by Katie Porter
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
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:
Alec Davies is an aging-out rock star.
He’s twenty years older than me.
He’s also my father’s ex-best friend.
Dad used to be the lead guitarist of The Skies, an icon of the 90s British music scene. His fights with lead singer Alec were legendary, and so was the band’s self-destruction. I’ve hunted down Alec to tell him that Dad is back in England and determined to die at home. Ending our first encounter by riding Alec’s face is not the smart thing. Saying “yes” when he wants to reconcile with my dad and offers his townhouse as hospice – it’s not the smart thing either, but I do that too.
“Messy” is a very apt description for this book! First off, it’s an age gap romance between an aging rock star and the daughter of his ex-bandmate who’s dying of cancer, with all the content warnings that implies. Secondly, both main characters are, well, messy – they’re broken, with lots of sharp edges that don’t fit well together.
“What did you plan?”
“To give you a message.”
“What was this, then?”
I like that he’s on his knees. I wonder what that says about me. “Revenge, possibly. Acting out, certainly.”
Harlow’s life in San Francisco – such as it is – has been put on hold while her father, Silas, is dying. She’s accompanied him back to England, his birthplace and where he was once part of The Skies. Silas left the band before she was even born, but its breakup and the aftermath has tainted every part of Harlow’s life, though her father has always refused to talk about his past. Alec and Silas, her father, had been close as brothers, before Silas’ actions led to the breakup, so the natural thing for Harlow to do is to break into his dressing room and confront him. She’s near obsessed with him, having analyzed everything available about the band – and him, like that he wore sunglasses to all his interviews in the 90s – in hopes of learning more about what made her father the way she is, and so made her the way she is. Meanwhile, Alec is trying to get the band back together for one last benefit concert. It’s not just the cause, but also the opportunity to rewrite the ending of The Skies. The overwhelming attraction between them is just an added complication. But is there anything between them besides their complicated relationships with Silas?
“This will only go bad if you think years makes you the one in charge.”
“Christ, no one is in charge of you. Maybe not even you.”
This is an angsty, steamy read between a pair of very flawed characters. Both had difficult, abusive childhoods, and while Alec has come to terms with it in his own way, Harlow is still very much in the midst of figuring out who she is and what she wants. While the beginning of their relationship is centered on how they both interact with Silas, they discover that their broken pieces fit together – mostly through lots and lots of sex. It’s definitely a taboo romance on several levels, with both the age gap and the fact that Alec was Harlow’s dad’s best friend turned enemy turned unlikely host, but both are addressed well in the book. The story is told from both Harlow and Alec’s POV and bits and pieces of the band’s history, as well as their personal histories, are revealed as the book progresses. It did take me a while to warm up to them as a couple as there’s so much about them that shouldn’t work, but it somehow does, and in the end, I was satisfied with the state of their HEA. Was it a typical one? No, because while both Alec and Harlow heal a bit together over the course of the book, they’re not the sort of people to have a fairy tale ending. As for cons, the pacing is a bit uneven and it does feel at times like everyone is just waiting around for Silas to die, and the flowery language was at times over the top for me.
Overall, this was exactly the angst-fest I needed. Perfect if you love messy, broken people having sex and falling in love!