💙 I read this for the Unapologetic Romance Readers' New Years 2018 Reading Challenge, for the category of: Rockstar Romance. For more info on this challenge, click here. 💙
I almost never like rockstar romances. I think it's because they tend to be very shallow and superficial, focusing more on the "I'm hot and have to wade through a sea of willing women and available drugs" aspects of the profession and less on the talent and the artistry. It gets old after a while, you know? When setting up for this romance reading challenge, the rockstar romance category was one I dreaded almost as much as motorcycle/MC romance - gag.
But I'd heard nothing but good things about Mariana Zapata for years, and even though DEAR AARON turned out to be a bust, I thought that maybe, just maybe, RHYTHM, CHORD & MALYKHIN might turn out to be a winner.
Here's the thing - in many ways, RHYTHM has a lot of the same problems that I had with DEAR AARON, except magnified. Whereas DEAR AARON was almost, almost a three or four star read bar an unfortunate last act, RHYTHM was almost a one, except for the fact that I finished it, held captive by this trash person opera of ribald foolishness and moronic courtship rituals. The hero and heroine are supposed to have a "connection" but mostly it's just a physical connection, if you catch my drift. More telling, the descriptions of Sascha are nearly identical to those of Aaron - swimmer physique, blocky abs, small waist, broad shoulders, "perfectly sculpted" body - and the only difference is skin color and eye color. I get that some authors have a "type" and that's fine, but when the descriptions feel interchangeable, it starts to feel more like lazy writing.
Second, like Ruby in DEAR AARON, Gaby has insecurities. Ruby had anxiety and Gaby has body image issues, so much so that she decided to get breast implants to boost her image. Again, fine. But I feel like, as with DEAR AARON, it wasn't handled very well, and like Ruby, Gaby never really learns to stand up for herself; she waits for others to do it for her. While her friends are sitting there, making comments about how women with fake tits are slutty, she just sits there and waits for her men (her crush and her brother) to defend her. Her friends and her brother call her Flabby Gabby, Flabby, Flabs, and even Doctor Flabby because (I guess?) she used to be heavy when she was younger. It's obvious that she was really traumatized about her weight when she was younger but since she's thin and hot now, she seems to be totally fine with the nickname and never calls them out on it.
Third, like Aaron in DEAR AARON, Sascha totally yanks Gaby around. He sends her mixed signals, calling her a friend while doing sexual things with her, and never calls her his girlfriend. For a while, she even thinks he might be seeing someone else because at one point his ex comes for a visit and he pulls out a chair for her - in front of Gaby - sits with her, eats with her, and during a telephone call that Gaby overhears, even tells his ex that he's "not seeing anyone." Later, he tries to tell Gaby that it's because his ex is a psycho, but it's not even this part that really upsets Gaby (although it should because it's classic avoidance syndrome); no, she's upset because he told his ex that he still cares about her. She freaks out about it instead of talking to him, and acts like a raging bitch.
Fourth, the transphobia. There are so many transphobic jokes and insults in this book that weren't present in DEAR AARON. I think it's supposed to be "locker room talk" (ugh) because Gaby is the only girl in this group of boys on tour, but it comes across as really disgusting. I've quoted a few of them in my status updates for this book, and found it rather disturbing just how often it came up. These people are supposed to be in their mid- to late-twenties and sound like they're freshmen in high school. The constant potty talk and references to fecal matter and farts hammered in this suspicion for me. The latter is purely juvenile but the way the former is normalized feels dangerous. For example, one of the "worst" things that Gaby envisions happening to her ex in revenge is that he'd unknowingly hook up with a transvestite, presumably because he'd experience the infamous "trans panic" - something that has been used to rationalize the assault and even murder of trans people who outted themselves.
Add to that general d-baggery of all the characters and the fact that one of the characters never showers and is inexplicably described as a vagina magnet (ew), and I found myself wondering, quite blatantly, "Why the hype?" I still have a couple more of this author's books languishing on my Kindle app, so I'll probably check those out, but my "success" so far is making me think I won't be buying any more.
1.5 to 2 out of 5 stars
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