This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I absolutely loved the first book in this series and the secondary character, Dani, so I was eager for this book with Dani as the lead. It was not long before the story had me rear back with surprise, ponder if I wanted to continue, and then cautiously proceed forward once again. Not what I was expecting and definitely feeling conflicted, but in the end I was pleased that I pushed through and gave it a chance.
This is not an easy story and it really isn’t a typical romance. In fact, the romance doesn’t come until nearly the end. I would actually place this more as a women’s fiction story since it’s really the emotional journey of several lost (and I do mean lost) souls finding their way home. This is not obvious until later in the book and the full extent of what was in process didn’t hit me until the end. Redemption happened all around and the romance was strong and struck more than one couple. It was like one of those blazing sunrises that steals your breath away. A paradigm shift occurred and I suddenly saw the whole story from a new perspective. I went from not really seeing the appeal in the characters or their story to being riveted to see if it would all work out the way I hoped.
I shared all that because I suspect that most folk will go into this book with the same expectations I did and be sorely tempted to slam the book closed and move on. Unappealing, self-absorbed characters with a boatload of issues and not a romance in sight several chapters in doesn’t generally appeal. I almost closed it and set it aside after few chapters of Dani’s narration and I was wondering what I ever saw in this character from the earlier book. And the rest of the characters, whew, they weren’t the types to make you want to care about their story either. I chose to read on because I had read two earlier books by the author and trusted her to bring me another good one. Glad I stuck it out because when all was said and done, this was a good one.
The story opens with Dani James donating the latest of her bridesmaids dresses and taking the awe her serial bridesmaid’s status brings from her best friend, Laney. Dani has a nearly legendary reputation for avoiding the altar or relationships. She dispenses sage advice and is there for her friends. Laney has found Noah and they’re getting married and her other best pal, Jax is writing his best seller and selling cars. Her parents with their high expectations and notions for what is best are on her to settle down to a real job instead of flitting about. None of them realize what she hides as she adeptly keeps them at arm’s length from the real Dani.
Just the sight of that bridesmaid’s gown brings back memories that she has been trying to bury for over a year. Why can’t she forget the guy who crashed her sister’s wedding, charmed her with his talk of cake under her pillow and a cake charm from the wedding cake and then giving her the best night of her life before the truth came out? He no-showed on her the next morning. Come to find out, he was a thief and her family looked down on her for her poor judgment. And yet, it took her a year to part with the gown and she can’t be near a dessert at night without thinking of him. With that in mind, time to get out of town and busy with her new gig as masseuse to all the rock musicians with the big summer traveling music festival.
The tour brings her into contact with obnoxious rock star, Nash Drama, and when she loses her job on the tour, she let’s him talk her into a fake fiancé scheme so she can help him with a cleaned up reputation before his home town. Shockingly, she encounters the one who got away is Nash’s best friend, Mick Stevens, and she doesn’t know what she think she does about Nash, Mick, or even herself. She can run like she always does when things get real or she can stick it out for the chance of finding something permanent- a chance to find home.
As I said, this one doesn’t read like typical romance. It is long developing for the romance and characters and sweepingly descriptive of the rock festival life and life in Nash’s small home town. Music lovers will find the authentic feel to the rock festival and the delightful Bear’s rock band tributes a blast.
Even when I didn’t particularly like Dani (and I confess that I never completely warmed up to her), Nash or Mick, I will admit that they were well-written and complex characters. It’s only late in the book when the author peals back the layers and secrets that things make complete sense when it comes to these people. Wow! There were some real humdinger past issues that made them the way they are. I’m not sure if the author deliberately intended for the way a reader will initially feel about the characters and have that transform by the end, but if she did then she’s a master at her craft. As to the surrounding characters, they weren’t just props. Each had a background and a developed personality. Bear was a crack up and Mick’s aunt was a scene-stealer.
The romance itself is an utterly confusing thing much of the time and doesn’t shake out until the end. I couldn’t decide if this was going to end up a love triangle (or at one point even a love square was possible) or if it was going to be complete upset like one of Shakespeare’s comedies. Oh, and this story heads down some interesting paths so that if you’re looking for some hot, sexy action, you won’t get a direct scene until near the end. But that being said, there is a happily ever after and no serious love triangle going on.
That reminds me, this is a story told in alternate points of view and flashback scenes. It certainly kept me on my toes, but never actually confused me as each switch was marked clearly and the flashbacks were in italicized font.
Now, I never did fully cotton to Dani, I was meh on her and Mick’s romance, but the rest of this story with several people including Dani and Mick finally healing and finding their happy was what really did it for me. There is a sense that I wrote this review in a cautionary way, but that’s because as I said, I think going in with the right expectations can make all the difference.
I would recommend this for those who love rock star romance, long developing character-driven stories and spicy Contemporary Romance.
My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Romance Roundabout #210 CR
Cliché Klatch #125 ‘This town ain’t big enough for the two of us’