Review: Syncopation – Anna Zabo

Review: Syncopation – Anna ZaboSyncopation
by Anna Zabo
Series: Twisted Wishes #1
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: April 9, 2018
Genres: Romance
Pages: 295
Source: NetGalley

I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

There’s no resisting the thrum of temptation in this male/male rock-star romance from genre-favorite author Anna Zabo!

Twisted Wishes front man Ray Van Zeller is in one hell of a tight spot. After a heated confrontation with his bandmate goes viral, Ray is hit with a PR nightmare the fledgling band so doesn’t need. But his problems only multiply when they snag a talented new drummer—insufferably sexy Zavier Demos, the high school crush Ray barely survived.

Zavier’s kept a casual eye on Twisted Wishes for years, and lately, he likes what he sees. What he doesn’t like is how out of control Ray seems—something Zavier’s aching to correct after their first pulse-pounding encounter. If Ray’s up for the challenge.

Despite the prospect of a glorious sexual encore, Ray is reluctant to trust Zavier with his band—or his heart. And Zavier has always had big dreams; this gig was supposed to be temporary. But touring together has opened their eyes to new passions and new possibilities, making them rethink their commitments, both to the band and to each other.

This book is approximately 102,000 words

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

Carina Press acknowledges the editorial services of Mackenzie Walton

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Trigger warning: View Spoiler »

While I expect rock star romances to be angsty, oh man, this took angst and piled on lots of sizzling chemistry with a BDSM twist.  There’s also lots of diverse sexual rep: Ray is gay, and unlike some of the other m/m rock star books I’ve read, he’s never hidden from the press that he is.  Zavier is pansexual, aromantic (more on that later), and kinky as heck.  Of the other members of the band, Dom is also gay, and while I’m not sure Mish’s sexuality was ever explicitly stated, I’m pretty sure she’s bi or gay.

“From behind the drum kit, Zavier still held Ray’s stare. No words, but he knew they were a band. That lay in that smile, the triumph written into his shoulders and arms.
You bastard. The thought flitted through Ray’s mind, even as his soul melted from the fading echoes of music that he hadn’t heard the likes of since Kevin hit the bottle. You bastard. You knew that song was about you.
Finally, he spoke. ‘When can you start?’”

Years ago in high school, Zavier, already on the path to becoming a classically trained drummer at Julliard, turned down the opportunity to join Ray’s garage band, and Ray never quite forgave him – or forgot how hot he was.  When Twisted Wishes’ drummer leaves the band in a mess of bad publicity, Zavier is the only one who auditions who has any talent, and the chemistry between Ray and Zavier is still electric.  Twisted Wishes has been doing well – they’re touring as the opening act for a respected rock band and their records are selling – but Zavier’s incredible drumming skill has the potential to reinvent the band.  So, we’ve got a little bit of second-chances, a little bit of enemies to lovers (Ray says he hates Zavier for refusing to join the band back in high school), basically, trope catnip for me!  Despite their apparent success, Ray is constantly worried they’re going to fail, and seemingly sometimes a few steps away from spiraling into a destructive depression.  Ray is the heart of the band – the lead singer, the songwriter, the person who takes everything on himself.  Zavier sees what Dom and Mish – the other members of the band – don’t: that Ray is headed for his own breakdown if something doesn’t change soon.  Luckily, Zavier has some ideas for helping Ray out…

The pacing in general is slow, but since it’s so character and relationship driven, it still worked for me.  It takes some time move from the ridiculously smoldering sexual tension to a friends with benefits arrangement, but, my goodness, it was all scorching.  They move from friendship to a dominant/submissive relationship with ease, and the continued reaffirmation of consent was lovely.  The secondary characters – Dom and Mish – were also wonderfully written, interesting, and well-rounded, and I’m very much looking forward to reading both their books.  They’re not just bandmates, they’re friends, and the trust and care that each of them displays for the others – and the way they welcome Zavier into that group – was really sweet.

“Twisted Wishes sometimes spun close to chaos during their songs, with layers upon layers of timing and chords, but Ray had written songs that worked, and his voice carved out sense from the chaos and brought the mess together into a beautiful whole.
Music like this was Zavier’s true passion. He didn’t understand the hearts of humans, but this he knew and felt. He modified Kevin’s lines on the fly, bringing them closer to what he knew as true when he listened to that lovely voice singing.”

For my part, I’m not sure I completely understood what being aromantic meant.  It’s a term that I’ve heard before, but wasn’t familiar with.  It was a sticking point in most of Zavier’s other relationships, and while he talks about not being into the whole flowers-and-dating stuff, it’s obvious he cares deeply about Ray, and that was enough for romance-loving me.  From the little reading I’ve managed to do so far, I wonder if it’s the author’s skill that makes aromanticism so confusing for me, as throughout the book they make clear that Ray and Zavier’s relationship is no way lesser than a “traditional” romantic relationship just because Zavier doesn’t have those feelings for Ray.  All this to say – I’m pretty sure I’m missing out on parts of the book because of my unfamiliarity, but I certainly wouldn’t say it’s the author’s fault.

Overall, this was a delightfully sexy rollercoaster full of feels.  If you like rock star romances, you’ll love this one!  I can’t wait for Dom’s book!

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