4 / 5
"Time was running out."
Shan is young, beautiful, talented, and addicted to heroin in Rock Angel, a novel that follows her meteoric rise to guitar goddess stardom in the 90’s. She is discovered in New York by a handsome, arrogant musical genius named Quinn, and sparks fly between them when he hires her as lead guitarist of his band. Although Quinn is accustomed to bedding a different groupie every night, he can’t ignore his deepening feelings for his new band mate. From gritty Greenwich Village clubs to L.A.’s Troubadour; gigging and touring the country to the cover of Rolling Stone, Rock Angel is infused with the passionate music and intense sexual chemistry of Shan and Quinn. Shan must work out her personal demons and learn to trust Quinn enough to love him, but still remain true to the music that has always been her salvation. A hot, hard-driving story set in an intoxicating world of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, Rock Angel is the first novel by author, Jeanne Bogino.
I fell in love with this book fast & hard (much like the two main characters did), although it's certainly not my usual fare. I fell in love with its nostalgic feel that brought me back to the '90s and the passion and irrationality of first love. So I couldn't put the book down (400 pages in a few days, while also juggling other stuff like my job) because I felt the draw of the electricity that connected Shan and Quinn. However, in some ways, this often felt like a romance novel to me, despite how much other content is in the book. Ultimately, it's ALL about the love between the two main characters, although the story also revolves around a bunch of their friends and loved ones, so certainly has more to it. You can tell how much the author loves music, and I was surprised to read that she actually doesn't have any real musical experience, herself! I would never have guessed, from the way she sounds completely in her element when discussing the instruments, the shows, the lifestyle. (She's actually a fellow librarian - yay!) Amber & I met her at the BEA this year, and really liked her - she is clearly passionate about her writing. And I think she is very good at it - she writes people, feelings, connections really well.
Rock Angel is a book I would have DIED to read when I was in high school, when this kind of rock n' roll world thoroughly attracted me. However, the book IS quite adult, including many references to (what else?) sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. It recalls a bit of Kurt & Courtney, a bit of Sid & Nancy. The larger-than-life personalities that the band produces are often at odds, and their egos regularly jockey for top position. At the same time, there exist love, and passion, and many strong & true relationships that form over the years.
Sometimes I hated Quinn, and sometimes I wanted to shake Shan for what he let him put her through - but then I remember that I've been there. I know what it is like to let someone you love hurt you again and again, and not be able to extricate yourself from the situation. (Luckily, I've moved well beyond that particular relationship, but it's not a feeling I'll ever forget.) I think that might have been part of what drew me to the book - first, the reminder of that excited feeling when two people connect in a special way, and then as you watched Quinn & Shan grow up together and face the realities of life together, the feeling of what it is to be an adult and deal with heartbreak, love, loss, and joy - sometimes all at once.
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