Opening Act: A Rock-and-Roll Romance

Opening Act, Dish Tillman

Opening Act: A Rock-and-Roll Romance, Dish Tillman
Release Date: May 19, 2014
Rating: ★★★★☆

I must admit, my expectations weren’t exactly stellar when I started reading this romance novel, because the title is ridiculous and the premise sounds distinctly unoriginal: an uptight young graduate student meets a hot young rock star, opposites instantly and passionately attract, and differing personalities, ideals and whatnot must be sorted out before a plausible happily-ever-after is achieved. I have read this type of book before, and it is mediocre at best.

But I realized fairly quickly that this book was different. For one thing, there’s almost no sex. And there should be absolutely no sex, because the book’s one brief love scene is awkward and confusing and clumsy as hell. It was the only part of the book I thought poorly written, but in general I found it refreshing not to be bombarded with cheesy, graphic love scenes that are usually boring and vaguely embarrassing if not anchored to decent plot and character development.

The two main characters actually spend most of the book apart. In the beginning they experience the typical romance novel instant attraction, but their budding relationship develops believably in a short period of time. And then some quirks of fate and easily avoidable misunderstandings occur and the main characters separate…and that’s when the story turns from merely entertaining to exceptional.

I never thought I’d sincerely enjoy a romance novel in which the two main love interests are hardly ever together (I’ll readily admit, romance novels are usually fun for their general rule of swoony-times-all-the-time), but this book impressed me with its style. Loni (the uptight graduate student), and Shay (the hot rock star) could easily have become silly caricatures full of passionate, yearning love that defies all odds. Instead, these young characters develop and mature on their own and over a realistic length of time. Of course they both think about each other quite often, but their brief-yet-meaningful time together subtly influences their growth instead of bashing the reader over the head with a clunky message about true love.

The book doesn’t avoid a few cliched characters and formulaic situations, but overall it’s written with originality, humor, sincerity and depth. All of the characters make decisions that are obviously self-destructive in the reader’s eyes, but the generally somber tone is subtle and never overwritten, and relieved by gentle humor that never gets obnoxious.

Except for that totally weird love scene that left me confused and a little sad, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’ll be reading the sequel that’s due for release later this year.

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