A spicy romance and a whole lot of car love make up Flying Gold, the second chapter of Vanessa North’s American Heavy Metal series.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Matt Adams is shooting a flick near his Georgia hometown. He’s just bought a showpiece of a Chevelle, but it dies and stalls before he can get it home. That requires him to call on the services of American Heavy Metal, the repair shop owned by Tiffani Ellis, his former high school sweetheart.
Tiffani took over American Heavy Metal after her dad died, and though she enjoys the job well enough, she finds herself stepping into his role as head of the family, deferring her dreams and fantasies of a future filled with racing and photography to help both her complicated family and the business thrive.
She and Matt were thick as thieves back in the day, but a graduation night betrayal estranged them. Tiffani refused to accept Matt’s pleas then, and she refuses to accept them now. But Matt is nothing if not a determined man. And Tiffani does, after all, need the money.
As she works banging the Chevelle into shape, she and Matt court and spark and fall back into bed together. But can she ever truly forgive Matt for the indiscretion that caused their break-up? And can they survive a scandal that threatens to end Matt’s career and embroil them both in controversy?
Flying Gold is a step up from Hard Chrome, the first book in the series, with winning characters.
I really liked edgy Tiffani, whose tough, smartass attitude covers a softer core. I loved the realistic completeness of her, that she’s an artist and a grease monkey, a woman’s who’s not ashamed of her one-night stands but wants her own (anarchic) happily ever after.
Matt is interesting, too – part of him still clinging to his blue collar roots, friends with an up-and-coming actor who yearns to go back to his comedy roots, absolutely believing that he’s faking it until he makes it. He’s more in love with cars than his camera, and his protective measures with an underage actress he’s trying to protect from an overbearing producer carries a bit of heft – but ultimately feels short-changed.
The plot – which involves Matt being thrown under the bus for a producer’s harassment of a teenage actress and being mistaken for her romantic partner by the press – is a little creaky at the joints, as the author tries to make a big, solid point while placing more weight on concerns that Tiffani might think bad things about Matt, versus the very serious reality of what he’s being accused of. The book is honestly at its best when it’s just about Matt and Tiffani running around the city having fun together.
While this and the story’s grasp of life in Hollywood is decently researched but has nothing interesting to say, everything it tells us about mechanics and car racing is interesting. We get to spend a little time with the rest of Tiffani’s family, which means more time with Duke, Tanner and Elspeth (who seems to be a lock for future heroine-hood). These visits enhance but do not overtake the narrative.
Much of the conflict weighs upon Matt’s youthful cheating, which is sensitively and decently handled – but those who dislike cheating might not enjoy this plot. (He does not cheat on Tiffani as an adult.)
Overall, Flying Gold is a solid, spirited and highly enjoyable piece of work.