I took a look at this blog today and realised that it has been months since I last updated it. Okay, that’s not exactly true. I know that it’s been months because I haven’t written anything blog-worthy for a while.
Of course, I have been alive, I have been working full-time (though from an office set up in my empty spare room) and I have been reading. In fact, this week I ticked off book 40 in my annual Goodreads challenge.
So, what is the post about today? I thought about this long and hard. I could do what everyone else is doing and write a quarantine diary-type-thing, but that would hardly be of interest when, as someone with a compromised immune system, I have barely done anything at all since lockdown began in the UK nearly 120 days ago. Then I suddenly realised that the one thing I had never written about was the fascination I have for a certain relationship-trope in romance novels.
There are so many different types of romance novel on the market; vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, celestial beings, demons, billionaires, secret wives/husbands/children, movie stars, BDSM, rockstars. And that list is far from complete. In fact, just yesterday I was on Amazon trying to find a new author when I discovered that there are even different types of ‘forbidden love’ tropes, including step-siblings, May-to-December, teacher/student…This is one trope I don’t think I will be venturing into at any point.
Way back when I was a young teen (and this really is travelling a fair few years) I was searching through the shelves at the school library for something different to read when I came across a brightly coloured cover showing a girl with long strawberry-blonde hair and a young man with dark-blond hair and intense eyes. I looked at the book, then read the inside cover and knew that I had found something to read.
The book in question was Easy Connections by an English author called Liz Berry.
As a teen, I devoured this book, reading it so many times that no one else was able to take it out of the library for a year. But eventually, the time came that Mrs Benison told me I had to read something else (but we didn’t have the sequel). So I returned to Jane Austen and finished Sense and Sensibility.
So, what is Easy Connections about?
Catherine Harlow is a 17-year-old girl home to stay with her older brother for the holidays between school and starting art college. She is talented and knows it, getting joy from the feel of the brush in her hand and seeing paint on a canvas.
One day she is painting near a stream when she is disturbed by a bullock (if you have read the book you will understand that this is apparently funny!) and falls into the stream, ending up with a soaked through t-shirt and looking more like a siren than a sensible artist-to-be.
What she hasn’t realised is that a) she is being watched and b) she is trespassing. The land is no longer free to roam, it is part of the home of a wealthy and intense rockstar, Paul Devlin, lead guitarist and song-writer of a very popular rock band, Easy Connections.
Dev, as he is known to his friends, sees Cathy, but not the paint or canvas and drags her to the main house where he calls the police on her for trespassing – of course, her brother (a local bobby) shows up and is all for escorting his sister home when Dev gets a glint in his eye and suddenly is even more intense.
That night, believing that Cathy belongs to him (he’s very superstitious) he rapes her in his garden. He’s drugged and drunk and 100% insanely, intently obsessed with her.
Cathy, under no illusions that this means anything, and horrified at what she feels she allowed to happen, runs. She heads to college early and when Dev finds her at her dorms, she runs again.
Running does no good, especially when it turns out that she is pregnant. Horrified, she doesn’t know what to do, she has her whole future ahead of her, Dev is putting pressure on her, her family is putting pressure on her and finally when she believes that she is going to be able to move on…she loses her place at college.
As an adult, I have no idea what I liked about the book. Granted, it’s rather well-written and Liz Berry, who lived in the world of art and music, knew a lot about how it worked. It’s definitely a work of the 1980s, with mention of wearing band badges and the fashions. But at the core of the story is a truly abusive relationship. At times you feel that Dev is misguided, but then you remember that he is manipulative, a drunk who raped a teenage girl and then put her in a situation that she can’t see any escape from. He has money, she doesn’t and because she isn’t interested in him he does his utmost to not only ruin her friendships but her life.
There was no consent – even though Dev was so high at the time of the incident that he somehow believed there was. Cathy was abused, stalked and eventually so pushed around that she had no choice but to give in to what he wanted…marriage, and their child.
Having discovered that Easy Connections has been released on Kindle after so many years (I was surprised when I discovered this, as it was out of print for almost 20 years) I was curious to find out what more recent readers would have to say about it. Believe it or not, the majority of the reviews were from people, like me, who’d been looking to replace a battered and bruised copy for years (below is a picture of the copy I have had for over 30 years).
“I first read this book as a teenager after taking it out from the library and managed to find a hardback copy in a secondhand shop some years later. Now at the ripe old age of 45 so pleased to find a Kindle version.”
“I’ve been reading Liz Berry’s books since I was 15. I’m now 40. And I can still read all of them over and over. I have the original books but brought the kindle versions as soon as they appeared.”
The only review that could be considered in any way negative still awarded the book 3 stars (which isn’t bad when using a 5-star ranking system).
This review is rather long, so I am going to cut out bits about the story and just go into the nitty-gritty of the reviewer’s opinion.
“SPOILERS: The hero in this book is despicable and I wanted him to be killed off. Aside from Cathy, who is an incredibly strong character right up until near the end, there wasn’t one other likeable character. No one was in her corner, on her side, not even her own flesh and blood. I don’t know what happened to her but she gave in at the end and I couldn’t have been more disappointed.
“[…]He was practically stalking her and she continued to tell him she wanted nothing to do with him. He told her he wouldn’t apologize for raping her and told her she’d wanted it. Much later in the book, he smacked her in the mouth for telling him she wanted to abort the baby, which was her plan all along. The mindset of these fictional characters has got me in disbelief.
“This book has a sequel, Easy Freedom, which was originally intended to be part of Easy Connections. I don’t think I could stomach reading Cathy forgive a rapist.”
Having read the sequel, Easy Freedom, I think that the author of the review would have been surprised to see that it’s not all about forgiveness.
I realised this week that I have a favourite trope. I know that everyone has a liking for a particular type of character when it comes to their favourite books/movies/tv shows. For me, it’s not necessarily all about the Alpha male, but I have a fascination for rockstars. And I guess it all started with Paul Devlin, even though he was an unrepentant arse!
The trope is one that has followed me through the years, though it’s admittedly not that easy to find many really well-written novels using the rockstar and the normal girl.
That said, the ones that I have read have, for the most part, been really good.
I have been searching for a while and though Amazon has over 400 books to search through using ‘Rock Star Romance’ as a type, it’s a nightmare to filter through them all. So, if you’re interested here is my small, but researched (in that I have read them all) recommendation list:
Johnny Be Good by Paige Toon
Baby Be Mine by Paige Toon
Johnny’s Girl by Paige Toon
Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh
Rock Courtship by Nalini Singh
Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh
Rock Wedding by Nalini Singh
As I have already mentioned, the list on Amazon is so long that it’s going to take me a while to work my way through it. When I started my search I came across a series by an author called Piper Lawson.
The first book in the Lawson’s Wicked series was titled Good Girl, which probably should have tipped me off that it wasn’t going to be the sort of book I’d enjoy. Also, if you’re looking at the image and thinking “Wow, hefty trilogy” let me tell you that this is misleading.
It turned out that her rockstar series was more of a single book split into three pieces, with each part less than 250-pages. I am happy to say that I was not the only reader who was disappointed in the way that this felt as though it had been written purposely to be nothing more than a money-maker, each book ending in a nonsensical place, offering nothing more than frustration when it should have been an ending.
For me, a book needs an ending, it needs to be able to be read as a standalone, even if it has a sequel.
I managed to make my way through the first bit, but as the book continued it became apparent that there wasn’t any actual storyline to speak of.
There are a few other books that I am considering adding to my list, but when the reviews for the Lawson book are mostly 5-stars when I struggled to find any sense (or story) I find myself feeling cautious and lacking trust that the reviews mean anything.
So, does anyone else have a recommendation?
Oh, and has anyone else got a favourite relationship trope (and by trope here, I don’t mean friends-to-lovers or enemies-to-lovers)? Why not share it in the comments?
Also, let me know how you’re doing? Have you been working during the lockdown? Have you been doing anything different to keep yourself occupied? Have you found any new authors?