Publisher: Kylie Scott
Publication Date: April 7, 2022
Series or Standalone: Standalone
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
CW: Grief; anxiety; pregnancy; home invasion
It pains me so much that I didn’t like this book. I was greatly looking forward to it as I adored Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive series and was excited for her to write another musician hero. However, this book fell flat. This book was a bit of a nebulous meh.
The premise for the book is pretty simple. Two years after his wife’s death, rock star Garrett Hayes isn’t ready to move on. He moves out of LA to a small town in northern California to escape. Ani Bennet happens to be his next-door neighbor who moved back to her hometown for serenity. The last thing she needs is a grumpy rock star living next door who she had a major crush on in the past. When Garett asks for her help to get out of his comfort zone, Ani cannot say no. But the problem is, the more time they spend together, the more she cannot deny her feelings for him. Can the small-town girl and the world-famous rock star make it work?
This is a relatively short, quick read which I think ended up hurting it more than helping it. Everything about the story – from the characters to the romance to the plot – felt superficial. It was as if we didn’t get to spend enough time with the story to get to know the characters and buy into the emotions they were feeling. I felt like many things were a “blink and you miss it” moment that weren’t given the time or attention to leave an impact. This felt like an idea of a book more than a full book. And it disappoints me greatly to say that as Lead by Kylie Scott is one of my all-time favorite books.
When it comes to the romance, I was let down as there was no real relationship between Ani and Garrett. I didn’t even realize that they liked each other until more than halfway through the book when she was jealous of him being photographed with someone else. There was no chemistry, no spark between them. And that’s such a shame as I know Scott can deliver on the chemistry and heat. I felt like Garrett and Ani had only a few scenes together before it was like BAM, I have feelings, and it wasn’t based on anything. Their relationship also went from 0 to 100 incredibly fast (like 48 hours), and I just didn’t buy it for these characters as there seemed to be no emotional connection or even lust between them.
The plot is relatively straightforward and doesn’t offer anything new. The story played out exactly how I expected. And for such a short book, it felt like the plot was moving very slowly. I would have liked more development to the main story – there were a lot of areas that could have been teased out that weren’t.
In terms of the characters, they also felt incredibly underdeveloped. The book is told from Ani’s point of view, and yet I could not get a read on her personality. She has some trauma in her past, but I felt like that was only brought up as a minor plot point and not explored fully. She felt very bland and flat, and I struggled to connect with her. Garrett was much the same way. He didn’t have much of a personality beyond being a musician and grieving his wife. I will say that I appreciated Scott’s exploration of grief as that added some life to Garrett and made him feel like more of a real person. But I still felt like I didn’t know him beyond that. It’s such a shame as I know Scott can write incredibly three-dimensional characters and explore their many layers as she did that fantastically with Jimmy from Lead. This just felt like a letdown. It doesn’t help that I reread Lead literally right before picking this book up as I was constantly comparing Lead to this book.
I’ve struggled with Scott’s recent work as it feels so different from her Stage Dive series. Her Stage Dive series was traditionally published, while most of her recent stuff has been self-published, which I think might be why they feel so different. This book could have benefited from further exploration and study of certain characters and plotlines – it felt more like a story’s first draft rather than a final draft.
If you’re a fan of Scott’s Stage Dive series, I recommend you skip this one. You will be disappointed and are better off rereading your favorite book from that series. While this book didn’t work for me, I will still be checking out future books that Scott writes as I know she can deliver on the emotions and the romance. I reread Lead at least once a year (if not more!) and recommend you pick that up if you’re looking for a good rockstar romance!