Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-237960-3
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Mayhem is the first book in a series revolving around some guys in a rock band. Here’s the thing – I don’t remember the name of the group. I reread the book once I realized this, only to quit after hitting the first 100 pages without finding the answer. The group is referred to as, yes, “the rock band” and the members as “the guys”, while Mayhem is the name of the club where our heroine Rowan Michaels first meets Adam Everest, the lead singer. I don’t why the name of the group is such a top secret, so I’ll just call them the Biebers on the Block. Heaven knows, it’s not like these guys are rock and roll, which will really scare the kids away from reading this book. They are only rock in the sense that they have Mohawks and tattoos and what not, but what they really want to do is to hold the hands of a good girl who looks past their fame trapping to see the lonely man inside, the man who is yearning for love.
Yes, folks, it’s that same old story again. Still, the author manages to avoid the traps that make most of these stories resemble bad fanfiction written by earnest teenage girls. Rowan has all the trappings of a good girl, but she is far from some icky “Look at me, I’m so humble and sweet and precious!” sort. She has healthy friendships with other girls, she is not some clueless dolt when it comes to boys and dating, and her emotions feel pretty organic and real. Sure, her friends are all stereotypes, from the sassy BFF to the sassy gay friend, but I get this feeling that these friendships are real and don’t just spring up just because the author wants the heroine to be surrounded by fan club members that adore the heroine blindly. I like that.
Rowan meets Adam by accident – she naturally has no clue that he is the lead singer of the band her BFF is dragging her to see – but the two manage to share a quiet moment of looking at the stars and sharing deep silence after she discovers her boyfriend at the club… snogging up another girl. Her efforts to move on from that cheating douchebag are muddled up when Adam, of all people, shows up in her freshman French class. Worse, he can’t recognize her at first since she’s now in her female equivalent of Clark Kent’s nerdy guise. But what do you know, he needs extra tutoring in the language of love, and she’s just the perfect person to do it. Will they make sweet music together, or will insecurities on both parties ruin what could have been?
I wish I can say that Rowan and Adam have fun snorting lines from their genitalia before having a threesome with a guy in a clown suit while Fleetwood Mac plays in the background, just like any self-respecting rock star and groupie would do, but Mayhem is another story that sees rock stars behaving like sensitive souls looking for love. You know the story, I’m sure – deep inside, they are all looking for that one perfect woman, one that will reach out to their souls and make them feel complete in ways that all those trashy, useless groupies couldn’t. It’s the wet dream of every teenage fan of musical boy acts from the dawn of time, boys who may look like they have enough testosterone to grow hair on their chin but they are sexually non-threatening in other ways.
There is still enough of that teenage dingbat in me to appreciate the appeal of such a story, and it helps that the author has woven a simple story free from forced good girl antics, misogynistic double standards, and eye-rolling creeper-stalker male antics. The heroine has the bulk of the POV here – the hero has the POV in the epilogue – and I like Rowan on the whole. She feels likable, believable, and even relatable at many instances. I also have to admit, I feel a little choked up inside during some of the quiet moments here, and I love, love the last two lines of the epilogue. So yes, I was once a silly dingbat that loved such stories, and perhaps I still am. A bit.
Still, much of the story is predictable, and the secondary characters can be such stereotypes that they can make me roll up my eyes with some of their more over the top antics. Also, be warned: the heroine and her best friend can talk about things like homosexuality and such in ways (think: gay BFF as a fashionable accessory for straight girls) that would make some people see red. I personally don’t mind this much, as it’s not unusual for young adults to hold such limited views on people different from them, but I’m sure that there will be quite a number of folks who will disagree with me on that.
At any rate, Mayhem won’t break any new grounds, but it’s a very readable, if familiar, take on a popular premise. I wish the author has done more to make her story stand out further, but that’s okay, I also feel that she’s done enough to give me a good time here.