07 June 2017

Unplugged (A Portrait of a Rock Star) by J. P. Grider

My rating: 1 out of 5 stars
Genre: Contemporary romance
Format: Free e-book obtained from Amazon (no longer available as an e-book)
Heat level: Warm -- sex scenes are not overly explicit but parts are mentioned

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The cover for this e-book looks like a blurred photo of Keith Urban. Maybe I watch too many country music videos. Anyway . . .

Unplugged (A Portrait of a Rock Star) by J. P Grider brings readers the story of Tagg Holland, a 90s-era rock star who went into hiding after the death of his wife and sank into a depression. In an effort to give him something to focus on other than his grief, Tagg's mother hires a personal trainer named Mara to get him in shape for a possible reunion tour with his band. Tagg falls for the trainer, but is he stable enough for a relationship?

One review on Goodreads described the writing as "clunky" and I couldn't have said it better. The book was written in the first person from Tagg's perspective. The flowery phrases describing Tagg's mental state sounded awkward coming from his own mouth. This was one of Grider's first novels, and she seemed to be striving to create something that was different than the average romance by using vocabulary that I would normally run across in literary fiction, such as "insentient", but then made poor word choices like using "sorted" instead of "sordid". There is no rule saying that romance can't be literary, but this book doesn't live up to that goal.

This book confused me with its direction in other ways, as well. Since it is labeled as the story of a rock star I expected debauchery, but about 70% of the book read like a sweet and secular romance, meaning no religious content but also no sex and the occasional curse word. Then the author threw in both sex AND Catholicism, and I was baffled. I'm not so innocent as to believe that people who believe in God don't have premarital sex in real life, but in most of my romance reading, sex and church are in different books.

There are certain elements one expects when reading a romance that follows the "celebrity meets girl-next-door" trope, but I have never read a book where they were as predictable as they were here. All the aspects of the stereotypical rock star lifestyle were included but it was like someone was checking them off a list. Drinking? Check. Paparazzi catching photo at the wrong time? Check. Intrusive fans? Check. The hero and heroine's eventual coupling had all the sexiness of a task being checked off the list, as well.

The predictability would have been tolerable if the hero and the heroine weren't so one-dimensional. Tagg was a sloppy mess and Mara was endlessly forgiving, no matter what. The attempts at lighthearted banter fell flat. The frequent descriptions of Mara as tiny and wide-eyed started to sound creepy toward the end, especially since they were in Tagg's voice. However, the worst thing was that I couldn't shake the conviction that Tagg and Mara were together for the wrong reasons. With most romances, after I turn the last page I imagine that the couple had a calm and happy life. With Tagg and Mara, I could only picture the problems that cropped up in their future.

I must mention that there is a note on Goodreads mentioned that this book had a third edition released from a different publisher in 2015 with a major update and complete re-edit. Supposedly people who had the original Kindle edition were to be pushed an update. Well, I've had this book in my Kindle app since 2012 and I have no memory of receiving an update. Furthermore, the book is no longer available in e-book format, and I don't want to pay $10 for the paperback version just to satisfy my curiosity. If any of you have purchased this book since 2015 and read it, I would be curious to know your opinion of it.

Unplugged on Book Depository

Unplugged on Amazon

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