A Lucy Review: Play it by Ear (Replay #2) by K.M. Neuhold

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

This is the second book in the Replay series which tells the stories of the members of Downward Spiral, an epically professionally successful band where the members are falling apart.  Or at least, the band is on the verge of falling apart because of some of the members.  This one tells the story of Lando, who in the first book was a rock, a support of the other band members.  At the end of book one, Face the Music, there was a very clever set up for the books to come and I was very happy that Lando was next. 

Lando was supposed to be one of two of the song writers for the band but in reality he has been doing it all.  From trying to keep Lincoln from hurting himself and keep Jude from self destructing to being responsible for all the song writing and it has taken a toll on him.  “I feel wrung out physically and emotionally.  I’m a battery with only ten present life left and no charger in sight.”

When their manager, Archer, suggests everyone take a vacation after the tour has to be canceled, Lando packs up and heads to Florida.  Nine years ago he had a weekend in Florida with someone he fell in love with.  He gave his phone number and they promised to keep in touch but it never happened. So for the past nine years the songs he’s written have been about Dawson, his muse and his long lost should have been.  “I”ve written a dozen songs about him. I’ve stayed up nights thinking about him. I’ve gotten drunk and cried over him. I hardly know him, but in nine years, I haven’t been able to shake him.” He is thinking maybe he will see Dawson there, even if he isn’t totally hopeful.  “Maybe there’s something wrong with me. Surely it can’t be normal after nine years to still want him so much.”  But he has his grandfather’s story of knowing immediately upon meeting her who he would marry to make him think love at first weekend is possible.

Except, lo and behold, Dawson is also taking vacation at the same time and he does run into Lando. This meeting was a little coincidental but I was okay with.  The problem? Dawson had an accident nine years ago and lost not only his hearing but also his memories.  While Dawson has had a serious crush on Lando as the bass player for Downward Spiral, he doesn’t remember spending the weekend with Lando, the man.  Dawson is a writer who’s words have deserted him and he’s now working as a bartender, sort of just existing.  He was this fearless man before and things have changed.  He has the support of his wonderful sister, Parker, but that is sort of it.

The book is told in first person point of view, alternating Lando and Dawson.  In addition, it has flashbacks from nine years ago and today, cleverly titled Track, Side A or B.  While I used to dislike first person, it has definitely grown on me because now I like getting into the mind of each character.  Here in particular it’s helpful because Dawson is deaf and he does have memory gaps, so understanding where he is coming from was beneficial.  It is a little heartbreaking when you realize that he puts everything into his calendar because he is terrified of forgetting.  “Most days, the fear of forgetting something is worse than the actual forgetting.”  He puts in what he did that day just to make sure he remembers.

When they run into each other at a bar in Florida Lando is overjoyed and then shocked when he find that Dawson, the man he’s dreamed of for years, doesn’t remember him at all.  “He doesn’t recognize me. I’ve been obsessing over im for nine years, and he doesn’t even remember me. Could I be any more pathetic?”  It was a hard moment.  “I’ve spent all these years falling in love with the memory of a man who doesn’t exist anymore.”

But then he’s happy to get to know this new Dawson, who is a big fan even if he can’t remember what the songs sound like.  And while he thinks Cherry Lane (the song Lincoln wrote about Jace) is “….okay, but the rest of the album is much ….more.  They’re poetic and captivating. They’re original and beautiful.”  So he loves the songs that Lando wrote, and happen to be the songs Lando wrote about him.

Lando does convince Dawson to spend some time with him and they work on getting to know each other again, this time with text messages and notepads instead of conversation with some bittersweet moments when Lando knows things about Dawson that Dawson can’t remember.  Lando is so sweet, trying to learn ASL so he can communicate better.  He is not the spoiled selfish rock star that you would expect.  He is kind and gentle.  This book is definitely softer than book one, because Lando is softer than Lincoln and it comes across.

They have obstacles to overcome, including paparazzi, a lost phone, trying to reconcile the past with the now and trying to get past the writer’s block they both seem to have.  Lando hasn’t been able to write any songs, Dawson hasn’t been able to write any stories.   Lando’s advice was so apt: “instead of trying to write a book that will change the world, let yourself try to write a book that will change one single person’s world.”   We get to see Dawson try to find that fearless man he used to be and you just know how difficult that is.  “Can I be brave again? Is that still in me?”

Dawson has some great insights into Lando. “I wonder if he ever does things because they’re what he wants the most, instead of what makes everyone around him happiest.”  That sums up Lando well and he deserves to be happy himself.  There are a few times that Dawson doesn’t react well to things Lando reveals but you have to give him that – for Lando it’s been nine years of longing whereas for Dawson it’s really the first time he’s with this man.

Archer, the manager, is so amazing and takes care of so much I was really looking forward to his book.  Unfortunately, from the teasers in this book I have a feeling his is going to take a turn towards a theme I don’t care for so I may have to skip it.  I will be bummed if so.

I liked the first book and I loved this one.  There was just something about it that grabbed my heart and held on.  I wanted so much for these guys.  Even more, I was so happy that there was no magical fix of Dawson’s loss of hearing because in the real world it doesn’t work like that.  Lando was in love with the man, unconditionally.  Just what we all should have.

The cover art by Inked Design depicts Lando with the city in the background and the beach in the foreground.  I found it very fitting and both books in the series have covers that show the band member almost exactly as I pictured them.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 290 pages
Published July 2nd 2018 (first published June 29th 2018)
Original Title Play it by Ear
Series Replay (add it to your Goodreads list here)

Rock Bottom

Play it by Ear

Face the Music

Release Blitz for Play it by Ear (Replay #2) by KM Neuhold (excerpt)

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 Play it by Ear RDB Banner

PLAY IT BY EAR

REPLAY SERIES, BOOK 2

K.M. NEUHOLD

M/M ROMANCE

RELEASE DATE: 07.02.18

Play it by Ear Cover 

BLURB

Lando

My muse is gone, and I haven’t written a word of music in over a year. Every time I close my eyes, all I can see is Dawson. Nine years ago, just before Downward Spiral’s first major tour, I met my soulmate and then I walked away. Now that I’ve finally tracked him down again, things have changed. I’ll have to make him fall for me all over again. But is it possible I put our single weekend together on a pedestal or could Dawson really be The One?

Dawson

A traumatic brain injury nine years ago left me deaf and with spotty memory of the first twenty years of my life. When one of the biggest rock stars in the world shows up and seems to know me, I’m not sure what to believe. Is it possible he’s telling the truth when he says he’s been in love with me for nine years, even if I can’t remember ever meeting him?

***Play it by Ear is the second book in the Replay series. Each book in the series will focus on a different band member getting a second chance at love. Each book can be read as a stand-alone.

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EXCERPT

The blank pages taunt me cruelly. No matter how many times I put the tip of my pencil to the paper, it remains blank. Have you ever felt like your entire life depended on your ability to do something that you suddenly couldn’t do? Not that I’m going to die if I can’t write. But if I can’t do this, the band will be dead, and I might as well die along with it.

“Just write,” I command myself, putting the tip of the pencil to the paper once more. “It can’t be that difficult. You’ve written three dozen songs, if not more. Just put one word in front of the other until you have enough words to fill three minutes or so.”

I drill the tip of the pencil into the paper, but still no words come.

“Goddammit,” I roar, snapping the pencil in my fist and throwing the pieces to the ground. “Dammit, dammit, dammit.”

A familiar resentment simmers in my chest. If Lincoln wasn’t such a mess, I wouldn’t be in this position. When we signed our first contract with Epic Records a decade ago, Lincoln and I agreed we’d share the responsibility of writing music. How many songs has Lincoln written? Two. Two fucking songs in ten years while I sit here with an ulcer over needing to get a whole album written in the next few weeks.

“Fuck you, Lincoln, and fuck me, too,” I mutter, heaving myself off the couch and heading to my kitchen to grab another beer.

How’s this for the wild Friday night in a rock star’s life? Drinking beer and berating myself in my deathly quiet penthouse.

I wander over to the window that takes up the entire east wall. City lights twinkle like stars all around, but when I tilt my head to see the actual stars, there’s nothing but hazy light polluting the sky.

I lift the bottle of beer to my lips and gulp down half of it in one go. None of this was how it was supposed to be. When we started this band, we were nothing more than best friends sharing a love of music. When we were signed by Epic, we were all so sure this was going to change our lives. We weren’t wrong. A decade later we have seven albums, three of which went platinum, we’re a household name, our songs—my songs—are on every radio station. We’re living the dream. So why does it feel so empty?

I rest my palm against the frigid glass of the window and wonder for the millionth time what the point of all this is.

The shrill sound of my phone ringing makes me jump. I reach into my pocket and see Archer’s name on the screen. There’s only one reason our band manager would be calling me after midnight on a random Friday.

“Is he okay?” I ask as soon as I answer. My voice sounds flat to my own ears, and I wonder if Archer notices it. I feel wrung out physically and emotionally. I’m a battery with only ten percent life left and no charger in sight.

“He’s in the hospital,” Archer replies, sounding just as exhausted as I am.

“How bad is it?”

“Not sure yet. They’re pumping his stomach. It looks like he drank a liter of whiskey. I found him asleep on his balcony, damn near frozen.”

“On his balcony?” I put my hand back on the freezing glass and shiver. “It’s like twelve degrees outside.”

“Yeah,” Archer agrees.

“What do you need me to do?”

“Nothing tonight. I just wanted to let you know, and I was hoping I could swing by to talk after he’s out of the hospital. Maybe tomorrow evening?”

“Yeah, any time,” I agree. “Do you want me to call Benji and Jude?”

“It’s okay; I need something to do to distract myself while I wait. Thanks though.”

“No problem. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I hang up and gulp down the rest of my beer. Sometimes it feels like these aren’t the lives we were meant to live. We all got off track somewhere. I can pinpoint exactly where my life split into a before and after. I’ve written a dozen songs about him. I’ve stayed up nights thinking about him. I’ve gotten drunk and cried over him. I hardly know him, but in nine years, I haven’t been able to shake him. What I wouldn’t give to go back and do something differently. Maybe I’d never leave him. Maybe I’d beg him to come with me. I don’t know what I’d do, but it wouldn’t be this.

I toss the empty bottle in the recycling and amble to my bedroom, stripping out of my clothes as I go. Maybe I’ll dream some damn lyrics and save my own ass. More likely I’ll dream of him.

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I’m an author of m/m and new adult romance. I have a strong passion for writing characters with a lot of heart and soul, and a bit of humor as well.

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