Grady Dawson’s future looks bright. He’s at the top of his country music career, has a close-knit group of friends who have become his Nashville family, and has found solid ground in his personal life as he plans his intimate, private wedding with Nico, his stylist-turned-lover, turned love of his life. It seems Grady has finally left his difficult childhood and tumultuous youth behind. That is, until his past shows up on his doorstep, news of his upcoming nuptials is leaked to the media, and his record company levels demands that challenge his integrity as an artist and as a person. The foundation of Grady’s new life begins to crumble, and fast. Will he be forced to make the ultimate choice between a private life with Nico and the public demands of his career?
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Grady Dawson and Nico Takahashi made quite a splash in the country music scene when they fell for one another back in BROKEN RECORDS. Grady is an up-and-coming country singer and Nico a flamboyant stylist in LA, but they've relocated to Nashville and Nico, a private man, is settling into the celebrity status--not that he's happy with some of the irate fans who blame him for Grady "dumping" a popular female country singer... It's good though. They're planning their secluded, paparazzi-free, wedding and a life together. Only, well, Grady's under pressure to change the single he wants to release on his forthcoming album. It's a love song he wrote for Nico, and clearly talks about deep love between men--a topic too scandalous for the record label's management. In fact, they're holding up the release of his album until he makes the change which puts Grady into a "Breach of Contract" situation. And, the potential for Grady to lose everything--money, property, and his recorded music--in a lawsuit is high. It's enough to drive Grady into depression, and kills his muse. Add to this, Nico's struggling with the wedding plans, the lack of privacy, and Grady's self-isolation. He wants to help Grady find his bearings, and this might include opening some rather deep wounds in the hunt for Grady's parents to be guests at the wedding. Grady's been so long estranged, he has no desire to reconnect, but he might not have a choice. This was an interesting read, with a lyrical and nostalgic tone. Grady tells this whole book from start to finish, and we get some insights into the darkness of his childhood, which includes substance abuse, abandonment and poverty. He was raised by his grandparents from early childhood because his too-young parents couldn't stay employed or sober. I loved the realistic experiences we re-live through Grady's memories. The juxtaposition lends a palpable fear to the legal battle Grady's refusal to re-write his love song brings to his present. What if he's soon-to-be destitute? Should he even marry Nico who could be saddled with Grady's debt? And, should Grady just swallow his artistic pride and re-record the song so it's palatable to heterosexuals? This quandary of conscience forms the biggest conflict of the book, and it's both poignant and easily accessible to the reader. The resolution to the conflicts are interesting and engaging. I had already lost my heart to Nico, but he swept me off my feet again with all his changes to accommodate Grady and their life together. Likewise, Grady's tension and inner conflicts are so raw and exposed that he's impossible not to connect with on multiple levels. Bits of steam here and there, but those aren't the parts that struck me hardest. The end of the plot lines are so positive that it's beyond HEA. These characters are ones to root for and cheer on throughout, and their happiness merits multiple celebrations. Good thing we get to experience it over and again. I received a review copy via NetGalley.
For the third time I was lucky to have the opportunity to be an advance reader for Lilah Suzanne, this time for Blended Notes, the third and final (I believe) novel in her Spotlight series. The title truly says it all, and was one of the reasons why this book just might be my favorite of the three. While Broken Records introduced us to the celebrity lifestyle and Burning Tracks approached the challenges of everyday life, this final chapter blends both these themes together perfectly. (Ha, see what I did there?) The novel starts off on a high note, causing the reader to be just as giddy as Grady and Nico while they shop for their home together. They are successful, in love, and engaged to be married - what could possibly go wrong? The conflict is delivered so swiftly it feels like the rug has been taken out from under the feet of the reader, allowing a greater connection and sympathy for the characters. Grady’s past and future team up in an attempt to bring him down and rip away everything he’s worked so hard to achieve. This story demonstrates how opposing sides of society can exist in the same place, as Grady faces the difficultly of the conservative music industry pushing back against love alongside the joy of being a pseudo-uncle to “the biracial adopted child of two lesbians in Tennessee”. Our favorite couple must choose between fighting for what is right and taking the easy and safe route to preserve what they can. Neither is inherently right or wrong, but both will have consequences for Grady’s career and relationship. Especially when, as Nico reminds him; “my wedding and home are the only places I get an escape from your career.” Can love and music hold our favorite couple together when the ghosts of Grady’s past come back full force? There may be a wedding on the horizon, but life has a few more curveballs to throw at our music and fashion duo. Will Grady pick love and truth over the stage that has become his second home? If music is taken away from him, what does he have left? Don’t miss out of the wonderful conclusion to the series, Blended Notes! Available now :)