When you’ve had a crush on a boy since you met him your first day in ninth grade and have never really gotten over it, but watched helplessly while that crush morphed into something more, then you know you’ve got a problem. And, really, the trouble is only compounded by the fact that you are a music nerd and the boy in question is the star quarterback of the school team. Of course, there’s also that niggling fact that his identical twin turns out to be your best friend with whom you occasionally get a bit of horny sexy time with even though you both know there can never be anything but friendship between you. But, really, it’s all okay cause the jock twin often seems to either ignore you or focus all his laser-like attention on you so when you drunkenly kiss him and tell him you love him at the graduation party, maybe he will have forgotten now that so much time has passed without seeing each other. Surely it will be okay now that he’s an out and proud professional football player and you’re the keyboardist of an incredibly hot and popular band that truly has been mimicking its name, Downward Spiral, since you are now uncomfortably face to face with said crush on Christmas day so many years later.
Welcome to Benji Casparian’s life. When he decides to fake date Paris, with whom he is still deeply infatuated and whom he hasn’t seen in over ten years, Benji tries to tell himself it’s all for the cameras and to take some heat off of poor Paris, who has been benched with an injury that may be career ending. With all the other band members currently imploding and the fate of their band’s re-signing with the major label that has supported them hanging by a thread, Benji goes on a much needed vacation to visit London—the other twin and his best friend. It’s actually London who suggests Benji and Paris do the dating thing in order to get the media attention off Paris and his unsure future in the NFL. When Benji whisks Paris off to an island in the Caribbean for some solitude and rest, sparks fly between the two men and the years of non-communication melt away, leaving them to figure out just what is really fake about the growing relationship between them.
K.M. Neuhold has released the final book in the Replay series, Strike a Chord, and it focuses on the fourth member of Downward Spiral, pianist Benji Casparian. Benji has always been the one guy that their manager, Archer, has never needed to worry about. He isn’t addicted to drugs like Jude, he doesn’t mutilate his body, nor does he nearly commit suicide over and over like Lincoln. No, the only thing plaguing Benji is the fact that he has always regretted losing contact with Paris, the brother and identical twin of his best friend, London. When the band reaches what might be its final crisis and Archer sends everyone on vacation to regroup, Benji heads home to Ohio and Paris…never suspecting that the two of them will enter into a crazy scheme to put Benji in the limelight rather than his bandmates and they they will rekindle the emotions that Benji and Paris have always buried for each other.
Strike a Chord has all the sexual tension and hot sex one might wish for, while also delivering a beautiful slow burn romance that turns out to be incredibly satisfying. The fears and doubts that have kept both Paris and Benji apart are now the basis of the desperate need to reconnect that ultimately brings them together. When these two boys met, Benji was hoping his new school would prove to be a haven from the bullying he had endured in middle school and Paris was struggling with the fact that he well may be gay. When an instant spark of attraction leaves both boys dumbfounded and a bit afraid, Paris immediately distances himself from Benji—something that would have been easier if the guy had not become his brother’s best friend and jerk off buddy. It’s that second fact that prevents Paris from ever coming clean about his attraction to Benji, despite the fact that Paris has it all wrong and Benji and London never were in love, but just best friends with benefits.
The beauty of this final novel in the series is not only that the author writes it in such a way as to remind us of the backstories on the other band members, but it also brings all four guys full circle by novel’s end. I loved how we were reminded of how each band member worked through their individual crises and were able to heal from their own traumas. On top of that, this story manages to reveal if this band will actually dissolve or continue on and what that will look like for all of them. Tying up all their storylines and giving us a glimpse of their future was incredibly satisfying to read.
Cleverly, K.M. Neuhold makes this story a standalone—a tough thing to accomplish given that this is the fourth novel in the series. This alone was incredibly well done, but then to bring together Benji and Paris and their shared past and so seamlessly move them into the present was just brilliantly done. By using alternating points of view and having both guys narrate this story and then continue the format that gives us a glimpse of the present and the past side by side, the author plays out the entire present relationship while revealing how it all began. The format is standard in these novels and I must say it’s never confusing or jarring, but rather becomes a smooth flow of keeping up with the present while discovering the past.
Strike a Chord is a wonderful final chapter in this series. It has romance, a bit of drama, a dose of angst, and some very hot sex. All told, it is a very satisfying end to Downward Spiral’s story and one that I think fans of this series will really enjoy.