Sunday 25 October 2015

#CBR7 Book 110: "Rock Redemption" by Nalini Singh

Page count: 349 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

This is the third book in the Rock Kiss series, but it can easily be read without any previous knowledge of the other books or characters.

Noah St. John is the guitarist in world famous rock band Schoolboy Choir. Due to some really dark shit in his past, he's incredibly messed up and has tremendous difficulties trusting or connecting to people. He doesn't really feel comfortable around anyone but the other guys in the band, who he's known since he was a kid in school with them. One notable exception is Katherine "Kit" Devigny, a struggling to make it actress the band met when they were all starting out. The other guys in the band pretty much adopted Kit as a sister, but the chemistry between Kit and Noah was always too volatile for friendship to blossom easily. Yet they become true friends, moving towards something more, a change Noah can't handle. He makes sure that Kit walks in on him in bed with a random groupie, completely shattering her trust or any affection she felt for him.

Haunted almost nightly by nightmares, one-night-stands and meaningless hook-ups seem to be the only thing that drains him enough to sleep peacefully for a few hours. It has rightly earned Noah a reputation as a notorious womaniser. His only other escape is the music, but now the band in between tours and albums, and the ghosts of the past constantly threaten to destroy what little peace he manages to summon.

It's been years since he destroyed Kit's good opinion of him, and she's no longer a struggling soap actress, but an Oscar-nominated and very sought after star. Photographed together at a big media event, the gossip journalists assume that Kit and Noah are finally a couple, and the positive press is extremely beneficial for Kit's career. She needs all the good media cover she can get in order to secure an audition for a sought-after film, and Noah agrees to play her adoring boyfriend to help her. He desperately wants to make amends for his previous actions, but is also terrified that Kit, the woman he adores, will discover his darkest secrets, convinced it will drive her away forever.

Nalini Singh's Rock Kiss series has been quite hit and miss for me. The first one, Rock Addiction, where the vocalist fell head over heels for a the half-sister of the band's publicist after a one-night-stand, was merely ok. I liked the second one, which was more of a long novella, Rock Courtship, where the band's drummer after a long and patient campaign wins the heart of the band's publicist, a whole lot more. The heroine in book 1, Molly's best friend, Charlotte, gets her own book in Rock Hard, (which really is only very tenuously connected to the rock stars or their love interests) where there is a subplot involving stalking, something that's also an important subplot in this book. While on the surface Kit seems rich and successful, most of her money was sunk into a new house with very secure grounds and a security detail after her stalker broke into her previous home. She can make ends meet, but needs a couple of big contracts to make sure she actually has enough money to keep paying for her house and her bodyguards.

I find a good friends to lovers plot very satisfying in romance, and I find reconciliation stories can also be very effective. Singh sort of combines the two tropes in this book. Kit and Noah were incredibly close, until Noah got spooked and did his very best to drive Kit away. Because she's such an important person in the lives of his band mates, though, it's not like they can avoid seeing each other, and Kit is constantly reminded of the calculated cruelty with which Noah chose to show her "his true self".

Noah is the modern equivalent of one of those rakes who are so dissolute and jaded that it's hard to see how they'll ever make for a satisfying romantic lead. Of course, the reason for his wild behaviour is found in his dark past, and while I had my suspicions of what he was so terrified of Kit discovering, it was actually in some ways worse than I had expected, and I can see why he was so incredibly messed up. When the truth comes out, Noah's warped world-view and his huge trust issues make it very hard for him to believe Kit could still care for him, let alone want to be with him.

Kit has been a supporting character in more than one of the previous books, and her fraught relationship with Noah has been simmering in the background. The daughter of a supermodel and a tennis pro, she deliberately chose to act under an assumed name, to make sure she made her way in the business through her own achievements, rather than coasting on nepotism. The child of parents who loved each other so much they barely noticed others, she frequently felt alone and it's clear that the three other guys in Schoolboy Choir are the brothers she wishes she'd had growing up. Having had difficulty forming other female friendships, Kit now has a few really good girlfriends she can count on and who help keep her stable and grounded. I suspect the "behind the scenes" stuff about acting and the pressures put on young actresses is probably very carefully researched by Singh. The way Kit has to manouver to secure herself new parts certainly felt very believable.

I don't do trigger warnings, but readers should know that there is a lot of pain and darkness in Noah's past, and there are reasons why he tries to find oblivion in meaningless sex, keeping nearly everyone, including most of his band mates, oblivious to his true suffering. If I hadn't liked Kit as a heroine as much as I did, this book would probably just have been 3 stars. It's not my favourite of the series, but a much better read than the first one. All signs suggest that the next book in the series will be about Abe, the fourth and final band member, whose ex-wife features prominently in a subplot in the final half of this book. It seems very likely that there may be another reconciliation story coming up.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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