Desert Isle Keeper
A few months ago I did a Pandora’s Box here with Dabney about Karina Bliss’ Rise. For me, it’s a clear DIK, while for Dabney it’s a B. I liked it so much – and have actually reread it since writing the Pandora’s Box – that I thought it deserved a full review and spot in the AAR reviews database.
Karina Bliss’ 2010 release What the Librarian Did (WTLD) is one of my personal favorite category romances of the last five years, and earned an honorable mention for best category romance in the AAR Reader Poll for 2010 releases. I reread WTLD when I learned that Rise was going to feature Zander Freedman, a secondary character in the original book; I’d forgotten who Zander was. Upon reread I was shocked, and couldn’t figure out how this man who stole his brother’s songs and had numerous serious personal issues could be turned into a hero. Not only did Ms. Bliss succeed, I may even like Rise more than the original.
After Zander’s brother – the hero of WTLD – left their band, Rage, the rest of the band left as well, unwilling to deal with Zander’s ego. Instead of giving up, Zander reformed the band through a reality show with a group of much younger musicians.
When we first meet Zander – on tour with the new version of Rage– he’s trying to convince a doctor to renew his prescription for steroids. But the meds aren’t for any addiction, Zander has a serious problem with his vocal cords, and is keeping it from his band members. He’s invested all of his personal funds in the revival of the band and needs the current tour to succeed. Zander’s changed his life to protect his vocal cords. He’s given up alcohol, coffee, drugs, spicy foods, and focuses on healthy eating. But he feels he needs the steroids to get through the tour. While Zander’s given up alcohol and drugs for his voice, he’s no saint. Early on he has a threesome – albeit off page – with two groupies.
Not only did I question whether Zander could be turned into a hero, I wondered what type of woman would be his heroine. And at first, the heroine – Elizabeth Winston – seems cut from the same cloth as the heroine of WTLD. A literary biographer, Elizabeth’s publications feature historical figures; her book on Stonewall Jackson won the Pulitzer Prize in history. Elizabeth is skeptical when Zander calls her up and offers her a job as his biographer. But then Zander drops a bombshell; he’s actually the person – “LightBrigade” – that she’s had a six month email correspondence with over her most recent book.
Zander fired the first two writers hired by his publisher to help him write his memoir. Now he’s determined to get the writer he wants. There’s a strong sexual attraction from the first when the two meet, and Elizabeth is particularly awed by Zander’s beauty. But there’s so much more to their relationship than sex – although they eventually have a lot of it.
Both Zander and Elizabeth are fully developed, albeit very different characters. They each have a large group of co-workers or friends or family who help reveal more about their characters. Elizabeth’s family, while loving her, has a very limited view of her. They think she’s led a sheltered, purely academic life, and can’t believe that she actually was a bit wild while studying overseas. And they don’t believe she would ever become involved with someone like Zander.
Zander is selfish, vain, egotistical, but he’s also carrying around a lot of guilt for actions – and inactions – dating back to his childhood. The two together stimulate each other’s emotions and intellects.
While I love Zander and Elizabeth, I also liked many other characters in the book. We’re introduced to a number of interesting secondary characters associated with the band, and it’s clear at least some of them will be featured in future entries in the series. I’m particularly hoping that Zander’s assistant Dimity and Philippa, his Executive Housekeeper, get their own stories. I’d like to meet up with the rest of Rage again, and in particular, I’d like to see how Zander and Elizabeth are doing in the future. As for Ms. Bliss, she’s now an autobuy for me.