American Love Songs

Title: American Love Songs
Author: Ashlyn Kane
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Buy Link: Buy Link American Love Songs
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: Novel (251 pdf pages)
Rating:  5+ stars out of 5
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A Guest Review by Cole

Review Summary: A beautifully written rags-to-riches story of the four guys who make up the band The Wayward Sons which had me laughing, crying, and falling in love right along with the characters.

BLURB

Jake Brenner has too many wild oats to sow to fall in love—or so he claims. Besides, he’s much too busy with his band, the Wayward Sons, to go looking for romance. His reticence has nothing to do with his embarrassing crush on Chris, the band’s lead singer and Jake’s erstwhile best friend. But that was before enigmatic wanderer Parker McAvoy signed on as the band’s new lead guitarist.

He can only deny his attraction to sweet, dorky Parker for so long before the urge to do something about it becomes impossible to ignore. The trouble is, Parker knows all about Jake’s philandering ways—and oh, yeah, he’s not gay. Or so Jake thinks until a string of related events provides encouraging new insight. Can he convince Parker to overlook his colorful past and give him a chance? Or will this love song fade out before it even begins?

REVIEW

Jake Brenner is a conflicted man, who like most 21 year old gay guys, is too busy with music, parties, and men to stop and self-reflect enough to see that he is conflicted. He has no time for love, but he isn’t sure if it is because no one has really come along yet, or if he’s still getting over that 3 year supercrush on his best friend Chris. He’s over that now, of course, after realizing that Chris would always be straight and that that kind of emotional turmoil could seriously mess up the good thing he has going — the band he started with Chris and their other best friend Jimmy — The Wayward Sons. Jimmy’s girlfriend Kylie is their lead guitarist and after a particularly well-played gig and a night of druken revelry, Jake and Jimmy stumble home to find Kylie and Chris in the middle of some serious cheating (on Jimmy) and rule-breaking (Band Rule #2: No sleeping with another bandmate). Kylie was moving anyway, though, so they are now a lead guitarist short. They set out to audition as many people as possible, but the potentials keep getting worse. Then one day, as Jake is drinking a beer on the stoop, a man carrying a guitar walks up to him and Jake asks him to play something for him. The man’s name is Parker and Jake knows immediately that Parker’s talent is going to make them famous. The way he plays music is like a dream and unlike anything Jake has ever heard. On top of that, Parker can play any instrument that they place in his hands — he’s a prodigy.

Parker, however, is a man with a troubled past. For months, while their band is taking off, he refuses to devulge exactly why he never speaks to his family, why he hates New York City, how he was so classically trained, and why he never seems to show interest in any of the men or women who hang around after gigs to hit on the musicians. Jake and Parker become best friends and roommates and still Parker keeps his past a secret. Jake indulges him because he can see how Parker must have been traumatized in some way — he’s skittish, jumpy, and endearingly demure. But their big break is about to come, and as they work their way through the pifalls of the industry and navigate the trappings of superstardom, Jake begins to fall in love with Parker, a man who he knows with his whole mind and heart and a man who he doesn’t really know at all.

I knew immediately upon reading the blurb that I wanted to read this story. I absolutely love Cinderella types of stories, where a commoner falls for a famous or successful person. Whether they be royals or movie stars, sports stars or musicians, this type of story captivates me because it relies on two fantasies that almost everyone entertains: (1), fame, riches, or success (it is embarrassing how many times I fantasize about winning the lottery); or (2), that a man who could have anyone would choose me. Its a heady thing to fall into just one of these categories, but into two? This story plays off of both of those fantasies, but the difference with American Love Songs is that they take the journey to get there together. From what I can recall, many of these types of stories always start the narrative off sometime later in the story and show the evolution of their rise to fame in flashbacks. But here we get to know the characters long before they become famous. They are normal guys who have flaws and we get to travel the same road they do as each piece of success and fame settles into place. By the time they are superstars, I felt like I had made the same choices and sacrifices as they did — a fifth member of the band.

This wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for the amazing writing in this novel. The quality of description and prose in American Love Songs is rare. The writing is very sensory. There were many times that I felt dialogue wasn’t necessary because Ashlyn Kane described the characters’ body language and the emotion betrayed on their faces so well. She utilized all of the human senses to show Jake’s feelings for Parker, but most especially in creating mystery around Parker’s demeanor (which is austere to say the least). The setting was so rich with detail and the emotion sparking between the different characters was so tangible that I ended up getting to know these characters much better than those in most of the books I read. Jake and Parker’s relationship is also celibate for most of the novel (with good reason), which combined with the emotionally charged prose, lit up the pages with sexual tension. It is the mark of a naturally talented writer when looks or mere casual touches can be so erotic.

Jake is the narrator in this story (with occasional input by Parker) through a semi-epistolary format and autobiography of their relationship and the band’s subsequent rise to fame. Each segment of the novel (and some in between) start with a blog entry by Jake on the band’s website, which are often interspersed with press clippings or interview transcripts. Each time, the blog entries segue into a memoir style with footnotes which quote the things Parker and Jake are saying as they read over the story. This sounds confusing, but it really isn’t. Ultimately, the footnotes worked really well, injecting the story with humor as Jake and Parker often use them to tell the things that were happening behind the scenes at the time.  This serves to give us more of Jake’s personality and unique voice and this is large part of our understanding of him — how open he is speaking to the public.  Not only does he wear his heart on his sleeve, but he is rarely embarrassed or ashamed of anything about himself or his friends (which ultimately gets him into trouble, as Parker is the exact opposite).   The camaraderie that Jake and Parker share (as buds first for over a year) is the foundation of their relationship. The became friends immediately, but they didn’t grow to love each other and act on that love until they were both ready to accept it from the other. Therefore, their love was even more rewarding for me to read, because it seemed that they had exhausted all possible avenues to make sure that it was solid, dependable, and lasting.  They never lose that best friend banter:

“In what world can [work] not wait an hour and a half?” Parker asked, grabbing another small towel to rub the moisture out of his hair.

“The one where we’re playing New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and the Grammys.”

Jake waited for a moment for the news to sink in. Parker’s cloudy eyes went wide, and then his mouth dropped open in surprise. Then Jake added, “And I’m going to need your help picking out my meet-Ryan-Seacrest outfit.”

Parker stared at him for another moment, then snapped the towel at him. “Like you’d ever leave me for Ryan Seacrest.”

If there were anything to criticize about American Love Songs, it is that I wish we got more time with Jimmy, the drummer of The Wayward Sons.  He usually serves to inject a snarky comment here and there and it is only later that we realize how intelligent he is.  Yet, though he is always there in the background (which is true to his personality), I didn’t feel like we get to know him as well as Chris, the lead singer and Jake’s former crush/best friend, who tended to steal as much attention as he could — like this:

Sierra shot him a perky smile. “Oh, I like you. What say we hit up the deli a few streets over? They deliver, and they make a mean Reuben.”

“Sold,” Chris told her, turning the charm up to eleven with a smooth smile.35


35 [Jake]: Somewhere in hell, a devil got his horns.

I recommend this book to everyone, because sometimes, no matter the plot or sub-genre, a story is accessible to anyone just on the merits of its writing. I loved it and I hope you will too. Highly Recommended.

keepaskingwhy
keepaskingwhy
4 years 8 months ago

Cole,

I hope things are going well for you and I’ll look forward to your next review.
and yeah, next year is around the corner.
Take Care

keepaskingwhy
keepaskingwhy
4 years 8 months ago

Cole,
Where have you been?

Ryan Loveless
4 years 8 months ago

I loved this book, too.

Reading this makes me wish you’d been able to do your review of my Pop Life. I would have loved to know what your thoughts were. 🙂

keepaskingwhy
keepaskingwhy
4 years 11 months ago

Cole,
I finally got around to this story and I truly enjoyed it.

Jaime
5 years 5 months ago

Just finished American Love Songs and your review was spot on Cole!

I loved this book.

I think Jake has become my new favourite character, I fell in love with him right from the start of the book.

Kirsten
Kirsten
5 years 6 months ago

I just finished this book and had to come by and check out the review and comments. I’m kind of surprised that no one has mentioned this yet, but I recognize this story as being a RPS fanfic pairing. Now I’m kind of curious who the author is in fandom. 😉

Ashlyn Kane
5 years 6 months ago

*blush* Was wondering how long it’d be before I was caught! *sigh* Wait til the next one…. *headdesk*

Kirsten
Kirsten
5 years 6 months ago

*grins* Care to share your LJ name or have you pulled all your fic down?

Ashlyn Kane
5 years 6 months ago

It’s not a secret. I’ve never actually posted anything I turned in for publication. Like Kirsten said below, I can name a lot of authors who have done the same. I’d even read a few of the stories before they came out as actual published works. In fact, I know an author who did that, and that was sort of what sold me on the idea of getting published in the first place.

Though I have to admit, I’ve done a lot less fic writing since I’ve been published. My fic LJ is http://uraneia.livejournal.com.

LadyM
5 years 6 months ago
Well, Cole, when you are right – you are right! Thank you! It was a great book and I really enjoyed it – I had a smile on my face throughout the story. Jake was a joy to read, he definitely became one of my favorite characters. I even enjoyed the douche bag. XD I would have wanted a little more insight in Parker and I agree with you about Jimmy. It’s too much to hope he’s secretly gay too, right? Well, we could learn more about him (and whoever is in his future – we even didn’t get to… Read more »
keepaskingwhy
keepaskingwhy
5 years 6 months ago

Cole,
Im delurking. Ive come back to this review more than once(3X) to read over. I still havent bought this one yet. I have created a list of TBR, and ALS has been added. I think Im hesitating on buying because not too long ago, I finished up a whole series of “Heaven Sent”.
Great Review.

Marilyn
Marilyn
5 years 6 months ago
Ok, in the interest of interactiveness.;-) I really enjoyed this book alot. I enjoyed the slow sweet build, the interaction with the secondary characters. Even Chris, the douche, wasn’t all that douchey to me (with the possible exception of the drunken sex with Jimmy’s girl). I thought everyone was well written. One thing that drove me batshit crazy, was the footnotes. I read this on my Nook, and because of the formatting, 99.9% of the footnotes were on a different page. I found myself constantly flipping back and forth. I would think, I’ll look ahead and see what the footnote… Read more »
Dianne T.
Dianne T.
5 years 6 months ago
Well, I just pulled another “half-nighter” staying up to finish ALS. This was such a thoroughly enjoyable story, written in a wonderful style. The author had me captivated from the opening pages, and the blog entries and footnotes had me doing a lot of laughing out loud -very clever. This one is in my favorites folder too. The characters really came alive for me – not just Jake and Parker – Chris, Mickey, Becca, Allana, Jimmy – all of the secondary characters – became so integral to the story. I really love that the author was able to weave such… Read more »
Pea
Pea
5 years 6 months ago

I bought this yesterday, finished it before bedtime and plopped it immediately into my “Favorites” folder. I read (and liked) True North last month, but I really loved this one. I hope Ms. Kane has more in the pipeline for 2011!

I really only started reading m/m fiction late last year, so I rely heavily on reviews to find books and authors I like – thanks for a great review!

SusieQ
SusieQ
5 years 6 months ago

Ohhh Cole…*sigh*…. Did I REALLY need another book to add to my “to buy” list??
But your review makes it irresistable, so add it I did! Another wonderful review!! I always know exactly if I want to invest in a book after one of your reviews!

Daanquai
5 years 6 months ago

I also read ARTS a while back and while I definitely loved it, I could never re-read it again because of all the angst. However I just loved the music scene in that book. I was lucky enough to win SJ Frost’s Conquest series during the huge author giveaway on here and those books were fantastic!! This book sounds like it’s more on par with Conquest (nothing like ARTS) so I will definitely be picking this one up!!

Luci
Luci
5 years 6 months ago

Hey Cole,
You were soo right. This story is fab. Keep those recommendations and reviews coming =)

Ethan Day
5 years 6 months ago

“A beautifully written rags-to-riches story of the four guys who make up the band”

– Whew…I read this and HAD to read the review. For a moment I feared someone had written an unauthorized E True Hollywood style biography of MEAT! : )

I’ll add this one to my list, Cole. Great review!

Cole
Cole
5 years 6 months ago

That could be your next project Ethan! You should write the biography of MEAT ‘mockumentary’ style. It could be like Spinal Tap, but we can have Spice Girls names. I want to be the A — Andouille Meat!

Ethan Day
5 years 6 months ago

LMAO! I’m not sure how that would go over romance wise, but it would definitely be funny!

Lily
5 years 6 months ago

I absolutely love ARTS and this sounds like something I’d really enjoy reading. Thanks for the great review! 🙂

Cole
Cole
5 years 6 months ago

Thanks Lily,

I hope you like it!

Hope
Hope
5 years 6 months ago

Hi Cole, I’ve had this book in my wishlist box for about a week, but after reading your review, I think I need to mosey on over and purchase it now. I’ve used your reviews a few times now to influence my buying, and so far you are batting 100%!!!

Wave
5 years 6 months ago

Hey Cole
Sorry to be late for the review party but I was sleeping. lol

This sounds like a great story and I’m putting it on my list to read very soon. I love most stories about rock stars (Heaven Sent) but ARTS had too much angst for me and went on and on beyond where I thought the author could have ended it, but that’s just me 🙂 since I know that most readers love it. This one I think I will definitely love. Thank you for this wonderful review.

Lilli
5 years 6 months ago

Hi Cole, wow, really great review, again. I have this in my TBR. I just can’t ignore rock stars and interesting blurbs. 😉 But I have to confess I was wary because I’ve had too many reads lately that didn’t meet my expectations. Now, your review makes the story sound very very intriguing and I’m looking forward again to finding the time to read it. Thank you! 🙂 And a Happy New Year!

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