By Sierra Riley
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
“I just want to make music with you again.”
“It’s been five years. Why is he even on my mind?”
Country music star Blake Bradley was born for the stage. His band, the Sinsationals, is selling out arenas across the USA. But a toxic cocktail of success, substance abuse, and personal conflicts threaten to tear the band apart. Secretly, Blake longs for the band’s early days. Back when things were simpler. He had Cal, his best friend and guitarist, in his corner. Things were good. Things were easy. But when they dared to test the boundaries of their relationship, exploring something deeper, Cal quit the band and left Blake hanging. Coming home to Denver stirs up more pain than nostalgia.
“He thought we were just fooling around, but I fell in love. I had to run before it killed me.”
Bar owner Cal Lindsay is married to his job. He works hard and takes care of his staff, trying not to think about what could have been. But when his best friend drags him to a Sinsationals concert, he’s face to face with the past he walked away from. When Blake shows up at his bar the next night, Cal isn’t sure if he’s there to make amends or flaunt his newfound wealth and success. All Cal knows is the aching truth: he never stopped wanting Blake. But it’s far too late to fix things, isn’t it?
“If we do this, you can’t run off on me again.”
After a tentative reconciliation in the bar, Blake invites Cal to travel with the band. If everything implodes at the end of the tour anyhow, what’s the harm? Touring across the Western US, the two men explore one another with the tentative caution of strangers. As they struggle to rebuild their relationship, they discover that second chances are earned, not given. Can Blake and Cal let go of past hurts and learn to forgive? Or will the band’s infighting drive an impossible rift between them?
Blake and Cal complement one another as a couple – and they must, because they tidily and readily seemed to reconnect after five years apart into a solid relationship. As quickly as they reconciled, though, and as deep as it appeared that Blake cared for and loved Cal (now), it struck me as strange that they initially broke apart because Blake wasn’t able to commit to Cal (Cal felt more towards Blake five years ago than Blake did towards Cal – of course, was that because they didn’t know how to communicate?). After these past five years, however, it appears that Blake and Cal realize they belong together, act as if they never missed a beat, and are determined to stay together and figure out the art of communication. They have a genuine rapport, chemistry and friendship that is almost palpable. Riley is a good writer, and though the storyline isn’t complex, it ebbs and flows and continues to add depth and understanding for the reader about each character. Cal, for example, is really in touch with who Blake is and offers the calm to his angst; Cal is Blake’s anchor. (I actually wondered how Blake was able to get through the past five years considering all the drama going on with the band.) What could have made the book better? Perhaps altering the prologue so it built more from their final time(s) together five years ago to better accentuate how they fell apart. I didn’t really sense that from the existing prologue. Aside from all that, Cal and Blake make a good couple and their friendship and evolving second-chance romance was yummy. Yanmei was a solid supporting character. Rhett was easy to dislike. Riley is a solid writer.
The “huh?” part?
I wish I knew more about their past, since they seemed to reconnect almost too easily – no real “talk” about what went wrong.
Cal has an anchor for Blake, and when the two made music together, whether in a large group or small one, it felt authentic.
Review originally published on Amazon and Goodreads on May 3, 2016.