In a world where there are very few romances featuring trans heroes and heroines, it’s nice to see such characters featuring in books published by a mainstream publishing house like Carina Press. When the representation is excellent – as is the case in Reverb, which is dashing, sparkly fun from the first page to the last – the reading experience is thoroughly enjoyable.
Mish Sullivan hates hospitals. She watched her mother die slowly from cancer in one, but now here she lies, getting checked out after punching a dude for charging toward her with a pair of scissors at a concert by her band, Twisted Wishes. In the scuffle, Mish fell on and possibly injured her hand – bad news when you’re a professional bassist – and accidentally caused a potential scandal their up-and-coming band doesn’t need. The scissors incident is immediately followed by a series of threatening emails, so their manager realizes they need protection, which is the last thing fiery, independent Mish wants in her life.
Military veteran David Altet happens to be the man for the job, and he soon figures out that Mish has a stalker who would rather see her dead than living her own life on her own terms. David’s a loner, but flirty, fun Mish soon has him singing a different tune. As a healed Mish and Twisted Wishes go back onto the road, her flirtation with David turns to much more. Soon, David has his eye on the gorgeous woman he’s falling in love with and on an audience that could contain a murderous stalker.
Reverb works for a lot of reasons; the heat between the protagonists, and their rock-solid banter, for one. David and Mish seem compatible right from the start, and their constant back and forth combines with a sense of warm intimacy that works to break down David’s fear of abandonment and the guilt he feels over things that happened when he was serving. His self-blame is completely understandable when certain events transpire later in the book.
Mish has her own traumas, stemming from her mom’s death, her poor lifestyle choices, and the assault she was subjected to. She was a confident, well-balanced heroine, and I really loved how take-charge she could be.
She and David have a relationship made of snark, great sex, and ultimately, fearless vulnerability. It’s a great little romance that works very well, and is dotted about with self-doubt and fear that they need to work out before they can be together.
There’s so much more to love about the book. The camaraderie between the members of Twisted Wishes and their staff and friends on their tour was a lot of fun to read about. Everyone looks out for everyone else, and it’s a beautiful found family to become invested in. Zabo also beautifully captures the highs and lows of touring life, from the power of playing music to the boring mendacity of setting up a VIP meet-and-greet, from the highs to dealing with the hell of the paparazzi and downs of life on the road; everything’s included and everything feels true to life.
The only part of the novel that doesn’t really work is the stalker mystery. The tempo of the tension in this part of the novel ebbs and flows; at one point, for example, Mish and David have sex backstage where they could be caught while the stalker is on the loose; a classic horror movie-style mistake that doesn’t have any consequences. The reveal of the stalker’s identity was only partly satisfying, since he’s introduced just seconds before it happens. I expected it to be someone even closer to the band, and was a little disappointed the book didn’t have a big shocker attached to the reveal.
Aside from that Reverb is a truly satisfying romance and a well-researched tale of musicians on the rise, post-traumatic stress, love, and growth.