers?

Can I gush about how much fun this book was? It’s such a simple, familiar setup, one I’ve been seeing a lot lately.
Avery’s lost on a street corner – the why is important, so I won’t spoil it, even though if you’ve read the first chapter, you know – and gets picked up by Shane Hart, music producer extraordinare and brother to Jolene Hart, country music darling.

Throwing caution to the wind and needing to be wild for just one night, Avery takes Shane to a hotel room and screws him silly. It, of course, is wonderful, but Avery promised herself it would be one time, one night, and she leaves a note and sneaks out while Shane snores on. If romance heroes snore.

Fast forward three months. Avery’s found herself a new footing and a job as a songwriter. She’s messing around with a new tune and freezes. That’s Shane in the hallway, loving her song. Or is it her?

It doesn’t really matter. It takes her co-workers about zero time to figure out that there’s some unresolved heat between Shane and Avery, and that’s pretty much it. That’s the plot. Oh, there’s a subplot about Avery’s father, too, and it’s resolved super fast and with zero angst. I wish there’d been more angst about this part of the book.

But the romance is a fun read. It’s charming, it’s cute, it’s heartwarming. And yes, it’s hot, so don’t think that words like cute and charming and heartwarming don’t mean there’s not some explicit loving happening.

And yes, it’s Rock Fiction. I mean, hello? He’s a music producer. She’s a songwriter. And there’s Jolene running around, too, since she and Shane are some of romance’s almost typical brother-sister loving duos.

This is part of a series, the second book. The first featured Jolene and her love, and we get to see them in this book. I’m not sure where McCarthy’s going to head next, but it’s listed as upcoming and man, I hope I get to read it. I also need to read Jolene’s story. This is some good stuff. Fun, frothy, and… just perfect.

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Maybe part of me was looking for heebie-jeebies when I said I’d read Tess Gerritsen’s Playing with Fire. And maybe part of me is disappointed at what I got.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This starts off creepy. Julia finds this music and every time she plays it, weird things start happening. Things that she blames on her daughter. And yeah, maybe this could be happening. It makes sense.
It’s not as creepy as I’d hoped. Or maybe wanted.

In fact, it’s kind of disappointingly familiar. We have the set-up in the present, then the flashbacks to the past, so we the reader get the full story behind this piece of music although the characters never do. And like a lot of books that follow this structure, the part set in the past is the stronger part.

The present-day story ought to be creepy. It ought to make us question what’s real, what’s possible. But it doesn’t make sense. Mom blames the kid for doing things. Mom and Dad subject the kid to a battery of tests even though no one believes the mom. And then, next thing, Mom is off, obsessed with finding the origins of the music while everyone around her decides she needs to be locked up in a mental facility because, hey, we put the kid through all these tests and she’s fine so Mom is clearly crazy. So Mom runs away with her friend, who winds up betraying her because hey, the whole world is stacked against our Julia. And things get violent, as they do when you’re trying to get someone to involuntarily commit herself, or maybe it’s as they do when you’re digging up a past no one wants you to remember. And then we find out what’s up with the music. Only it’s not the music at all.

Remember those tests they ran on the kid? Why the hell didn’t they run them on the mom and save us all the hassle?
So that brings us to the story of the past. This turns out to be a Holocaust story, with the main character, Lorenzo, a promising violinist whose career and life are cut short by the horrors that wind up unfolding. Pity, too, because he and cellist Laura had a real thing going.

As I said, that was the more interesting part of the book, but in the end, this one was a bit of a disappointment. Predictable. Kinda stupid, actually. And most upsetting, the promise of the premise, of this haunting piece of music with demonic abilities, never came to be.

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So this was billed as a serial about the events leading up to a fatal shooting at a rock (pop) concert. But the bigger tease in all this is the mystery: five people are killed, but only four “go on record.” (Quotes because I’m not 100% certain what that means. Public record? Official record of the event? Or are they recording this for a live album?)

THAT is the story I want to read. Why’s one person’s death covered up? What’s going on here? Who died? Which of the five is it, and why?

And that’s my question. If the author’s going to tease us with this, he’s got to produce something more that leads up to it. He’s got to tie the mystery into what he gives us. But other than the opening, which is pretty cool and – again – sets us up for a story about the shooting and the mystery of what’s happened, that’s not what we get. We don’t even get that rich atmosphere full of the expectation and anticipation that we’re building up to something.

What we get is a short bit about a bunch of different people, few who come alive on the page and rise above stereotypes.

And ten percent at the beginning is the author’s… it feels like a defense. Telling us how long the whole thing is when put together. And other babble that, frankly, I don’t care about. I don’t care about how he struggled to write this, or get it published, or any of that. Save it for the blog tour, man. Don’t put it in your book, and most certainly, don’t start with it.

So that’s the first ten percent. And then the installment ends at 88%, so that we can be teased for the second one. Which we gotta download and pay for. Seven installments at roughly two or three bucks a pop… well, that’s a pretty slick marketing trick.

Except that this one, doesn’t really earn its $1.99 price tag. After all I’ve just pointed out that 22% of the whole thing has nothing to do with the actual story at hand. It’s fluff. And while the opening scene focuses on the mystery, that’s all that does. Which means something like five or ten percent is the story we’ve been promised – the mystery of the shootings and which dead body doesn’t go “on the record.” (Again, still not sure what that means.)

And there’s not a mosh pit in sight. In fact, there’s almost zero Rock Fiction in here. These are ordinary people, doing ordinary things. Which is fine, but what’s it got to do with the mystery? And how about the title? What’s a mosh pit got to do with anything? Melting pot might be a better term to use here ’cause I don’t see any moshing going on, either.

Just… I gotta throw my hands up on this one. We don’t see a lot of Rock Fiction written by men, so I’d had high hopes. And the whole idea of a mystery dead person is really appealing, especially when you factor in the setting. Five people turn up dead at a concert, but who’s that fifth person… what’s their story? Their mystery?

I don’t know. Maybe this just wasn’t told the right way. Maybe it unfolds all wrong. I don’t know. All I know is that it’s not something I’m going to follow up on.

Review copy provided by NetGalley. Thanks for the chance to explore something new.

Edited: Jett had the price wrong, which Michael himself kindly pointed out. I’ve fixed it. –Susan

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Okay, let’s be up front about this. It’s not Rock Fiction, for all that Grace’s father is a rocker. In fact, the few times we see Jer, as Grace calls him, he’s not much more than a name on a page, a vague character of a person. Neither is Grace’s mother, the typical model/actress/ambitious snob who can’t put her own control issues aside and see her daughter for who she is.

But if Grace’s parents are vague or stereotypic, Grace herself is the absolute opposite. Sure, it’s probably a huge stereotype that she’s the bohemian child who opposes her mother at almost every value. The biggest surprise about her is when she puts on the Reality Star Wardrobe and remarks how familiar and comfortable it is, even though she knows that the role she had been playing was nothing more than that – a role. This is an insight that transcends these stereotypes. It’s a welcome one.

On the flip side is Marc, Marcus, our buttoned-up, staid businessman type who has probably forgotten how to smile, if he even ever knew. He’s almost the third side of this trinity of who are you – the extravagant showman, the hippie chick devoted to her causes, the buttoned-up dude who’s buttoned down his personality and his life so that people like Grace and her family can’t disrupt the boat.

Enter one dog. One Great Dane, to be specific. Dogs in general aren’t going to work in Marc’s life. But a big Dane that needs room to run and is pretty much Grace’s totem animal?

Now, we all know where this is headed: Grace has to make peace with her family and their reality show life. They need to accept her and actually see that her painting talent goes beyond a hobby. She needs to accept that using the resources offered by their reality show isn’t selling out; it’s smart. Marcus needs to learn how to joke and laugh, how to unbutton not only his suits but himself, as well.

And of course they all do these things. This is a romance, after all, and there’s never any doubt what’s going to happen in it. It’s the getting there that is all the fun, and believe me, this is fun. Over the top fun. Crazy fun. Larger than life, if-this-happened-in-reality-no-one-would-believe-it fun.

Pineapple lamps and fires and activists and birds and dogs and Grace’s odd naïve trust in people despite the reality show and lens of fame she’s grown up in. It all figures in. There are assumptions and people who get too angry with each other to speak and work it out like adults. And there are unravelings of the assumptions and happy endings and love and respect. And big dogs.

I wish more books were this much fun.