Every teen musician’s dream of becoming a rock star is central to this romance about the perils and sacrifices endemic to the big time. When burnt out megastar Evan Arden hears Jesse Alexander perform, he’s blown away and drags his mentor and record producer to hear Jesse. From these humble beginnings, a great career blossoms.
Twenty-seven year old Evan, however, isn’t just enraptured by Jesse’s singing voice and composing genius. He’s also attracted to the twenty-year-old himself. So Evan manages to meet Jesse and they click.
Suddenly Jesse, who’s been booted from his family, is not only living with his gay brother Brandon as Brandon pursues an acting career in their hometown Chicago but also has his musical idol as a boyfriend. To add frosting to this luscious cake, Jesse’s band Conquest has a chance to become hot.
For his part, loner Evan, who has been spending the last few years roaming the world, is grateful to find someone whose agenda isn’t to use him as a stepping stone to the limelight. It’s as if the bars to his self-imposed exile from society have lifted. Not to mention the sex with Jesse is hot and heavy, always a plus.
When Evan decides to return to the recording studio and concert stage as Jesse is recording his first album and readies himself and his band for a concert tour, reality sets in. Is the world ready for a homosexual megastar? Will announcing his love for Jesse make them lose fans and revenue? If so, how many fans and how much revenue? As the paparazzi circle like vultures, Evan, without consulting Jesse, makes a decision that affects them both, and both suffer from it.
At first, the character of Evan is a cypher, the personality-less rock star with too many possessions and too few friends. As he continues to appear, he’s fleshed out, becoming a likeable yet frail man who’s adept at hiding but afraid to step up and admit who and what he is.
Jesse, on the other hand, is brash and rash from the beginning of the story. He has his ups and downs, but his core truthfulness and adherence to his own code of behavior, whether right or wrong, keep him afloat. His dependence on his brother as a leavening agent proves his brilliance more than his adept turn of phrase at song writing. Jesse’s greatest gift is that he rolls with the punches.
The peripheral characters, from Evan’s mentor to Jesse’s brother and bandmates, provide the richness and veracity the story demands. The mentor’s greed is counterbalanced with Brandon’s perpetual protecting of Jesse. Frost is adept at making readers feel the constant pull between the private and public as well as the realities of rock and roll as a business versus a creative endeavor.
While the book will live on in my mind, I must admit that at first I had a problem getting into the story. Jesse was just too brash and Evan seemed too egotistical at the beginning to make me want to read on. But a discussion among AAR reviewers about how much time to give authors before we make a decision about a book prompted me to keep reading. And I’m glad I did.
There are a number of follow-ups to this first Conquest novel, and now I’m eagerly looking forward to reading them. All hail, rock ‘n roll!