Manic-Pixie-Dream-BoyRating: 3 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

Dusk and his bandmates have been crisscrossing the country is an old battle tank of a van performing anywhere there’s a stage that will let their band, The Underdogs, perform. As they’re finally heading back to their native California, they make a fateful pitstop that might make or break their careers.

The pitstop itself is completely innocuous. Some members gas the car while lead singer and guitarist Dusk ducks into the shop to pick up snacks. There, he catches a glimpse of the most enticing piece of ass he’s seen on the whole trek. Sporting cotton candy hair, plastic bling, and tattoos galore, this ethereal young man sparks lust within Dusk. When their eyes meet, no words need to be exchanged. Instead, they head straight to the bathroom to let the spark of lust erupt into a four alarm fire—one that only stops when their enthusiastic fucking actually breaks the sink.

Rather than hang around for awkward explanations, Dusk and his eye candy—whom he’s dubbed “Lolly” in his head—make a mad dash for the band van. Together with the rest of the crew, they embark on the final leg of The Underdogs’ tour.

What starts out as a fun, no-strings attached arrangement slowly starts to change. With each passing day, Lolly and Dusk’s physical compatibility opens them up more than they notice. The first trial of their mutual interest comes when a long-time fan and border-line stalker happens to snap a photo of Dusk and Lolly in a compromising position—and reports it in the music industry magazine for which he works. Dusk and the band are livid that this unasked for attention could harm their chances of success—they do not want their claim to fame to be based on the fact that all the band members are varying shades of gay. Lolly is further collateral damage since the photo thrusts him into the spotlight when he knows he’s going to fade away like a summer fling.

As the circumstances of the band continue to shift, it’s up to Dusk and Lolly to figure out how to hang onto their no-pressure physical relationship, or be left miserable and ruining the best thing that’s ever happened to them.

On the one hand, it’s hard not to enjoy a story that focuses on the complicated quasi-romance that developed between the two main characters. I liked seeing the shift in Lolly and Dusk’s interpretation of their relationship. Both clearly start out on the same footing: Lolly being a hitchhiker with benefits (for Dusk only) type of deal. All they want is to satisfy this burning lust inside them and this is painfully obvious in the first couple of chapters given the way the authors describe the touchy-feely, can’t-get-enough-of-you interaction between the two. We see them both struggle with how to feel when they realize they either want or have more than the casual hook-ups both of them have actively pursued until now.

On the other hand, such intense focus on how they’re feeling right now with the man they’re feeling it for or feeling it with means there is precious little to substantiate WHY they are unable or unwilling to try a long(er) term relationship. Dusk is a bit more easily rationalized: he’s constantly going to gigs with the band and, presumably, has access to all the ass he wants in the form of groupies. (Note, the band seems to barely have three fans to call their own at the beginning of the book, so perhaps Dusk doesn’t exactly have his pick of the litter, but he himself acknowledges he’s never lacked for sexual partners.) In contrast, we see Lolly being the one to constantly push to keep things casual even AFTER we know both of them are feeling something more…and I was disappointed that we never really got to learn WHY beyond a single paragraph blurb that just told us his parents had died, their relatives didn’t want to take him in, and his foster families were all jerks. Sure, it’s sympathetic, but it’s not very substantive.

In addition to Dusk and Lolly, there are the other Underdog members. They figure into nearly every scene and yet they are completely bland fillers, only appearing if/when the action between Dusk and Lolly requires them to be there. I also found their names annoying. Dusk is bad enough, but his little brother’s name is Dawn. It wasn’t until I got to the last couple of chapters that Dusk blurts out his parents run an “eco farm” and are total hippies. At least that gets sort of rationalized. There is another band member who I’m not even sure what he does, but his name is Mage. The last one is Sid, the drummer. Without having any background for these extra characters (there’s even a one-scene only character named “Sparrow”), the whole name thing feels like artifice…making avatars seem more interesting without actually making them interesting.

One of the biggest dramatic things that happens is the Stan character outing Dusk and Lolly. Here was a great way to add angst or emotion (other than the constant lust) to the Dusk/Lolly dynamic. While I liked that Lolly is actually the one to bring things into focus for the band, it was the band’s initial reaction to Stan’s actions that left me sort of scratching my head. Literally everyone in the band identifies somewhere on the LGBTQ spectrum (everyone except Dusk is gay; Dusk himself is bisexual). Yet rather than being outraged at this Stan guy intruding so publicly on their privacy, everyone in the band is worried about the damage this publicity is going to do to them. A band that I’d say is clearly described as belonging to a sub-genre that would NOT care about a person’s sexuality; a band who is actively seeking fame (and the lack of privacy that goes along with that). If there had been any groundwork laid for other bands who’d suffered for having gay members or something, that would have been one thing. But there is nothing to compare to in this world, so I can’t understand why these guys are more upset about a potential (however unlikely) falling-out with their nearly nonexistent fan base rather than one of their most stalwart fans betraying their trust.

That said, these photos of Dusk and Lolly getting published allow another drama bomb to get built between Dusk and Lolly. When it turns out Stan’s expose makes the band MORE popular, The Underdogs are wondering if they can’t convince Lolly to stick around even after they reach his destination of LA. They offer to pay him and Lolly agrees…there is much rationalizing that this does not make Lolly a hooker or a paid escort or anything, but the seeds of doubt were there from the beginning. I liked that this theme crops up now and again, but wished it had been more sharply defined in either Lolly’s or Dusk’s thoughts/actions. It appears on page in so many words a few times, but there is precious little emotional backing up from Lolly or Dusk.

By the end of the story, I was just glad that Dusk and Lolly found a way to be together without antagonizing each other. That meant that Dusk had to learn how to ask what others want and Lolly had to learn how to open up about himself. Personally, I found it difficult to get into the story because the characters felt so…unrealistic, but I appreciated that it delivers on the hot romance between Lolly and Dusk. If you’re looking for a quick read that’s heaving on the drama but won’t bog you down with a lot of supporting details, you might like this book.

camille sig

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