Review: Rock King – Tara Leigh

Review: Rock King – Tara LeighRock King
by Tara Leigh
Series: Nothing but Trouble #1
Also in this series: Rock Legend
Publisher: Forever Yours
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
Genres: Romance
Pages: 320
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Fans of Kristen Callihan and Kylie Scott will scream for this sizzling bad boy rock star romance!

I'm not who you think I am.

Shane Hawthorne has it all. At least, that's what the headlines say about me. I have millions of fans, awards, more money - and women - than I know what to do with. But what you don't see is the wreckage I've caused. The memories and pain I can't escape, even when I pour them into music and spin them into gold.

I tried to forget. To lose myself in booze and groupies. It didn't work. It hurt me and - worse - it hurt my band. That's the last thing I want to do, so I'm cleaning up my act... starting with Delaney Fraser.

Gorgeous, smart, drama-free, and even nice - Delaney is the perfect "girlfriend." When I'm with her I don't have to pretend. It's like she sees the real me. And I can see a future with her. But that's dangerous. Because the truth is, Shane Hawthorne doesn't actually exist. He's a shield to hide who I really am. Fraud. Runaway. Addict. Murderer.

And it's impossible to love a lie, right?

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4 stars icon contemporary icon romance icon

Trigger warnings: child abuse (in the past), drug use (in the past), alcoholism (past and one instance in present)

I have a bit of a soft spot for rock star romances, even though I dislike a lot of the tropes associated with them (other person drama, for instance).  This, however, had a lot of depth to it.  It’s all about the power of guilt and shame and, most of all, secrets.  So, if you can’t guess, it is SO ANGSTY, which normally I’d run like crazy from, but I really liked this.

“As soon as I did, I could feel Shane Hawthorne descending, the persona I’d created, the barrier I needed between me and…everything. Life.
I wore Shane like a geeky teen slipping into the personality of his buff, heroic alter ego in his favorite video game. Shane Hawthorne was my avatar, and everyone thought he was real.
Every girl wanted to fuck Shane Hawthorne.
Every guy wanted to be Shane Hawthorne.
No one more than me.”

I liked both Delaney and Shane.  They both have tragic backstories, and neither are quite what they seem.  Shane, though, has been repressing his particular trauma for many years longer than Delaney, and has dealt with it in the past with the good ol’ sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, though by the time the book starts, he’s come to the realization that those aren’t the healthiest of coping skills. Instead, he has his agent hire a “girlfriend” for him for every tour – the times when he’s tempted the most by his old lifestyle.  The girlfriend’s job is to provide a barrier against the groupies, and to help him stay on the straight and narrow.  So, besides the sex (which is not contractually required), she’s mostly more of a nanny than a girlfriend.  After meeting Delaney at one of his agent’s parties shortly before the start of a new tour, Shane gets fixated on her and decides she’s the one that he wants.  Shane’s, well, not in instalove, more like insta-obsessed, with Delaney, to the point of stopping by her apartment after she walks away from him at the party.  Delaney, for her part, was very likable, though she had her moments of overly annoying insecurity.  Unlike Shane, it’s only been three years since the moment that changed her life, and she had the bedrock of a pretty normal family life before that to rely on.  When offered the girlfriend contract, she naturally reacts with a whole barrel of “WTF” and is pretty set against it, even with the promise of enough money to finish her college – and they throw in something else she can’t refuse – until she glimpses underneath Shane’s rock star mask.

“Shane was like a thousand-piece puzzle bought at a garage sale. The chances of all the pieces being in the box were slim to none, and even if I slowly and laboriously fit the jigsaw together, I had no idea if the pieces would eventually form the picture on the cover, something else entirely, or if they were just a bunch of mismatched segments I couldn’t figure out no matter how hard I tried. And yet giving up was unthinkable.”

A good portion of this book is concerned with the effects that keeping secrets has on the characters.  I felt like Delaney’s journey was very believable and heart-wrenching.  I truly felt for her, and was really torn by some of the hard decisions she felt she had to make to protect herself.  Unlike Delaney’s journey, Shane’s felt much more extrinsically motivated – without her pushing him, I don’t think he would’ve made the right choices.  Also, after the big misunderstanding, I felt like Shane needed to do a lot more groveling than he did, and I wasn’t 100% sold that he had changed enough to not screw up in the same way again in the future.

“I was done letting someone else dictate what I would say. Where I should go. What I should think. How I should feel.
Who I would love.
One day my heart would be whole again. One day I would love again.
Someone who loved me back just as fiercely. Someone who would fight for me, who would fight alongside me.”

So, while I did enjoy the book, I did have some issues with it.  The pacing had a few uneven spots, mostly, I think, because it got a bit overly verbose at times.  I didn’t particularly care for any of the side characters, even Piper, who’s the heroine of the next book.  Shane’s band members were also annoyingly crude – at one point, one of them tells him to stop playing with his “toy,” referring to Delaney.  Ick.

Overall, though, I liked this.  Recommended for anyone looking for a delightfully angsty rock star romance!

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