Jude is the drummer for Downward Spiral, one of the hottest rock bands in the world. Though they are at the top of their game professionally, personally the band is falling apart and Jude is no exception. His life is parties, drugs, prostitutes, and destruction and he knows he is a mess, yet feels powerless to stop it. Even when he managed to pull himself together a little, it seemed like no one expected anything better from him and Jude gave up trying. Now his life is spinning out of control with no end in sight.
Desperate to help Jude get himself back together, band manager Archie hires the man he hopes can reign Jude in, and that’s Archie’s ex, Bennett. Bennett and Archie had hoped to have a life together, but despite their love for one another, they had some incompatibilities that seemed insurmountable. Now, 16 years later, the men still have feelings for one another, but they are trying to focus on Jude. Bennett makes a living helping celebrities get their out of control lives back on track and he is sure he can help Jude as well. It is going to take a lot of structure and discipline, but Jude isn’t beyond hope.
The men retreat to Archie’s house in California so that Jude can rehab out of the prying eyes of the press, as well as away from the source of his bad habits. It isn’t easy to change, especially when Jude still has so many negative feelings about himself that get in the way. But he begins to slowly get his life under control, living healthier and making better choices. As the men spend more time together, however, Bennett realizes that Jude may be responding to more than just the structure Bennett is providing, but that he actually has a lot of submissive tendencies that play right into Bennett’s more dominating ones. The men decide to explore a Dom/sub relationship between Bennett and Jude. In fact, as their relationship grows, it starts to pave the way for a rekindling of the connection between Archer and Ben as well, not to mention finally bringing to light the feelings Archer and Jude have been harboring for one another for years. Now the men have a chance to build a relationship among that three of them that fulfills them all in wonderful ways. But they must figure out how to make their fragile new relationship work amidst Jude’s recovery and the band’s next steps forward.
Beat of Their Own Drum is the third book in K.M. Neuhold’s Replay series. The stories follow the members of Downward Spiral who, at ten years into their star-making career, are pretty much falling apart personally (or at least that’s the case for the characters the series has focused on so far). What is really interesting about this series is that the stories are happening concurrently. The band is a mess and Archie has set up time for the guys to take a break from their non-stop touring and recording schedule to try to pull things together. So the books take place during this break period and the story plays out in interesting ways, particularly as we already know things that are happening for the other characters while we are reading about Jude, Archer, and Bennett. It also means that you can read these stories as standalones, as the band members are mostly doing their own thing in their stories (I read this third book, but Sammy reviewed the first two). However, the books do feature flashbacks that relate to the whole band, and the guys do interact with one another at times, so I think your experience will be richer if you read them all.
I really loved the dynamic among the three men in this story. Bennett and Archer are clearly still in love with one another and have never quite gotten over each other, even 16 years later. The men broke up because their sexual interests were incompatible, as Bennett wanted to experience dominance and Archer is not at all a sub. So they knew their relationship couldn’t work as it was and broke things off so each man could move forward, but neither has ever been able to forget the other. So there is a lovely lovers reunited dynamic here as Bennett and Archer get a chance to reconnect and also to realize that with Jude in the mix, things now work between them in ways they never expected. Then we have Archie and Jude, two men who have long held an attraction to one another, but neither realized the other was interested. There is a sweetness to their interaction, as Archer is such a caretaker (of Jude, as well as the band as a whole). These guys take a little while to get out of their own way, but once they accept that their feelings are reciprocated, there is a lovely tenderness between them that is a nice contrast to Jude’s dynamic with Bennett. Bennett and Jude very clearly have a Dom/sub relationship and Bennett guides Jude along to help him manage some structure and control in his life. He is the firmer hand that oversees the discipline and the rules, while Archer is the gentler touch, and I love how Jude thrives with both of these men. Neuhold does a nice job of showing how any pair of these men might work on some level, but it really takes all three of them for things to shine.
Jude’s recovery is the major theme of the story and we see him get his life back on track as his relationships develop as well. I think Neuhold makes it clear that Jude’s improvement is coming from Bennett’s role as a “coach” of sorts professionally, rather than that the Dom/sub dynamic is some sort of magic bullet. However, I would have been interested in seeing more focus on Bennett’s techniques and Jude’s recovery separate from what ultimately becomes their Dom/sub relationship, as it all sort of seems to blend together. You also have to be okay with the way Bennett’s professional role in Jude’s life morphs into a sexual and personal one, but that didn’t bother me at all.
I really enjoyed how things all tie up at the end with the band, and I assume each book gives us a bit more of how their future will develop. Next up is Benji’s story and I am really looking forward to seeing how things all come together for the series in that final book. So I really loved this one and I am so glad I got a chance to check out this series.