Play (Stage Dive #2)
Pan Macmillan Australia
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Anne has had a bad day – her flatmate who owed her money has absconded without paying it back and also taking most of their shared apartment’s furniture. This also leaves Anne with rent that she most likely cannot pay given a lot of her money goes toward supporting her younger sister through college. Her friend Lauren who lives in the apartment next door urges Anne to forget her worries for a night and come with Lauren and her boyfriend Nate to Nate’s sister’s party. Nate’s sister happens to be Evelyn, who sensationally married the guitarist of rock band Stage Dive recently. Anne knows her only to say hello to but she allows herself to be persuaded by Lauren to go to the party.
There she meets Mal Ericson, the drummer and former pin up on Anne’s wall and her teenage crush/obsession. Mal overhears a conversation Anne has on the phone and picks up that she’s in a pretty desperate situation and he thinks they might be able to help each other out. Mal needs a squeaky clean girlfriend for a little while, someone who will make his parent’s happy and keep the press off his back and he thinks that he and Anne can come to an arrangement. He’ll help her out financially if she’ll pose as his girlfriend. Anne is exactly the sort of person that Mal thinks is right for the job.
But pretending to be the girlfriend of a sexy rock God comes with a danger. Anne isn’t sure she can do this without it ending badly. Or might she be what Mal is really looking for, not just something to improve his image?
When I read the first Stage Dive novel Lick last year, I couldn’t praise it enough. I recommended it to plenty of other bloggers, I included it in my top 10 favourite novels of the year. It was a great book – fantastic chemistry, a delicate handling of an instant relationship and the writing was virtually flawless. Naturally Play became one of my most anticipated books for 2014 and I was so excited when I saw the cover and when I nabbed a copy I started it almost right away.
It is so, so unfortunate that this book didn’t work for me. Mal is a character who appears in Lick and I enjoyed his brief scenes and thought that his book would be a total hit with me but I have to say, his character in this novel….I just couldn’t warm to him at all. From the first scene he appears in, he’s smarmy, a bit weird and then launches into some kind of ADHD man-child personality that I found utterly irritating and alienating. Moving unannounced into someone’s apartment is kind of stalkerish, whether you’re a famous rock star or not. I tried to imagine if I suddenly came home in my early 20’s and found Joey Jordison living in my apartment and quite frankly the idea mostly creeped me out. I think that this could’ve been worked around had Mal not seemed so bi-polar all the time. He’s either extremely up, where he talks and bounces and carries on like a child or he’s down in the dumps drinking Jack and escaping to play drums for hours. And you know from the get-go that Mal has some sort of emotional pain going on that he’s trying to deal with and perhaps is the reason for his wildly swinging personality but the reveal is really ineffectual and lacks the dramatic impact that it should. Everything about Mal’s character should fall into place after that reveal but it doesn’t. It still just ends up coming off as really strange and almost every scene with him being “up Mal” I found myself skimming because he was obnoxious.
In Lick, the chemistry absolutely was in danger of setting my kindle on fire and the sexually charged relationship between David and Evelyn was amazing. Mal and Anne have all the chemistry of two wet socks for me and some of the scenes (in particular the one where Mal has a conversation with Anne’s clitoris) come off as cringe worthy in my mind, rather than hilarious. I’m well aware that after a casual glance at Goodreads, I’m significantly in the minority here and I’m also much more drawn to angsty romance rather than the humorous variety and I expected a much more sexually charged story. There were a few moments that made me giggle but there weren’t many. Anne was quite uptight and one of those characters that sacrifices everything, even her own ability to live comfortably, in order to support another member of her family. I felt like that because of this, she wasn’t particularly defined as a character. She worked in a bookshop and her job sounded pretty cool but a lot of it revolves around a kind of love triangle story with a person she works with that really adds little to the story.
To be honest, the best parts of this book were the glimpses we got of David and Evelyn and the groundwork done for the next Stage Dive book, Lead which is singer Jimmy’s story and looks as though it could be quite interesting – and angsty! Perhaps quite a lot more up my alley. I am definitely still going to read the next two books because I loved Lick so much. I’m hoping that the next stories are more to my liking than this one, which I am very sad to say, was just not the sort of story I enjoy.
Book #73 of 2014
Play is book #28 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014