Fall is a light and entertaining read. It didn’t rock my world (ahem), or leave my heart aching when it was done, and I honestly haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it now that I’m finished. But. Sometimes I want and need those things from a romance novel. I was invested in the story while I was reading it, but ready to move on when it was done. Low on angst, Fall is the story of two friends who fall in love despite their best attempts not to. Two additional storylines run parallel to the romance, but provide just the right amount of additional drama to add a bit of depth to this novel. I haven’t read the previous book, Rise, (or the novella, Play), and I think they might have helped to put this story in context, but I enjoyed it anyway and Fall works as a standalone.
Dimity Graham is PA for the band Rage. Her job is her life, and the band her version of a family. Relentless, determined, and fiercely protective of those she loves, she’s just biding time until lead singer, Zander Freedman, recovers from vocal surgery and Rage can reunite and perform together again. She confident the band can recover from bad publicity after a botched attempt by Zander to lip sync the national anthem (in the previous novel, Rise), and the forced hiatus following his surgery. In fact, when the novel opens, Dimity is celebrating. Her selfish mother has finally remarried and is no longer her responsibility. Determined to get laid to celebrate her freedom, she’s heading out to a club when she runs into Rage’s nice-guy drummer Seth Curran.
Seth, who joined Rage after a nationwide audition/contest for new band members, is depressed. His former (long-distance) girlfriend got engaged to someone else, and the news breaks his heart. When Dimity turns up and shares her plans for the night, he offers to help her scout out potential hook-ups and heads to the club with her. Listening to what happened with Mel (Seth’s ex), Dimity is angry. Seth did everything he could to prove his love and fidelity to Mel, but she still cut him loose. And based on her texts and updates, it seems like Mel is keeping Seth just close enough to keep him from moving on. A tipsy Dimity convinces a slightly drunk Seth to pretend they’re a couple during an upcoming trip to New Zealand to meet-up with Zander. The fake relationship can kill two birds with one stone: Mel will be jealous of Seth’s new relationship, and it might bring them back together again (only in a romance novel!).
At the bar and somewhat worse for wear, faking a relationship seems like a good idea. But back at Dimity’s house discussing the plan over a few more drinks, their increasingly flirtatious conversation quickly escalates. They end up having sex and it’s both a good and bad development – good, because it might help them pull off their fake relationship once they’re around Mel; bad, because it was a lot more pleasurable and intense than either expected (through morning after PoVs we realize they’re both slightly freaking out). Though both Seth and Dimity pretend everything is normal, we know (and they know) it isn’t. Before sex, they genuinely liked each other. After sex, they still like each other, but the sentiment is complicated by this new attraction to one another. To his surprise, Seth realizes Dimity isn’t quite as tough as she appears. Her ‘fake dating’ plan unexpectedly reveals a woman who believes in love, just not for herself. Dimity is similarly shocked to discover that Seth’s ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ persona masks a sexy, dominant lover – and she likes it. A lot.
The trip to New Zealand is important professionally and personally for both of them. Dimity is hopeful Zander will say he’s ready to rejoin the band and glad her awkward ‘fake/not-so-fake’ relationship with Seth – and the feelings she’s having about him – will end when he reunites with Mel. Seth is also hopeful Zander has good news, but more importantly, he hopes to heal the strained relationship with his father that followed his decision to leave the family business to pursue a music career, and that he’ll get some closure with Mel. But not much goes according to plan once the couple reaches New Zealand, and those pesky little feelings they had for each other in LA… well, suffice it to say they have a difficult time keeping their hands and hearts under control.
As I mentioned early on, Fall is fairly low on drama though there’s just enough to keep the story interesting. Dimity is closed off after a childhood spent with a supremely selfish mother and an absentee, similarly selfish, dad. Zander – and Rage – are the replacement family for the one she never had. When things don’t go according to plan, she feels adrift. The one person she wants to lean on, Seth, represents everything she’s trying to avoid – intimacy, love, faith and trust in someone other than herself. Seth, surprised by the depth of his feelings for Dimity, doesn’t spend much time struggling with this new awareness or the intensity of his new feelings for her. His conflict is primarily with his stubborn father and the realization that the relationship he thought he had with Mel wasn’t quite what he believed it to be. He’s confident in his career as a musician and less concerned with Zander’s future role with Rage, and his focus is on Dimity even as he knows she’s afraid of love and a relationship with him.
The road to happily ever after is plagued with a generous helping of insecurity and doubt for Dimity and frustration for Seth. But they get there eventually with a little help from their friends. Seth is terrific as white knight to a very skittish and afraid-of-love heroine. Dimity, in turn, is just the right amount of tough and protective to balance Seth’s easy going nature. She’s not afraid to tell him the unvarnished truth, and Seth comes to rely on her insight about his friends and family. I liked them more as a couple than as separate individuals, but perhaps that’s because their rock band lives are so very different from my own. There are quite a few important secondary characters in Fall, and Zander, the star of Rise, is a major player in both their lives. I’m not sure I ‘got’ him – I think perhaps if I had read his story I would be more invested in what’s going on with him in Fall, but his role – and the future of Rage – add another layer to the complicated evolving relationship between Seth and Dimity.
It was easy to fall (get it?) for this rock-n-roll romance, and I liked Ms. Bliss’ writing style. I’m not super invested in these characters or the band, but I think that might be because I missed the first book in the series. I liked Fall enough that I’m going to backtrack and read Rise. I’m a sucker for a great low commitment contemporary romance, and I’m hoping I fall (ha!) a bit harder for the series after backtracking to book one.