After studying for a business degree but wanting to work in the music industry, Brandon Harris is an assistant at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. On the afternoon prior to Brandon driving home to Cincinnati for Labor Day weekend, Brandon is told by his boss that the museum will be closing early so pop sensation Lucas Black can visit for a private tour. Brandon is even more unhappy that he is the one chosen to escort the man he presumes to be arrogant and clueless around the museum. However, Brandon is surprised by Lucas’ genuine excitement and openness, so much so that he finds it difficult to turn down Lucas’ offer of a free ticket for his concert that evening. Brandon still plans on the four-hour drive home afterward and Lucas asks Brandon if he can hitch a ride. It doesn’t take long for Brandon to realize that Lucas is running away and the two men embark on a road trip: riding rollercoasters, watching football – and sharing hotel rooms.
Runaway Rock Star is the first story I have read by C.J. Anthony and I am already impressed by her attention to detail, in terms of characterization and her story’s setting. Runaway Rock Star is part of Dreamspinner Press’ States of Love collection, so naturally, Ohio plays a large part and Anthony gives her reader a strong sense of the state’s diversity. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame introduces us to Ohio’s rich musical history and then Brandon and Lucas’ drive across the state allows Anthony to reveal the tourism and fun at Cedar Point, the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World”; the landscape of Lake Erie; the student body in Columbus; and the Amish and farming communities. Although I could not quite believe Lucas is British and did not recognize the smell of cow manure, I really liked the fact that Anthony takes her time with the geographical descriptions, perhaps an irony in a story which is only 87 pages long. In my opinion, Anthony’s presentation of Ohio in Runaway Rock Star will evoke fond memories in those that have visited the state and those readers who haven’t been will want to go.
As important as the setting is in Runaway Rock Star, Lucas and Brandon as protagonists are equally vital. Brandon appears to be serious and straightforward when we first meet him, though his passion for music is apparent. Sadly, he prejudges Lucas, presuming that the media’s version of the pop star is the man he will meet in person.
In opposition to Brandon’s simplicity, Anthony gives her reader the tumultuous character that is Lucas. Theirs is a pairing that the reader knows is inevitable, but it is the anticipation Anthony builds that carries us through the novella. Lucas’ sexuality is ambiguous, particularly when he talks about dating female celebrities, though we have the impression that the two men are flirting with one another. The level of sexual chemistry between Lucas and Brandon grows due to the intensive period of time that they spend together. The fact that Lucas and Brandon do not kiss within the first few chapters was not a disappointment to me, but when the story reaches that point, I was ready for it and Wow! THE moment between these guys is super hot.
Runaway Rock Star‘s ending is a fairytale one, but the romance and happiness made me want to throw my hands in the air and shout ‘yay’! Up to this point, we have understood that Brandon has greater aspirations than working at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Anthony has ensured we empathize with Lucas because every facet of his career has been decided for him and he wants to be more than a puppet.
Runaway Rock Star should be high on anyone’s ‘to read’ list in my opinion because Anthony uses certain tropes of male/male romance to her advantage and writes and enjoyable and entertaining story.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.