Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Ryan Pierce, music reporter for Music Spin magazine, has an assignment to interview the lead singer of the rock band Black Ice. But his past experience has not prepared him for the rocker he is to interview. Dagger Drummond is all swagger, sex on two legs. He is also tired and not happy about being interviewed after his last gig. He tells his manager to cancel the interview and enters his tour bus. But miscommunication follows, with Ryan, Dagger’s manager in tow, entering his tour bus to everyones embarrassment and anger. Accident aside, the mens attraction to each other is instant and fierce, not that either would show it. Dagger is all about manipulation and Ryan is straight, isn’t he?
What follows is a complicated relationship that deepens quickly. Ryan is left reeling not only over his new found attraction to the very male Dagger but hiding explosive information about Dagger that could make him as a journalist but ruin Dagger’s life. Will Ryan choose his career over a chance at love?
Ann Lister is a new author for me and her subject matter is one genre I grab up immediately – that of a story about a rock star and love. So with those things in mind, I really wanted to like the first book of Lister’s that I have read. What I found after enthusiastically diving into Fall For Me is all together different. Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice story about love and discovering your sexuality. But in my opinion, it never rises higher than just nice or perhaps sweet. And the reasons for that are both varied and elemental. Its all about the characterizations, writing style and editing. Or lack thereof.
When reading contemporary fiction, I want my characters grounded in reality and I can’t quite say that about the character of Ryan Pierce. As created by Lister, Ryan is an entertainment reporter with years of experience covering the rock music beat. Yet he comes across as not only naive about the rockers he interviews but unaware of the ethics of his profession. Especially with regard to getting involved with the subject of his assignment. One of the major ethical considerations for those who work in the news industry is that the reporter stay clear of any bias, so that their objectivity can’t be questioned,and that it cannot be said of their article/newscast that it tilted towards favoritism. But Ryan and Dagger become best friends, texting away almost immediately. Several of Ryan’s actions defy common sense to a huge degree and further disconnect the reader from any belief that he is a seasoned reporter or responsible adult. Ryan’s disingenuousness is almost beyond belief as is Dagger’s pursuit of a man in a profession he is wary of and a reporter who could out him to his adoring public. Dagger mentions numerous times that he doesn’t trust the media. Yet Dagger’s implicit belief in Ryan’s honesty and trust is swift and unyielding. Consistency is a problem in Fall For Me especially with regard to her characters and their personality traits and backgrounds. Ryan has worked for Music Spin for years but the interview scene sounds anything but professional. Here is a quick example. Ryan is back at the office and meeting a new intern, Sebastian, for the first time.
“I’ve heard you’re the ‘go-to’ guy for interview skills.”
“Is that so?”
“It’s been suggested I talk to you, maybe watch you work, so I can improve how I conduct an interview.”
Ryan scratched his head. “Well, I don’t have anything scheduled until next week. Then I’ll be sitting down with Zander Metcalf and his band Ivory Tower.”
“Damn! Ivory Tower? Their new album is their best yet.”
Ryan nodded. “Well, you’re welcome to tag along with me, if you want.”
“I’d like that,” Sebastian said. “Maybe you’ll let me take you to dinner a few days before that and I’ll help you outline your interview material?”
“I suppose that’d be okay,” Ryan said.
Never would a seasoned reporter let a new intern outline his work for him. Not in any respect does the character of Ryan Pierce work as a real reporter. However, the character of Dagger is still more authentic than Ryan and I could easily see him as a rock star, mostly. Many rock stars today are savvy about media exposure and working the press is as much a part of their business as the music. Dagger seems oblivious to that as any 80’s rock star would be. In my opinion both characters could have been shored up by better research and more attention to detail.
Unfortunately, the plot was very predictable. So formulaic that I knew exactly how the story would play out by the third chapter, not great in a book that contains 19 chapters. When that occurs in a book I am reading, I would expect other aspects of the narrative to elevate the story past the predictable into a higher state. A level that said the author had put their own stamp on the plot in some way, whether it be in the outstanding characterizations, the high quality of the writing or the dialog that is so entertaining and yet pertinent to the characters and situation that it sings. Lister failed to do that here as well. I know it is hard to add a new element to such a well used story but a savvy writer can find a way.
At issue here is also Ryan’s sexuality. Ryan thinks he is straight. He had a long term girlfriend. But his attraction to Dagger has him reexamining his past and his feelings towards Dagger and all men in general. Even Ryan can’t decide if he is gay for Dagger or just gay. I liked that the author had him bringing up the “gay for you” question for discussion. But again, Ryan’s actions and the dialog kept this aspect of the story from feeling authentic and involving. Plus Dagger goes from manipulator to man in love just as neatly and quickly as can be expected. Somehow neither man ever really involved me in their issues or their possible future.
One last element to talk about is the editing. This story is far too long. It is repetitive and dense in some areas. There are many paragraphs, even pages that could be cut to make this a tighter, better balanced story. As it is, getting to that last page made a very long journey indeed.
Not everyone will feel this way about this book. Some will love it just for the subject matter alone. Those readers will be very happy to find out that this book is the first in a series about the other musicians in the band and their friends. But I have read far too many outstanding books about rock bands and their singers and those make this story anemic in comparison. For those rock star addicts out there and those alone, this one is for you.
Cover Art Design: Kari Ayasha. It is a nice design, a little dark in tone and color.