Saturday 17 December 2016

#CBR8 Book 119: "Rock Wedding" by Nalini Singh

Page count: 345 pages
Rating: 3 stars

OK, it's been nearly two months since I finished this, and it wasn't exactly the most memorable of romances to begin with. Let's see what I can still remember.

Sarah Smith, who never really had a very stable home life, hooks up with rock star Abe Bellamy and ends up pregnant. He wants to do right by her and marries her. She adores him, he seems to like their bedroom antics, but is closed off and withholding emotionally (although secretly, deep down, he clearly cares for her, he just can't express it - you know the drill). Also, he has an alcohol and substance abuse problem. When Sarah loses the baby, she is devastated, and worries that she'll lose Abe as well, but hopes that in time he will come to love her as much as she does him.

His addictions are a major problem, however, and when he becomes aggressive and verbally abusive one evening, basically saying that he's only keeping her around for the hot sex and the arm candy she provides at events, Sarah finally has enough. She packs her bags and leaves, only to discover that Abe doesn't seem interested in fighting to get her back. After a couple of months of wondering if he's going to come see her, she decides to go on a massive spending spree, maxing out all the credit cards he gave her, before filing for divorce.

Now, Sarah clearly knows how to pick them. She goes straight from her really rotten relationship with Abe into a rebound relationship with an older man who initially seems very caring and protective, but who gets increasingly more impatient and annoyed with her once she takes too long to grieve for their baby, who died shortly after birth and who eventually gets physically abusive when it's clear that she wants to try to make something of herself and get a business running, no longer needing to cling to him constantly for emotional support. He hits her publicly at a music festival where Abe's band is playing and the extended group of the Rock Kiss books take care of Sarah and make sure she's safe.

Abe is now sober and full of regret. He (rightfully) feels that he is partially responsible for driving Sarah into the arms of this nasty piece of work, and has always regretted the way he treated her when they were married. He not only wants to make amends, but starts a determined campaign to win her back. Can Sarah possibly risk her heart being broken once more, by letting him have a second chance?

The first third of the book or so covers Abe and Sarah's absolutely disastrous first marriage and Sarah's subsequent train wreck of a rebound relationship. By the time she meets Abe, his band mates (all of whom she never really connected with when she and Abe were first married) and their girlfriends again at the music festival where her current relationship comes to a dramatic end, she has worked hard and determinedly to process the grief of her dead son, and built a thriving independent business that she's very proud of. Because the complexes developed from her bad upbringing led her to make bad choices romantically, she has had to work to redefine who she is and what she wants, and is no longer the young, needy and impressionable woman who first fell for Abe.

She's learned the hard way that she can only ever count on herself, and while the chemistry between her and Abe is still sizzling, she cannot let herself forget just how much he hurt her, and what a rubbish husband he was first time around. Having gone trough rehab and stayed clean, Abe has also had to go several rounds with himself and knows that the way he treated Sarah before was abysmal. In his defence, he doesn't blame it all on the drink and the drugs, some of it was just emotional immaturity, as well. Having gotten the chance to reunite with her, and to really apologise and make up for his past misdeeds, and eventually maybe win her back becomes his one goal.

Sarah discovers, to her surprise, that all of Abe's band members are entirely on her side, even though she took Abe for all she could in the divorce. They were troubled by his addictions too, but didn't know how to intercede while they were having troubles. Their current girlfriends are all completely supportive of her and Sarah realises that she likes these very different women and is open to the idea of becoming friends with them. From having to manage entirely on her own (at least emotionally), she starts having a reliable network around her and while they all love Abe, they understand that Sarah forgiving him and re-considering a relationship with him is entirely her choice.

SPOILER! Of course, it turns out that while she's had trouble before, Sarah is clearly super fertile. She gets pregnant while ON THE PILL (I think there may have been a stomach bug involved that lessened the effect, but still) and wants to keep the baby. Abe obviously wants to be there for both her and the child, but they have negotiations to make before that can happen. Now, as someone who has tried unsuccessfully for years to get pregnant, and has so far gone through three unsuccessful IVF attempts (so broken not even modern science can help me conceive, I would make the worst romance heroine), this was pretty much just a slap in the face for me. For people without my fertility woes, this probably won't be as much of a big deal, but to me, it absolutely added to my general feelings of dissatisfaction with the book.

As well the story of Abe and Sarah's (spoiler) reconciliation, we get to see all the other couples (with the exception of Charlie and her T-Rex - who get hitched in New Zealand "off-screen") in the series get married over the course of this book. By the end of the story, all the couples are happily married.
This is, as far as I'm aware, the final book in Nalini Singh's Rock Kiss series. It certainly ties up all the ends neatly. A couple of the books are worthwhile entertainment, but on the whole, I would say that her paranormal books are way better and that there are so many better contemporary romance writers out there. I can see why she'd want to branch out and try new things, I just don't think this experiment has been that successful. 

Judging a book by its cover: Nalini Singh self-publishes these romances, and I would think that this (like the covers of the others in the series) are stock photos, in this case of an African American, clearly meant to be Abe, playing what looks like a grand piano. It's not exactly very exciting, but sometimes it's nice to get a change from the gleaming naked muscular chests that frequently adorn these covers. At least the image is appropriate to the action contained within.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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