Softer Than Steel by Jessica Topper #Review

Softer Than Steel by Jessica Topper #ReviewSofter Than Steel by Jessica Topper

Series: #2 Love & Steel
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Published by Intermix on September 15, 2015
Pages: 366
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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I’ve anticipated Rick’s story since encountering him in Adrian’s book. This series will be one of my all- time favorite rocker romances. Jessica Topper tells a journey and not just a story for her characters. The background of the rock band world of Rick, the yoga world of Sidra, and the other characters doesn’t stay in the background, but surrounds the main characters so that the story is deeply organic. The romance isn’t the main focus for much of this book, but of equal focus to the individuals growing personally and then together. I loved that. Read this one in two sittings and was still looking for more when it was done.

The series really should be read in order. This book continues from book one and relies on the former book to introduce the world, tone, characters, and backstory.

Father. Widower. Rocker. Empty Nester. His dark brows lifted at that preposterous thought. How could that be? The contradiction in terms describing this current phase of his life brought him back to the present.

Loc 107 Rick from Softer Than Steel

This one picks up pretty much where the novella, Deeper Than Dreams, left off. They were best friends, blood brothers, part of the same rock band, and then it was all ripped away before they’ve reunited the band and their friendship. Before it was Rick who found love and now he is the one watching Adrian have his turn.

Rick looked to his best friend for backup. Surely Adrian wasn’t going to allow him to be subjected to some sort of heart-to-heart alone with Kat?

“Sorry, mate. It doesn’t matter how metal you are. If an eight-year old hands you a pink ukulele, you sure as hell better play it.” Adrian smiled and began to strum as Abbey made hula motions with her hands to wave Rick and her mother out of the yard.

Loc 759 Rick and Adrian from Softer Than Steel

Pressures from record companies, their managers, and his own personal life leave him barely hanging on. Something has to give and it’s Rick Rottenburg as panic attacks and sleeplessness descends. He has to find a way to de-stress and gain some peace. His son pushes him toward yoga and Rick decides to give it a try. And that’s when he encounters the woman who steadies him and shows him that he might not be done with love. If only he can convince Sidra to step away from all the responsibilities she clutches close to keep the loneliness and fear of being left by those she loves.

Sidra Sullivan is half Indian and half Irish. She lives in the old East Side neighborhood and has her yoga studio in the back of her cousin’s record store that her uncle owns. Her musically talented brother works for her friend, Liz, who is struggling since her boyfriend, Kevin, broke things off. Sidra is working hard to earn the money to purchase the building from her uncle because he keeps making noises about selling up. Liz gets her a place teaching yoga once a week upstate at a kid’s summer day camp and against her own judgment, she takes on a private student who makes her heart race. Rick’s confidence hides a layer of vulnerability and pain, but after watching her dad start drinking hard and checking out on the family when her mom died, having the love of her life cheat on her and leave her for another woman, and dealing with all the men who treat her as an object when they come to her yoga classes, she is leery of men. It could be worse. He could be a rock musician like cheating Charlie. As time goes one, the attraction grows and she is no longer sure who is the teacher and who is the student.

“Time to practice what you preach, teacher.”

“You can’t manipulate a heart to open,” she insisted. The words sounded lame, even to her ears.

Rick’s fingertips tilted her chin, and his stare became her personal drishti. Her eyes threatened tears as she locked her focus, losing herself in his gaze.

“But you can allow it to open, under the right circumstances.”

Loc. 2652 Rick and Sidra from Softer Than Steel

Without being angsty, this was an emotional read. I referred to this as a journey and it was. The author took the time to set up Rick and Sidra’s stories separately before allowing their lives to intersect. They take turns narrating the story in alternate chapters. They meet briefly and part again a few times before sharing a lot of scene time.

Other minor stories are going on too- Adrian and Kat’s wedding, the band’s work in the recording studio and the dynamics with promoter and manager, Sidra’s family troubles and the potential sale of the family building, Sidra’s brother’s chance to head out with a local band on tour, Liz and Kevin’s on again off again relationship, and Sidra’s yoga work. The scenes involving little Abbey are always fun little gems and bring smiles. The dynamics in the band group, Sidra and her Sullivan family group, and Kat with her posse of friends are all humorous and the added a lighter, flirty tone to an otherwise more serious story.

I found it refreshing that the romance slowly built and grew organically out of all the times their lives intersected. It really made much better sense this way. In the beginning, Rick is still very much a grieving widower and Sidra is still emotionally bruised from discovering the guy she loved cheating on her and now moving on like they had nothing together. The fire and passion were not lacking once things were well under way. And yeah, a yoga instructor and a middle-aged guy who is fit and taking regular yoga sessions and lessons had no trouble enjoying a physical relationship.

I mentioned the settings and backgrounds earlier. That is another thing that just melds so well with the plot. The story takes place in NYC both posh West Side and older East Side. The city is another character in its own right. I loved the ethnic settings that show the diversity of the city. Sidra’s Indian-Irish heritages as well as Rick’s Jewish heritage added lovely flavor to the story. I didn’t even know there were actual blends of Irish-Indian music or that one could yoga to rock.

That leads me to say that just as with the past stories, this one is steeped in the music world. Nothing like getting a rocker romance with some solid scene time with the music, tours, recording studio, song writing, business, fans, and playing/singing actual music. The author had a really strong grasp of this world as well as Sidra’s Yoga world. That, too, deserves mentioning.

It was as if they had both reached their edge, and then took things deeper. Settling into what was. Not worrying about the ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. They managed to soften the steel they’d both girded themselves with, systematically, for so long, and stepped into the process of letting themselves be vulnerable. It was okay to be vulnerable sometimes. It was strangely liberating, and powerful.

Loc 2959 Sidra from Softer Than Steel

So, yeah, this one was a rush. Cover to cover intensely engaging. Rock band fans who don’t mind getting zen with some yoga, or just general Contemporary Romance lovers should give this series a try.

My thanks to Penguin Group for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

I normally don’t add explanation for my Books N Tunes choice, but this clip is a little different in that it is a sample of the Indian Bhangra fused with Irish Jig music that Sidra enjoys.

Need more Love & Steel?

Review Louder Than Love by Jessica Topper Deeper than Dreams by Jessica Topper

Romance Roundabout #299 CR

Cliché Klatch # 186 ‘practice what you preach’

Books N Tunes #47 Delhi 2 Dublin band

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

Latest posts by Sophia Rose (see all)

  • The last time I read a rock book…eh…AGES ago it seems

    • I don’t read them regular-like, either. But this series, I will definitely grab if there are more.

  • I like that this romance built up slowly. So many romances lately have been wham..I love you. They don’t even know each other but they’re getting married. It’s nuts. Thanks for the great review, it sounds like a book I’d like.

    • Yeah, phew, that has been my experiences, too. I hate it when they say ‘I love you’ too soon b/c then its hard to believe in the romance.

      Hope you get a chance to try these, Mary!

  • This sounds like a good one and I like it when books pay extra attention to the surroundings, jobs and side characters, like it sounds they did here with the band, the yoga and the characters. I like it when a story feels organic and realistic that way. I haven’t read a book about someone who owned a yoga studio so far, so I like the sound of that. Seems the author found the right tone for this novel with it being emotional, but not angsty, sounds good. Oh and love a good slow building romance, where the romance has time to grow. Great Review Sophia! I’ll have to check out the first book and your review of that one.

    • Hey, hey! Glad that I described it well enough for it to sound good to you, Lola. Yeah, definitely check out my earlier review on book one, Louder Than Love.

  • I should’ve grabbed this series earlier. I love rock star romances! And I loved this author’s other series.

    • Glad to remind you, Christy! I have several of ‘I should haves’, too. I’d love to know what you think of the difference between the series.

  • I have never heard of this series. And I just love those rocker romances. I really like that these characters grow together. I love that this is engaging and so emotionally involved. That is what really pulls me into a story. Now I need to try this author out!!

    • Oh cool! Glad to point you to a new one to you.