Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sex, Gossip And Rock & Roll

As much as I love category romance, I have historically had a terrible time navigating the Harlequin Presents waters.  I can roll with dippy titles (this line featured some doozies for the longest time), it was the over-the-top back cover blurbs that tended to keep me away.  And when I'm not talking auto-buy authors?  I pick all my category romance reads based off of back cover copy.

These days I normally choose my HP reads from reviews I read, but in this case, I snapped up Sex, Gossip And Rock & Roll because I've enjoyed books that Nicola Marsh has written for the Harlequin Romance line.  This story had it's moments, but it didn't work as well for me as those previous HR books.

Charli Chambers works for big time Australian music producer, Hector Landry.  Her current mission is to re-launch the career of aging rocker, Storm Varth.  The plan is to take him out on tour to smaller venues, build up some buzz, cap it off with a big show in Melbourne, and hopefully get his butt back in the studio.  However, this is proving to be complicated.  Storm wants to bring his young son along with him - which means Charli needs to come up with some kid-friendly diversions to entertain the lad.  Then there's the small matter of Luca Petrelli.  He is Hector's bastard grandson, and the boss has declared that Luca will be overseeing money matters on the tour.  With his notorious playboy reputation, plus the fact that Luca and Hector are not close - Charli smells a rat.  She's sure she's going to get stuck with some lazy Lothario who is only along for the ride to take advantage of her kindly boss.  Naturally, her less-than-stellar opinion of him is confirmed when she goes to pick him up, and he answers his door wearing nothing but a towel and a smile.

The set-up and early chapters of this story are vintage HP.  You have immediate Insta-Lust between hero and heroine - both of whom are thinking of burning up the sheets together even if they can barely tolerate each other.  You have a hero who is charming and slick on the surface, but underneath is vulnerable and a bit wounded.  Then you've got a heroine who is trying to navigate the choppy waters left in his wake, while trying to keep her panties firmly in place (yeah, good luck with that cupcake).

This was a second-half read for me.  The first few chapters were a bit rocky, with some lumpy writing, and the repetitive use of some words (seriously, if I never read "fortnight" again....).  But once the set-up is out of the way, and our motley band of characters are on the road, things begin to pick up steam. 

What I initially really liked about this particular book is that the heroine is just as commitment-phobic as the hero.  She's no Little Miss Innocent trying to protect her virtue from the Big Bad Virile Alpha Stud.  That said, when you have two characters, both of whom have leftover childhood baggage?  It can make for a tricky read.  It's really easy to slip over that edge where the reader stops being sympathetic and starts screaming, "Oh get over it already!"  And some of that happens here.  Namely because both Luca and Charlie are fairly self-aware people.  They both acknowledge the fact that their screwed up childhoods have rendered them gun-shy.  But for two people who are so seemingly self-aware, they both show a surprising lack of motivation to "get past it," "move on," and "get over it."  Smart on one hand, dense on the other.  It made for a frustrating read because on one hand they "owned" their foibles, but on the other they chose to not do a damn thing about them.

Still, there were some pleasant moments in this story, and I read through it rather quickly.  I liked that on one hand Storm Varth is just the sort of aging rock star you would expect, but on the other he adores his son, and is a pretty decent father.  I liked that Charli had a little bit of a harder edge, and I liked that there was a lot of sexy banter flying around.  It wasn't perfect, but there were moments nonetheless.  Enough moments that the author is still on my HP radar.

Final Grade = C+


Victoria Janssen said...

Hmm. I do like rock star characters....

Wendy said...

Victoria: He is a secondary character, and honestly - I rather liked him. Marsh does paint him with the stereotypical rock star brush (at times) - but then she goes and shows him as a doting father too. Both Rock Star Dad and kid were nice secondary additions to this story IMHO.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

I bet you didn't realize this month has been declared Rocktober (by me, of course). Glad you're playing along!

I'll totally have to check this one out.

JamiSings said...

Mm - I think I'd be more interested if the aging rock star was the hero. Musician, father, a May/December romance, now that's more my kind of thing.

Wendy said...

Susan: Rocktober! Love it!

Jami: I think there are going to be quite a few readers who feel like that. Why isn't The Rock Star the hero?

Kate said...

I sort of wanted the aging rock star to be the hero, and I also wanted him to be Bill Nighy in Love Actually, perhaps the best fictional aging rock star of all time...?