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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Rock Stars...

(I've had Willie Nelson on the brain the past couple of days, don't know why.)

I stumbled across Rock Star during one of the many discussions on race that were all over the place last month. The debut novel by Roslyn Hardy Holcomb featured a successful L.A. musician and an Alabama bookstore owner. I was immediately excited, because I do have rock star fantasies of my own. In fact, I believe that there is still documentary evidence out there of my 21 year old self predicting that in ten years I would own my own bookstore and be married to a musician. (Ten years later, I can tell you it's not happening). I am a huge music fan, and have always been attracted to musician types, although in actuality, I never dated any. But having been friends with plenty of them, I realized quickly enough, they're a pretty bad deal romance wise. They're always broke, and when they do have money they're more likely to spend it on guitar strings and CDs than on you. Of course, there was always that chance that they might write songs about you. Plus, I have an aversion to too much pop culture in my books. As a music fan and general pop culture junkie, the wrong pop culture reference can stop a book dead for me. So as excited as I was to read this (and a great big thank you to Ms. Holcomb for sending it to me), I was worried that A) at the end of the book I would think that in ten years the hero would be shtupping barely legal groupies while the heroine bitterly mourned the loss of her dreams and B) the rock star hero would be based on Scott Stapp or something and make me cringe.

So anyway, Rock Star begins as Bryan Spencer, frontman for Storm Crow, walks into an independent bookstore in Maple Forks, Alabama and is immediately smitten by its gorgeous, dreadlocked owner. Bryan is taking a sabbatical of sorts after his best friend and collaborator O.D's, which has sent him into an emotional tailspin. [BTW, his fictional band, Storm Crow, is supposed to sound like Alice in Chains, who are one of my favorite bands ever. So that reference totally worked for me and provided me with a nice mental soundtrack.] Callie Lawson is intrigued by the handsome, intense, long-haired, blue-eyed man before she even realizes who he is. But she has never dated a white guy (she hasn't dated much at all, a bit of a workaholic type), and when she finds out who he is, she is doubly unsure about getting involved with him. Why would a rich white rock star be interested in an introverted, small town black woman? But she is as drawn to him as he is to her, and a close friendship, then something more, develops between them, despite her misgivings. Unfortunately, the reality of dating someone famous comes crashing down upon them with an ugly incident. Can Bryan and Callie have their happily ever after, or are their differences too much to overcome?

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I really enjoyed this book. Ms. Holcomb totally made the rock star/small town girl thing work for me. My biggest issue with the book was that I felt the first few chapters were a bit tell-y, rather than show-y. Their friendship develops over a few months, and we are told a lot about it, and them, rather than seeing it through interactions. Bryan was pretty swoon-worthy from the get-go, but I felt like I really didn't get a good sense of Callie at first. I would suspect this is due to length constraints, and the book really hits its stride around Chapter 8, when Callie agrees to accompany Bryan back to L.A. to see the bandmates he skipped town on. From then, on I got totally absorbed in the story and the characters. And the fact that their romance developed slowly made it work much better in the end. Callie was a rather cautious and conservative gal, and if it had moved too fast, it would have seemed like she had got caught up in the excitement and novelty of it all. Instead, when they got physical, they had a strong basis of friendship and emotional intimacy underlying it.

As for the very bad thing that happens, in another book it might have smacked of stoopid big misunderstanding. Although, the incident itself (I'm trying not to be spoilery here) is somewhat ridiculous, it's not some excuse for Callie to hate on Bryan or something. She doesn't feel betrayed by him or anything, it just really makes her wonder whether she can handle the pressure of being with someone in the public eye, and how their relationship will affect the life she's built for herself. Which are completely valid concerns, IMO. And there is an added dimension of betrayal which makes it particularly heartbreaking for Bryan (again, avoiding spoilers). I was on the edge of my seat here, and even when the always dreaded serenade comes, I was actually verklempt, rather than groaning. No joke, tear in the eye, which should tell you something. As I mentioned, this is an interracial romance, which I feel I should touch on. While the race issue wasn't the main thing causing tension between them, it added another dimension as Callie tried to figure out whether or not she could deal with people's perceptions of her and as opposition comes from some surprising people.

My only other crictism is that the love scene were a bit rushed for my taste, and a bit dependent on cliched euphemisms. Also, there were some real people cameos, which are not my favorite thing. I'm grading this a solid B. This is an author to watch for sure. I read somewhere on her website or blog, that her work in progress involves a virologist and a stripper (Please, let the guy be the stripper. I love stripper heroes). Awesome. Also, there is a mini-sequel on her website, which I plan on reading tonight. This is the first non-Harlequin contemporary I've enjoyed in a long time.

9 comments:

rozlips said...

Scott Stapp??? Ewwww!!!

Thanks for the review Devon. I really appreciate it, especially the critical points. I'm working hard on being a better writer and need as many critiques as I can get. Again, thanks much!

Zeek said...

I ordered it too because of her presence- and sanity! Just got it and can't wait to read it!

Zeek said...

Plus the story intrigued me- who hasn't had a fantasy where a hip hot star spots small town you and becomes helplessly enchanted? heee

Kristie (J) said...

Ooohhh - a stripper hero. I like those kind too! (male stripper that is)

Devon said...

Has anybody ever read The Lightning that Lingers by Sharon and Tom Curtis? It's one of the first romances I ever read, and though I haven't read it in about 15 years I still think of it and sigh.

And Zeek, that's the appeal in a nutshell. The reality might not be so great but who wouldn't want some hot talented, famous dude in the palm of your hand :)

rozlips said...

Thanks zeek. I hope you enjoy the book. Please let me know what you think. BTW, given that Layne Staley is dead (though my husband says this book is a love letter to him) the rock star I'd run off with is Chris Cornell. I'd run off with Sting but he has about 20 kids and Trudy would whup my ass.

rozlips said...

Sorry, in my current WIP the woman is a stripper. The story sort of started out when I read Trent Reznor's comment about doing an album called 'Music for Titty Bars' because his music is played in so many of them. The story took off from there. I like the idea of a male stripper, but it seems to me that he'd be terribly narcisstic or gay. Or at least that's been the case of most of the male strippers I've met. That wouldn't be any fun. Of course, I could do a story with gay male strippers, but I think I have enough trouble with demographics already. I'm already segregated to the African American section. I'd hate to wind up in the 'You're Gonna Burn in Hell' section of the bookstore. -lol-

Devon said...

Ah well, I can deal.

And Ms. Rozlips, I bet there's a lot of fun stuff in the "You're Gonna Burn in Hell" section. But I bet it's even harder to find than the AA section :)

Dylan said...

Ooh this one sounds like a winner, thanks Devon for the review, it's got me wanting to read it!! A musician hero?

Yeah, I can dig it!