I love drumlines. LOVE them! So when I read the blurb about Drumline by Stacy Kestwick, I snatched it up. The prospect of getting a behind-the-scenes look at the makings of a college drumline, plus the bonus of a love story between two drummers teased that I’d found a keeper. While this book wasn’t bad, let’s just say it was a little light on the drums.
Reese Holland intends to break the all-male tradition of the prestigious and highly-competitive snare line at fictional Rodner University. She didn’t defeat childhood leukemia only to let herself be intimidated by the squad’s captain, Laird Bronson, nor to give in like some wimpy girl when the stringent physical work and mild hazing rituals kick into full gear. She knows she deserves a spot in the famous Rodner half-time show, and she’s willing to do whatever she has to do to prove it. What she doesn’t expect is to find Laird so damn attractive.
Laird Bronson thinks Reese has found her way into the drumline tryouts by accident; there hasn’t been a girl on the snare line in – literally – decades. When he learns that she is, in fact, an accomplished drummer who can go the distance, he’s impressed. He’s also completely captivated by her pretty face, her amazing body, her strength and her compassion. When he decides that Reese belongs in his bed, he sets out to convince her that their mutual attraction isn’t just a fluke.
However, Reese doesn’t want anyone to suspect that she’s gotten a spot on the drumline for any reason other than because she’s earned it. She puts up with the increasingly malicious harassment doled out by the squad’s lieutenant, Marco, without saying a word for fear that she’ll look like she’s not a team player. Reese also does her best to stay out of Laird’s bed, but that feat is getting harder and harder as he puts on the charm offensive.
I have to say this up front: after reading all 357 pages of this book, I never got used to the name Laird. Every time I saw it, I came to a full stop, mentally seeing the word ‘Lard’ and correcting myself, only to shake my head to clear it of the image of a 17th century Scottish lord in a full tartan, because in my world, that’s when you’d use the word “Laird”. The problem I had with the hero’s name became especially ironic since one thing sure to get Laird Bronson off was hearing Reese say his name. When I’d try to picture that scenario, all I could do was laugh. Laird, Laird, ohhh Laird! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
Like I said in my intro, I was very excited to get a glimpse of the world of drummers in a college drumline. And while I did learn a few things (assuming that Kestwick did her research and presented realistic situations) such as the fact that these guys and gals have to undergo some serious physical training to be able to haul their heavy equipment around a football field at half time, for the most part, the whole drumline premise was kind of wallpaper. It served as the impetus for putting Reese and Laird together, but otherwise, it had little to do with the story. I never had any doubt whatsoever that Reese wouldn’t earn a spot on the line or even really have to fight much competition to get there. Other than Marco being a misogynistic jerk, Reese’s status as girl was used for a couple of punchlines and didn’t prove to be that big of an obstacle.
Several times I wanted to shake Reese for putting up with Marco’s crap under some misguided idea that she was tough enough to take it. This wasn’t about being weak versus being strong. It was about allowing a person in power to bully and harass you to the point of injury, and she should have reported it to Laird or, even better, to the university administration.
As far as the issue of Reese and her band superior becoming lovers and the very real conflict of interest that would create, her resolve to resist Laird didn’t last very long. He never seemed to understand her concerns, and once they did cross the line, it didn’t seem to create any big problems for her, at least as far as her position on the drumline was concerned. I would much rather have seen the two struggle against their attraction because for them to get together would cause some issues.
All in all, Reese and Laird are likeable, if a little generic, new adult characters. Their attraction is of the insta kind, and I found Laird’s immediate possessiveness to be a bit eye-roll inducing. At least they bonded over a common history with pediatric cancer. When the couple did hit some snags, they seemed to be somewhat silly, the kind of problems that a good heart-to-heart would solve.
I would have liked this book a lot more if it had contained more of the drumline experience, less of Marco being a bully and more of Reese just speaking up about it. What it did accomplish is to give me an overwhelming urge to watch the fun 2002 movie Drumline, which is exactly what I’m off to do!