Release Reviews: Body Rocks: A.M. Arthur

Body Rocks (Off Beat #1)
A.M. Arthur
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Released June 28, 2016
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Everything is finally falling into place for Trey Cooper: his band has been accepted into one of the biggest music competitions in the country…too bad their drummer just quit to play with XYZ, their biggest rival. When Trey has a mind-blowingly hot hookup with a mysterious violinist, Trey definitely plans to see him again – just not on stage as a member XYZ.

Dominic Bounds’ time to make his musical dreams come true is running out. If something doesn’t happen fast, he has to head home to find a real job. This competition is his last chance, and Dom needs to come out on top – but he never expected to fall for his rival. As Dom and Trey risk everything to begin a secret affair, there’s no denying their chemistry is off the charts – but could their band rivalry turn their romance into a one-hit wonder?

Trey Cooper and his band Fading Daze are set to perform in a Regional Unbound music competition, but they just lost their drummer to a rival band, XYZ. One night at the bar where he works, Trey meets a violin prodigy named Dominic Bounds and they have a fun night full of making music together on stage and striking a strong personal connection off stage.

Dominic initially has no idea who Trey is affiliated with, but eventually learns that his band XYZ poached their drummer. He does not want to lie to Trey, but also holds off telling him so they can spend more time together. But it is a bad situation that was destined to come out and explode.

Trey is a realist, introvert, and a worrier. He does not have strong family ties, but is close to his friends. He is inexperienced, in the closet, and the public assumes he is in a relationship with his female best friend/band mate. Dominic has secrets, anxiety, but is more experienced and dominant. He is gay, out, and does not want to hide. But in the short term while waiting for Unbound, he can understand that Trey needs to maintain his public image.

These two had an immediate connection and bonded over music and a sense of fun they found together. They quickly developed an easy going rapport and chemistry. They are on opposite sides, but do not want to be. Their bands have bad feelings between them and they are fighting for the same major prize. There is a definite conflict of interest, but these two just cannot help trying to steal time together while trying not to upset anyone in the process.

This is a journey of self discovery and building a real bond with someone for both of these characters. It involves the need to trust, open up, be honest, and heal. It is about both of them following their dreams not only with their musical careers, but also on a personal level. But they both have demons, fears, and insecurities that haunt them and can cause anxiety and pain. Sometimes they react strongly to situations and have a hard time navigating the challenges together.

The side characters of the bands Fading Daze with Bobby, Danielle, and Andy, and XYZ with Lincoln, Benji, and Tyson added drama, conflict, and support. They all have interesting personalities and back stories that could make them future main characters in upcoming story lines. I especially got attached to Linc and Andy. 

This was told in dual points of view that helped increase understanding of the characters and showed us their vulnerabilities. The characters had complex histories and depth that resulted in some emotional and personal issues. Trey and Dominic's connection was really endearing and passionate. This was more of a new adult M/M love story as the characters were young twenties, but they were mature beyond their years due to their pasts.

This was my first book by A.M. Arthur and he writing style was engaging and easy to get pulled into due to the humor and interpersonal relationships of the characters. The plot had depth and hidden issues that were slowly revealed and it was not predictable. I will definitely read more in this series (bring on Linc!) and try some other books from this author.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

I typically love books that have a music theme behind the romance, because music is something that never fails to give rise to strong emotions in me. So as my first exposure to author A.M. Arthur, I had high hopes for Body Rocks. It’s a good story, but in spite of being able to feel the music, I never quite got to the point where I felt the connection between the main characters as strongly as I wanted.

Trey Cooper and his bandmates in Fading Daze are weeks away from competing in a national music competition when the band’s drummer bails on them to join XYZ, a rival band in the competition. So after an amazing up with Dominic Bounds, a phenominal musician who performed at open-mic night in the bar where Trey works, the last place he expected to see Dom again was on stage as the keyboardist for the very same rival band. Winning the competition is important to both men, but for Dom, it’s his last chance to prove that he can make it in the music business before being forced to find a real job. Falling hard for Trey wasn’t part of the plan, and the rivalry makes it an impossible situation. Can they survive keeping their secret relationship from their respective bands and the public, or will circumstances and their pasts prevent them from finding happiness?

I’m going to start by stating that there is a lot of angsty drama in this novel. There are several characters in the book that have major issues, both personal and situational, particularly stemming from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in their pasts. None of this takes place in the present time in the story, but one character’s past abuse is discussed in a bit of detail, so be forewarned if any of these issues is a trigger for you. I’ll admit that I was concerned that the volume of issues exposed in the book would mean that many of them would be handled in a less-than-satisfying manner for resolution. Fortunately, that didn’t turn out to be a problem.

In fact, the story line as a whole worked pretty well for me, even though I was able to predict most of the big plot points in the last third of the book. The writing was very smooth and never came across as mechanical, and I don’t recall any problems with confusion in whose point-of-view I was reading nor who was speaking in dialogues, including those where many of the bandmates were present. I can’t point to any structural problems at all.

What was problematic for me, though, is the fact that I never felt the intensity of attraction between Trey and Dom. I think a lot of this stemmed from the fact that they hooked up very early in the book, within the first 10%, in fact. Because of this, there was no burn of desire leading up to the initiation of intimacy. In addition to this, there were three separate times in the book where they broke things off for some reason. The first I can say without giving any plot away, since it’s mentioned in the blurb: when Trey realizes Dom is a member of XYZ but had failed to tell him after being informed of Fading Daze’s drummer being swiped by XYZ. So a chunk of the book is spent watching one or the other, or often both, pine over hurting the other. Since they are keeping their relationship secret, and it is a long-distance relationship, the times when they are able to get together happen when their bands are in close proximity. I think the author missed an opportunity here to add some of the missing slow burn during these scenes. The ability for them to arrange secret rendezvous under the noses of their friends was just too easy for it to add any feel of urgency even.

The reason I read romance is that I want to feel the connection between the main characters. Even the cheesiest of plots can be forgiven if the characters’ need for each other is palpable, if the interactions between them spark, and if the sex between them threatens to melt my tablet. Unfortunately, the best I got in Body Rocks was the impression that they wanted each other, but I couldn’t feel it. Too bad, because I’m sure the music was great.
Steady Stroke (Off Beat #2)
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Expected September 6, 2016
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After a tragic accident, Lincoln West’s dreams of making it big as a guitarist fell apart. Unable to play music, he’s battling a hopeless downward spiral, and takes his friend’s offer to stay at their beach house for the summer. While at an open mike night at local bar Off Beat, he locks eyes with a busboy who doesn’t make Linc feel so broken anymore.

Emmett Westmore lives for the anonymity of busing tables in his aunt’s quirky bar where no one pities him for the fire that killed everyone he loved. He blames himself for the fire, and he doesn’t want anyone to see him—except for Linc. Emmett’s walls drop when he’s around the gorgeous blue-eyed guitarist, but he has a secret that could destroy his budding relationship with Linc.

Both Linc and Emmett are looking for a way to live again…will they let their fears control them or take a chance on something real?

Hot Licks (Off Beat #3)
Expected February 2017
A.M. Arthur

No stranger to the writing world, A.M. Arthur has been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long. She credits an early fascination with male friendships and "bromance" (and "The Young Riders") with her later discovery of and subsequent affair with m/m romance stories. When not writing, she can be found in her kitchen, pretending she's an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments. You can contact her at AM_Arthur@yahoo.com


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