Dream Maker is the second story in Erin McCarthy’s country music themed series, Nashville Nights. I first became a fan of this author after reading her Fast Track series, which centered around a group of race car drivers . At that time they were some of the sexiest romances I’d read (and listened to as audiobooks) and she’s been on my radar ever since. While musician themed stories aren’t my go-to type of romances in general, I will pick them up if I know that I already like the author, so I was eager to give this one a try. It’s got some pluses and some minuses but is worth the read if you enjoy the country music world and lengthy love scenes.
Avery O’Leery isn’t having a very good day. She’s just discovered that her boyfriend has been cheating on her, and that she’s left her purse in his truck as he took off, leaving her on the street outside of a Nashville bar without her wallet or her phone. Shane Hart’s southern manners come to the forefront when he finds her in dire straits and his offers of assistance are very welcome. While Shane is perfectly prepared to play the gentleman, the attraction between the two of them is clear, and they end up in bed together in the hotel room Avery had reserved for the special occasion she thought she’d be sharing with her now ex-boyfriend. But when morning comes Avery takes off, leaving a polite thank you note behind.
A few months later, she encounters Shane again, this time under better circumstances. Avery has picked herself up, found herself an apartment with two roommates and a job as a songwriter with a local agency. As a skilled and well known music producer, Shane recognizes talent when he hears it – and then recognizes Avery once the voice gets put to a face. A little awkwardness is quickly smoothed over, with Shane determined to get Avery’s song onto his country singer’s roster, and to rekindle their relationship. But Avery’s got more to her Nashville plan than just becoming a successful songwriter. Her half-brother lives there, a man who doesn’t know Avery exists, but one she is determined to meet. When all the pieces fall into place, will Avery get everything she’s looking for, including a new relationship?
I have mixed feelings about Shane. Well truthfully I actually quite liked him at the start, but some of his actions later on are not so impressive. He is a good time guy, but not a sleazy one. He doesn’t go into a bar, and set his sights on someone to sleep with in a predatory way. Rather he lets things flow naturally. If he meets a woman and they strike up a conversation which leads to sex, so be it. He’s clear about not looking for commitment and he’s a charming man, as well as a generous lover so he doesn’t lack for female companionship. But the circumstances of his childhood home life – including an abusive father – make him leery of the state of matrimony in general. And because of that, he’s also very quick to come to the defense of women, sometimes with his fists if necessary. While the alpha male protective instinct is usually appealing to me, here it comes across as being too quick tempered, acting first and asking questions later. However when he and Avery spend their first night together he is a passionate and gentle lover, and in their later scenes as well he clearly is concerned with her pleasure. Their love scenes are very steamy without being over the top.
Avery comes across as a little bit naïve and sometimes foolish but with some real talent. She’s a twenty-four year old young woman from a small town, looking to make it big in Nashville. She spent eight years with her boyfriend and they never had sex (well, he did, but not with her) and so Shane is her first real lover (and lucky for her, because she couldn’t have picked a better one). Left on her own, she finds a roommate and gets herself a job. She’s also smart enough to realize, once she and Shane meet again, that she could have trouble at work if the rest of the staff think there is something going on between them, since he’s a big time music producer. If he appears to favor her work, it could cause a conflict of interest and get her fired. The result is that she is wary of becoming more involved with him, and Shane has to spend some time convincing her otherwise. This hot and cold starts to get a bit wearing after a time. To complicate things further, her half-brother Chance – to whom she’d hoped to introduce herself – is Shane’s brother-in-law. There are several scenes with Shane’s sister and Chance that build up to the eventual reveal. We also get more background information on Shane and Avery’s upbringings and relationships with their parents, some of which is quite emotional. It all adds up to lots of drama in the second half of the story. Shane seems to be on the fence about his feelings for Avery, not willing to risk getting emotionally involved until late in the story. This makes for what feels like a rushed ending.
The background setting of Nashville and the recording industry are well described and I like how we get to see it from the perspective of Avery, new to the city, as well as from the more experienced characters Jolene, Chance and Shane. There is something about Avery that I find really appealing, naïve as she appears, and even though Shane’s character is more quick tempered than I expected, he does come through for her in the end. I plan to continue reading the series.