Six months ago, Lane Bennett had the break of a lifetime when the band Corvus Rising needed a new bassist. Lane jumped on board and has enjoyed the meteoric rise of the band. His style, along with sound tech Dex Crow’s unique blend of digital sound enhancement, has only made the band more popular. However, Lane has a couple of secrets. First, he has an alter ego as the fabulous drag queen, Miss Anastasia Fox. Miss Fox delights the crowds with her sensual voice and gives Lane a much-needed creative outlet. Second, Lane and Richard, one of the band’s executives, have a thing. Lane knows the optics around his sex life are not great, but he also knows for an absolute fact that his musical talent earned him his place on the Corvus Rising roster. As exciting as the relationship with Richard started, Lane is very over being made to feel like a rent boy. Rather than breaking it off, however, Richard starts to threaten Lane and even the band if he doesn’t get his way.
Dax Crow has lived a mean life. He lost his mom at a young age; he lost his house not long after. Dax did what he needed to survive, which included turning tricks, among other things. But he was always good with music and, as a barely legal teenager, he had a shot at making a name for himself as a musician. All Dax needed to do was keep a particular record executive satisfied in bed and all would be well. Except it wasn’t, because the executive kept upping the stakes if Dax left. Tired of being used, Dax completely cut and run and started over from scratch. A few years later, Dax found his way as part of Corvus Rising. Now that the band has a new bassist, Dax is more determined than ever to make sure they hit it big. The problem is that Dax has a strange feeling about Lane. The young bassist shows a lot of promise, but Dax knows the look of a man with secrets, and Lane has that in spades. On top of that, a long forgotten record executive comes strutting back into the band’s life and Dax has to prepare for the worst.
Rocking Karma is a contemporary rockstar story from author Kaje Harper. It’s part of the Road to Rocktoberfest multi-author collection. The book is set in America and initially follows the band as they crisscross the country in their tour bus to ecstatic crowds. This part sets the stage for how cold Dax is and how trapped Lane feels. The latter half of the story is more focused in Los Angeles where the band is based. Here, Dax and Lane have started to interact and grapple with Lane’s “boyfriend.” That develops into a sort of revenge plot once Lane comes clean about who this boyfriend actually is.
As far as the pacing of the book goes, I liked the travel/no-travel break in the middle because it highlights life on the road for the band and all the ways people learn (sometimes involuntarily) about what their bandmates get up to. It also clearly establishes how crappy not just Richard, but the whole label is. Following it up with the band anchored in LA allowed a more nuanced look at the growing relationship between Dax and Lane. Also, the chapters generally flip-flop narration between Dax and Lane. This provided ample insight into how each character thinks. Having Dax as a narrator also highlighted his journey from being closed off and caring only about his brother’s success to caring about the band as a whole. And for Lane, we were privy to exactly how out of control his situation is and how he realizes he’s trapped.
I also liked how we get to see Lane as Miss Fox and in her element. This is only a side story on page, but Harper does a great job showcasing how drag is an integral part of Lane’s being. The limited scenes at drag shows and with other queens may be short, but they reinforce the idea of found family and acceptance. The fact that Richard taps this part of Lane’s life like it’s a weapon to bludgeon Lane into doing whatever Richard wants felt like it really echoes the current, fabricated controversy around drag. Dax and the rest of the band’s enthusiastic support for Lane and his art was great to see. In addition to visibility for the drag community, there is a small nod towards other more marginalized queer identities, like open relationships and bisexuality.
The major plot devices like Dax learning to open up his heart and Lane getting a chance to take the power away from his abuser were laid out and developed really well. I wasn’t entirely sold on the chemistry between them, but they had a great spark. For me, I think Dax’s aloofness was part of the reason why I had a hard time seeing him falling head over heels. That said, from cover to cover, Dax has this identity and I appreciated that his whole personality doesn’t drastically change over the weeks this story takes place. Overall, though, I wasn’t as transported into the world and these characters a I had hoped to be.
Overall, if you are a fan of the Road to Rocktoberfest stories, I think you’ll find a lot to enjoy in Rocking Karma. Trigger warnings for dubious consent, sexual assault on-page, and discussion of past traumas. Readers who enjoy stories that feature age-gap relationships, slow-burn elements, pining, overcoming hardship, and straight up revenge will also find a lot to sink their teeth into.