Monday, February 2, 2015
The Rise, Fall And Redemption Of A Rock Star
So why, pray tell, am I making an exception for Rise by Karina Bliss? Because Zander Freedman has been knocking around the fictional universe since 2010, the reprobate (OK, jerkface) brother of the hero from What the Librarian Did. Zander is an ass in that story, but there's something there.....so much so that he made future appearances in later Bliss SuperRomances. And now, Zander gets his day - his own romance. With a woman he is totally ill-prepared for, even though he thinks he's the one calling the shots. How typical.
Zander has been paid a sizable advance to publish his memoirs, but in true Zander fashion, he's fired the first two biographers the publisher has rubber-stamped. Never no mind, he's got a brilliant idea. Dr. Elizabeth Winston, who has written biographies about Dead White Guys and has a Pulitzer to prove it. He read her last book, loved it, and wants her. Now all he has to do is convince her.
Elizabeth says no, for a lot of solid reasons that nobody could possibly blame her for. But Zander being Zander, she ends up saying yes - mostly because he intrigues her. He has resurrected the band that made him famous, with an all new line-up of musicians, and is taking the act out on the road. What nobody knows? Zander's having voice problems. He's also leveraged and mortgaged everything to the hilt to finance the tour. He does want Elizabeth to write the memoir, just, you know, on his terms. Which means she can't know too much and he can't tell her everything. Which gets complicated as they spend time together and he ends up finding himself seriously attracted to her.
Readers familiar with Bliss' past work tend to fall into two camps when it comes to Zander: either you like him despite yourself or the idea of him being a romance hero horrifies you. I've actually always been intrigued by him. He's a complicated guy. The sort of guy where you can't quite decide if he's a villain or a nice guy. He straddles that line, sometimes tipping over fully to one side or the other. It was actually genius of Bliss to insert him into later books after What The Librarian Did (where he pretty much comes off as villain), that allowed her to write him with a bit more nuance. Readers unfamiliar with Bliss' previous works can easily jump in right here, not having past "Zander baggage" and this is a good antidote for a lot of the rock star books I've seen cluttering up Amazon in recent memory.
Elizabeth holds her own quite well. She's a preacher's daughter, but no innocent or wild child. She's responsible, level-headed, and calculating (and I mean that in a good way). This isn't a heroine prone to silly flights of fancy, theatrics or drama. You get the impression that if Zander Freedman never entered her orbit she would be just fine. She's got a good life, family, friends, work, and is respected. And she's no pushover. Zander thinks he can call the shots with her, but in reality the moment she enters into his world, she begins taking it over - for the better.
Bliss' background is in category romance so the biggest hurdle for me with this book was to realize it wasn't category. Bliss has over 300 pages here and fleshes out the story accordingly by populating it with a variety of secondary characters. I sometimes felt that these characters, while all interesting and yes, I did like them, could detract from the Zander/Elizabeth romance. But then I realized: Hey, 300+ pages. Also, the author is setting groundwork for a series of future books that will focus on some of these secondary players.
I wasn't entirely sold on the ending, although it does fit into the Grand Gesture mold. I suspect some readers will think that Elizabeth is "too hard" on Zander at times (especially during the emotionally charged final chapters) - but honestly I was so happy she wasn't some wide-eyed pushover virginal ingenue that I was half in love with her for everything she said and did - even when she was "in the wrong." Which actually brings up a good point - that both Zander and Elizabeth make mistakes, make miscues, and hurt each other in equal measure on their way to the happy ending. I liked that neither one of them has to solely carry the load of being The Heavy.
I liked this quite a bit. Yes, it's a rock star book, but it's a different sort of rock star book. I happily plan to follow along as Bliss continues on with her planned series.
Final Grade = B