Saturday 9 July 2016

#CBR8 Book 72: "Idol" by Kristen Callihan

Page count: 307 pages
Rating: 3 stars

Liberty "Libby" Bell (yes, her parents named her Liberty when their surname was Bell, I don't know why you'd do that to a child either!) has been living as a veritable recluse in her grandparents' old farmhouse on an island in the Carolinas (I think, there's an author's note about how the place obviously doesn't really exist blah blah) since her parents died in a car accident the year before. She apparently makes her living as a book cover designer (cool job - not one I've come across in romance before, not that we EVER see her doing any work). She comes home to find a man passed out on her lawn, his large, expensive motorcycle having destroyed part of her front yard before it got wrapped around her fence. Since he is clearly dead drunk, Libby wakes "Lawn Bum", as she mentally christens him by spraying him with her garden hose. He wakes up, swears a lot, proceeds to get completely undressed and vomits all over her.

Killian James is the guitarist and one of the lead singers of Kill John, the biggest rock band on the planet (they're never just moderately famous people, nope, super celebrity, obvs). On the anniversary of his bandmate Jax' suicide attempt, he got himself hammered into oblivion and went joyriding on his bike, ending up in Libby's front yard. He hasn't wanted to touch his guitars or make any music for a year, but after spending some time with the grouchy, snarky hermit woman who cleaned him off and fed him, despite her misgivings, he feels his inspiration returning. Normally surrounded by clamoring fans or press people, he enjoys that Libby clearly has no idea who he is. He understands why she retreated to the island when her parents died, and could quite happily stay hidden away in the house right next door to her forever. But his manager won't stop calling, and it's time to get the band together again.

Killian doesn't want to go back on tour without Libby. Having discovered that she can sing, play guitar and makes her own songs (her parents were a session guitarist and a backing singer, respectively), Killian wants her to play some songs with the band. Libby doesn't want to leave the safety of her farmhouse, and she certainly doesn't want to go on stage with a hugely successful rock band in front of tens of thousands of people. Nor does she want people to think Killian is only giving her a chance to sing because he wants to get in her pants. But if he leaves and goes on tour, is she ever going to see him again? What would a world-class rock star really see in a shy little homebody like Libby Bell?

If your business tycoon/billionaires are the dukes of contemporary romance, the athletes and various sportsball players the viscounts, then surely the rock stars have to be the earls. In the last few years, I've read rock star romances by Kylie Scott (the Stage Dive series) and Nalini Singh (Rock Kiss), but if you google "rock star romance", there are SO many hits. Again, as I pointed out, the rock stars in question are not really your run of the mill just made their first album, starting out sort of guys. Nope, they're always the biggest, most popular rock gods in the world, recognised by everyone everywhere. They're also, always, super gorgeous. I'm doing a mental image search of the lead singers of some of the big rock bands around presently - most of them look like hipstery grad students, NOT romance heroes. So here is absolutely an example where romance really does NOT mirror reality.

While I really liked all three of Kristen Callihan's Game On books (I thought the series was completed with book 3, The Game Plan, but I was wrong, there is a new one out in February next year), this was less great. Going by her Goodreads updates, my friend Erica was frustrated enough with the book that she actually DNF'd it. I can't say I see what was quite so annoying about it, but it certainly didn't grab me and keep me engrossed like her sportsball NA books did.

I have many quibbles:
  • First of all, there was quite a lot of tell, not show, in this book. We are told that Killian and Libby have all these things in common and that they talk about everything under the sun, but we are rarely actually party to these conversations. We are also told about Libby's job, but she's one of these contemporary romance protagonists who don't ever actually appear to have to do anything to make a living. Perhaps her parents' deaths left her independently wealthy? If so, this is never touched on.
  • Despite never having performed on stage (she has crippling stage fright, and was strongly discouraged by her parents to go into a career in music), Libby isn't just good at playing the guitar and singing, she's absolutely awesome. After one song, she's won over the entirety of Killian's band, not just the guy who has the hots for her. They have no qualms about having her sing along on several of the songs on their international reunion tour. 
  • As seems to be the case far too often, Killian isn't just well-endowed, he has a veritable monster in the pants region. Here I'm going to have to agree with my friend Erica - what is wrong with reasonably-sized, but well-favoured once in a while? Why do they always have to be super-huge? 
  • Speaking of the pants-region, far too much of Killian's emotional and physical state at any given point seems to be expressed with reference to what his balls are doing or how they are feeling. I went back and counted - fifteen separate mentions - of Mr. Rock God's dangly bits. 
  • For people who are both apparently great at writing song lyrics, both Libby and Killian SUCK at communication. Using their actual words to express to one another what and how they feel - not a thing they excel at. It's one of the things that keeps the conflict of the romance drawn out longer than should have been necessary.
There are good things about the book too. I really liked the supporting cast (I'm sure many, if not all, of the band members are going to star in future books). Scottie, the band's drop-dead gorgeous, but oh so cold and correct manager is the star of the next book, out in October, if Ms. Callihan is to be believed. Killian's cousin, Brenna, who manages the band, seems pretty cool, and I liked that she and Libby started to form a friendship, even though both admitted to barely having female friends before. There is a lot of fun banter and if the main couple had just been better at communicating, with each other and those around them, the main conflict of super famous rock star and reclusive nobody suddenly thrust into the spotlight could have been more interesting. So far, this book is less good than Callihan's other contemporaries, but still more entertaining than her historical paranormal fantasy ones. I shall give Scottie's book a try, and hope that it's an improvement.

Judging a book by its cover: So with her sportsball New Adult romances, Kristen Callihan's books all feature burly dudes in various stages of undress (usually shirtless) seen from the front (with their heads conveniently cut off, or at least their faces obscured). But on the cover of the book about a rock star who is described as ALWAYS ending up shirtless on stage during his gigs, there is a fully clothed dude, with his back to the camera. His ass is even mostly hidden by his guitar. Poor use of ogling material, cover designers. That's all I'm saying. At least the dude has short hair (Libby cuts Killian's long tangled hair short in one very steamy scene in the book). This cover is quite boring, I find. It doesn't capture the dynamic nature of good rock stars or the energy of the band described in the book.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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