Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Rancher and the Rock Star, by Lizbeth Selvig - Review

My First e-Arc
It's true. As soon as I found out that the Avon Addicts would have access to electronic ARCs, I decided that was the push I needed to acquire an e-reader. As it happened, I made the purchase online about 3 days before my birthday. A day or two later, my husband and I had this conversation:

Him: So... what do you want for your birthday?
Me: You got me a Kindle! it will be here Wednesday. Thank you!
Him: Wow! I rock!

And everyone was happy.

After I figured out how to get a non-Amazon book onto the Kindle, this was the first book I read on the Kindle.

Summary: What's it About?
The title tells much of the story.  The hero Gray is indeed a rock star, while the heroine, Abby, lives a rural small-town life, struggling financially, but in most ways, living according to her principles, which I admired.  The two of them are brought together by their children, teenagers who met on-line.  Somewhat surprisingly, there isn't really a secondary romance here, as the two teens maintain more of a friends/sibling dynamic right from the start.  Gray's son Dawson runs away from his mother and hires on at Abby's ranch to help with chores.

The book opens with Gray coming after his son, and a rather lovely scene where he helps Abby with some heavy lifting, followed immediately by a thunderstorm - what a sexy beginning!  The conflict comes initially around Dawson and how one can reasonably parent a teenager while leading the life of a successful touring musician, and segues easily into resolving the differences in lifestyle between Abby and Gray.

The Good Stuff
I really liked the characters in this story, which to me is more than half the battle.  Gray and Abby, Dawson and Kim, and the assorted secondary folks were all crisp and 3-dimensional (you gotta love town with a cockatiel mascot).  There was good chemistry between Abby and Gray, in large part realized through some really excellent dialog.  I'm not sure how realistic the portrayal of the rock-star lifestyle was but it was exotic enough to be fun and mundane enough to feel pretty grounded.

The situation where Kim had a celebrity crush on Gray was unusual and fairly well-done.  I say "fairly," because knowing teens, I think Selvig might have pulled her punches on this a little bit; it resolved without getting too ugly or too convoluted.  To be honest, that's a path I was just as happy not to go down, but it would be fair to say that it was glossed over a little bit.

I also enjoyed the side plot with the drama among Gray's staff; it was interesting and served to emphasize the lifestyle differences.

The Down Side
There were times when the pacing dragged a little for me.  This is one of those things that is highly situational for me, so it might be no fault of the author.  This was also a first e-read for me, so it might've also been partly that--but overall it took me quite a bit longer than it usually would to read a book of this length.

There were also a number of similes that just seemed a little awkward and overblown, enough to be noticeable.  (If I were better at electronic bookmarking I would pull some quotes for you... but you'll have to either take my word for it or read it yourself to decide if I'm right.)  It's always surprising to me when an author's dialog flows naturally but the internal monologs and narration seems clunky -- it's so much more common for it to be the other way around.

One Last Comment
Selvig's tagline on her website header describes her work as "Contemporary Romance with a Twist of Faith" and I would call that pretty accurate.  Abby is a woman of faith, but this is portrayed with a light touch.  There are no scenes where she or Kim attend church; there are a few references to prayer, to faith, and to volunteering at the church.

In this particular book, I am pretty neutral on these touches.  Generally, I'm not a fan of religion in my romances, but it suited Abby's character and wasn't heavy-handed.  I suspect that readers who are looking for inspirational or strictly Christian romance would probably not find it religious enough.  For example, Gray and Abby don't really talk about their differences in that respect, and it seems pretty clear that Gray is not the church-going type. Then there's the premarital sex between Abby and Gray-- certainly not a problem in mainstream romance, but given Abby's character, even I thought the rationalization was a little weak:
Her well-meaning father had indeed drummed the sin of this unmarried act into her head, and Abby had passed the same morals on to Kim.  But Abby was not fifteen.  She was thirty-seven.  Married once.  Long past ignorance about safety, and tired of worrying about taboos she knew heaven didn't care about at her age.
And a little later, Gray says,
 ...there are things adults who've been married before can do that kids can't.  It's that simple.
So, I found all that a bit awkward... but for me, not enough reason to be a significant problem.

Bottom Line
Overall this is a light, entertaining, Cinderella-style romance with enough character development to carry it, and the rock star bit glams it up for some real fun.

Around the Blogosphere
Fellow Addict Grace at Books Like Breathing
Fellow Addict Amy at Unwrapping Romance
Reviews by Molly
Romancing the Books

Just a reminder, if you have reviewed this book, I am more than happy to include a link to your review.  You can leave your link in comments or email me, and I will edit it in.  I would especially like to link up with the other Addicts-- I'm looking forward to "meeting" you all electronically.


Hilcia said...

Great review, Nicola. So nice to have you back. I thought I was the only one who bought my own birthday presents and THEN told my husband what a great present he bought me. LOL! Good one!

I love that she is the rancher and he is the rock star in this story. Nice twist for a change. The "faith" part of the story sounds normal enough to me, although I agree that it probably won't be inspirational enough for many. I think many adults today tend to make those seemingly contradictory choices, even when they maintain faith as part of their daily lives. It's interesting that Selvig chose to highlight that point.

Nicola O. said...

I think many adults today tend to make those seemingly contradictory choices

True enough! To me it felt like an underdeveloped internal conflict, like there should have been either more, or less, on the topic. But I do see why she chose to address it explicitly.

Just thinking out loud here, but maybe I would have reacted better if the internal justification hadn't happened 30 seconds before penetration, you know? I think that contributed a lot to it feeling like a rationalization more than a coming to terms.

And thanks for the compliments!

Shannon said...

Great review! It sounds like a nice, light read. I enjoyed exploring the rocker dad/how to balance stardom with family idea in Natural Born Charmer, although it was a secondary story line.

I love my Kindle. It is fantastic for traveling. I have to admit it has been gathering dust lately. I've been reading many books in book form and on my iPad. It is just easier to carry only one gadget. The e-ink is so much better on the eyes, though.

Nicola O. said...

Thanks Shannon! I did like the way the father-teen relation was handled here.

I'm kind of divided on the whole kindle thing. I will probably like it better when I figure out how to deal with a few things that are annoying me at the moment.


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