Tara Leigh’s series of rock and roll romances about the band Nothing but Trouble continues in Rock Rebel with Verity and Dax’s perfectly okay story.
Verity Moore is having one of the most memorable days of her life. With a bad reputation and a golden voice, she made her name as a sweet, innocent child star on The Show. But her acting and pop careers ended up exploding in her face as she careened down a canyon of poor choices and bad behavior sparked off by the sexual and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of the Hollywood dream machine. At rock bottom, she was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time during an executive’s party, which won her an audition with agent Travis Taggert; he signed her on condition that she work to put her pop tart reputation behind her. With a pushy, cruel, self-interested stage mom trying to shove her back into TV work, Verity hopes she can do it.
Dax Hughes isn’t supposed to be a rock star, but a rock star he is, and a Grammy-winning one at that. Coming from a family of successful classically trained singers, he went to school within the rarified atmosphere of LaGuardia and Julliard, which means his accomplishments as lead guitarist of a successful rock band are looked down upon by his ex-classmates. Even his parents and family, who expected him to join the family classical singing group, haven’t attended one of his sold-out shows but instead have continued touring as a quintet. Dax has his own problems with that; once upon a time, his ex-love, Amelia, was part of the group until they their bad break-up while trying to make their dreams come true in LA, and Dax has avoided romance ever since. That his little sister Aria wants to run out on the family business and go to LA just throws more tinder onto the fire.
Verity and Dax meet while stuck in an elevator, where they flirt over zodiac signs and Dax gets an instaboner, but they don’t connect until his lead singer, Shane, and Shane’s wife, Delaney (Hero and heroine of the first book, Rock King) and Verity’s best friend Piper (heroine of book two, Rock Legend) bring Verity home after her first recording session. Sparks fly, and soon Taggert decides that Verity and Nothing but Trouble should tour together. As they work together on Verity’s first album since her re-emergence, Dax and Verity develop an intense attraction to one another, but his fear of committing again, her ugly past and belief that she’s not worth attention outside of her fake celebrity surface keeps them at odds. Will Verity really find her truth? And will Dax be able to stand by her, even with his scars in the way?
A warning before I continue: this book has heavy themes of molestation, coercion, drugging and rape. All of them are handled with a very realistic feeling of panic and shame on Verity’s part, which might be triggering to survivors, but it’s done with taste and sensitivity.
The best thing about Rock Rebel is, without a doubt, Verity. Watching her fighting the memories of the past and growing into her own as an artist is an interesting journey, and she’s a strong and smart woman who feels like a realistic starlet-with-a-soul.
I wanted to sympathize with Dax more than I did, but he had an alphahole pushiness that didn’t work for me, especially considering how much crap Verity had been through, and the fact that he knows she’s skittish and vulnerable after the abusive crap she experienced before she met him. At one point he says of Verity, “You are beautifully broken. Ruined for all other men but me.” Which is a fucking disgusting thing to say to a rape survivor. And when a final late-book bombshell drops, you’ll be left with the notion that he is a true blue moron for not thinking ahead and crossing all his ts. At least the heat between them is believable, and they fit together as people.
I have to give extra kudos to Leigh for portraying the gritty, ugly underbelly of LA with perfect accuracy; a lot of the truths she speaks of in the entertainment industry are true in real life, sadly. Points off, though, for the need to villainize Amelia so thoroughly that she becomes Satan in pumps, to the point where her development makes no sense. To say why this is annoying would be a huge spoiler though, so just trust me when I say it strikes a sour note.
Rock Rebel manages a midpoint rating for its compelling heroine, timely story and good scene-setting, but its hero made it a tough book to complete.