Monday, February 2, 2015

The Rise, Fall And Redemption Of A Rock Star

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00S5OY6D0/themisaofsupe-20
As a general rule I don't go all ga-ga over rock star romances.  I love music, and yes many a rock star is pretty to look at - but in reality?  No thank you ma'am.  In reality I like to avoid a heaping dose of misogyny tossed on my corn flakes and when it comes to rock star romances?  The Bad Boy Paired With Innocent Wide-Eyed Ingenue invokes my gag reflex.  Hence, Wendy tends to not "do" rock star romances.

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

17 comments:

Molly O'Keefe said...

I'm reading this now and LOVING it! Karina is one of my favorite contemp authors. She handles big emotions with deft touches!

Phyl said...

I'm intrigued. And motivated to catch up on Bliss's books currently cluttering up the TBR.

S. said...

I've read What the Librarian Did in 2011 and to be honest I don't remember much, but when you said that in this book both of them carry their own weight I felt interested in reading. I might try it one day.

Bri said...

I'm halfway through it and echo Ms. O'Keefe, above. I think Zander is very nuanced. I like how we are seeing under the rock persona, which was what we mostly knew of him from his previous appearances. And I love Elizabeth - she is not cowed by him. Can't wait to finish if the ending chapters are even more emotionally charged than the beginning.

Wendy said...

Molly: I need to take stock of her backlist. I'm almost positive I'm missing titles and I've liked everything I've read by her to date.

Wendy said...

Phyl: I haven't read everything, but what I have read I've enjoyed. Her last series with SuperRomance got really good reviews - although as of yet I've only read the final book in that quartet.

Wendy said...

Sonia: This is a longer book, so Bliss has time to really flesh out her world-building and populate it with a lot of interesting characters. I really got invested with everybody by the end.

Wendy said...

Bri: Zander mostly served as the villain in WtLD, but I was so intrigued by him when he showed up briefly in A Prior Engagement. That was when it clicked for me, "This guy needs his own book, like yesterday."

I'll be curious to hear what you think. I have some quibbles with the ending, but all in all I enjoyed it. And now I'm really curious to see what happens with Dimity and Stormy.

PK the Bookeemonster said...

I'm in the mood for a bad boy. I just binge watched seasons one and two of The Borgias because of falling in lust with Juan Borgia as played by David Oakes. Like potato chips I think. :)

azteclady said...

I haven't gotten Rise--yet--but I absolutely second getting the whole of Ms Bliss' backlist. I've just read the second and third of her Lost Boys Superromance trilogy, and was absolutely blown away by her characterization.

I'm getting all the rest as soon as payday rolls around.

PK the Bookeemonster said...

Wendy, dangnabit, I really really liked it. Stayed up too late reading it. Finished at breakfast.

Bri said...

take 2 - it ate my first response.

I agree Re: Zander in the other books ( I think at this point I have read all of Karina's backlist) ;)

I think the leap Elizabeth takes at the end, when talking to Max, was a bit out of character, especially from where she had been a few chapters early re: public. OTOH, I can see why she did that because she was doing everything she could to get want she wanted (Zander)

While this was not a perfect book, it hit almost all the things I want in a great book, especially the characters - there is so much to all of them, with lots and lots of layers to them. I am looking forward to the books to come. It packed an emotional wallop.

I am trying to be vague to not spoil, I think I did a better job over on good reads

Wendy said...

Bri: That was my quibble too - that leap Elizabeth takes at the end. I wasn't....entirely sold on it - for pretty much all the reasons you laid out. But I "get" why the author made that choice and it does spur the book towards our conclusion and HEA.

And yes - everything you said about the character layers. All of them. Even the secondary characters had depth. I'm looking forward to more books in this series/world.

Wendy said...

PK: Blame me on losing sleep if it makes you feel better :) Glad you liked it! Yippee!

Wendy said...

AL: I need to dive into my Giant Rubbermaid Tote of Category Romance and take an inventory. I've got a few more by Bliss lying around, but I know for a fact I do not have her complete backlist. Must rectify this.

Kristie (J) said...

Yes, I am late to the scene here. And so totally yes to your review. As you know *ROTFL* I just went to see Bryan Adams last night - and yep he did a wonderful job of "our song" and I was thinking of the book while I was watching him. Bryan isn't nearly the "out of control Rock Star" that Zander was, but it was interesting going to a concert so soon after reading Bliss.

Wendy said...

Kristie: You're allowed to be late :)

LOL - "our song." You're killing me over here lady.