Title: Pop Life
Author: Ryan Loveless
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Length: 64,538 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance
Heat: 3 – Sexy & Mild
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between (most often not full on)
Keywords/Tags: Musicians, Angst-ville, NYC, Recent Historical
Rating: Not Feelin’ It
Andrew writes the songs that everyone sings along with on the radio–tunes full of love, longing, and heartbreak. He has a knack for tapping into the world’s emotions, but when it comes to his own life, the feelings aren’t so easy to handle.
Sent to New York City to work on a lead singer’s first solo album, Andrew finds himself caught in the middle of a boy band’s in-fighting and secret love affairs while battling the memories of his last trip to the Big Apple, which ended in divorce.
Yet his heart leaps when he discovers he’s staying at the same hotel as Jamie Webster, the worldwide sensation who once drunkenly kissed him at an awards show. As the troubled popstar clings to Andrew for help, Andrew must ask himself a hard question: Can I save this man, or will he pull me down with him?
I have intended to read and review this book over a year now and after finishing this author’s latest book — Ethan, Who Loved Carter — last week and absolutely loving it, I decided that it was time to read more of this author’s work. Sadly, I just couldn’t understand this book. Well, I couldn’t understand the characters. But, more on that in just a bit.
This novel is told by Andrew, who is part of a songwriting team with his best friend Michael. They’re hugely successful, and in 1999 at the end of a decade of boy bands, they find themselves once again writing for Icon, an Irish boy band they’d previously worked with. Only this time, they’re writing for Paeder, the lead man who is going solo. He’s a bit of an arrogant, pushy ass, and Andrew hates thinking that he’ll have to work with him alone. But that is how it has worked out — a four day jog to New York City and a convergence of a motley crew of musicians and their entourages. The fact that NYC holds terrible memories of the breakup of his marriage two years before only sets the tone for what turns into a week of infighting, enmity amongst friends and lovers, and feelings that Andrew has both ignored and yet to acknowledge.
First of all, I really like this author and I’m glad that I read Ethan, Who Loved Carter before I read this, because after that book I’ll never fail to read a book by this author, even after a book such as this, which I didn’t really enjoy. If the books had been reversed, I might have missed some of this author’s work, and I’d never want that.
I think that the problems I had with this book are incredibly fundamental. First, that I approached this as a romance when if I had approached it as gay literature I probably wouldn’t have minded some the many things I read that bothered me. Second, the thing I enjoy reading the least is needless angst. There is a lot of angst here, to be sure, but the problem for me was I felt like I couldn’t understand any of the characters or their actions, much less sympathize with them (overall, not for specific actions). At first I wondered if it was because I didn’t know the characters well. But, their history slowly unfolds over the story, so that wasn’t the case considering I felt the same about them at the end as I did in the beginning. I think that what didn’t work for me is I didn’t see the characters growing. They progress, but towards codependent relationships, and not real healing in any way. That frustrated me because even though I would love for the king of all screwed up guys (James) to find some healing here, the person I really wanted to see grow and change was Andrew. We learn through paced memories how his marriage failed, and it sets up a pattern of self deprecation and an overwhelming desire to be needed and to please others. His relationship with James only perpetuates this cycle. Every time he was poised to break it, he disappointed me, until it was finally too much.
The dynamic of the group is so insular that each character’s problems build on the other’s, with Andrew in the middle like a sponge trying to solve everyone’s problems. I wanted to yank him out and shake him and make him smell the fresh air and show him that it all wasn’t so dire! He needed some perspective. That’s what I mean by needless angst. It isn’t to say that they don’t all have real problems — boy to they ever. And it isn’t to say that their problems don’t stem from real past trauma (though maybe not all of them, some are just assholes, I think, lol). But the atmosphere of all those things ricocheting around and building and building… it was just a little too much for me to handle.
Part of that is up to each reader’s acceptable level of angst, and mine is admittedly pretty low. But, you still gotta like the characters, feel invested in them and want to root for them. I wanted the latter and at times was invested, but I didn’t really like any of them, except maybe Michael and sadly he was mostly on the periphery.
So, I can’t recommend this one. I’m looking forward to reading more of this author’s work. I’ve been wanting to read Offside and The Forgotten Man for a while, so I’ll get to those next