Tanner started his riff, Johnny and Bex coming in as Bex began to sing, effectively silencing the crowd. In between her notes I could hear shouts from exuberant fans. My head cleared and it was just me on this stage with the most amazing band I could have ever asked for.
It was my turn to come in and come in I did. I took it over, allowing the screams and shouts of my name to fuel me to drum harder, faster, longer. When my solo was over and Bex began singing again, the screams were still reverberating in my head.
Before I knew it, April and her dad were walking onto the stage as we finished up our tenth song. Sweat dripped off of my face and into my shirt, which looked like I’d taken a shower in it. Before I could stop myself, I stood up and met her halfway across the stage. I held up my drum sticks, which started a frenzy in the crowd. They knew what I was doing. They were seasoned groupies.
April’s eyes met mine as she realized I was walking up to her. That same charge traveled through my body. I handed her the drumsticks without saying a word. The crowd went insane. I could see many flashes as people took pictures, but it didn’t bother me. She beamed as she took the sticks from my hands, her fingers brushing mine. I almost jumped back at her touch but forced myself to take one step back instead.
“Did you see this?” April boomed into the microphone. “Beau just gave me his drumsticks! Who is jealous right now?” The crowd screamed, jumping up and down. She looked back over at me and beamed.
I was frozen behind her. I felt Bex, Johnny, and Tanner come up and stand behind us and I immediately relaxed.
“We wanted to take a moment to thank you for coming to this Jaded Regret concert to benefit Young Angels Children’s Hospital, which you can see behind us. Because of all of your generosity, not only will we get to complete the next phase, but we will also get to help many foster kids that have aged out of the system but still need assistance. Thanks to Bexley Bryant-Gibbons, we’ll be assisting her in funding an assisted living facility here in Orlando for kids who have aged out of the system. It will help them with finding jobs, giving them life skills, and help them have a safe and low cost place to live.”
Bex stepped up next to April. “Thank you, Orlando,” she said, her voice gruff through her headset. “Most of you know that I have a special place in my heart for kids in the foster care system, especially those who never got to have families and aged out of the system. It’s my goal to help those that need it and get more kids families.” The crowd screamed and jumped up and down. Bex looked back at me for just a second, but I knew what the look meant. For kids like us who had no one. “Now who’s ready to rock?”
Bex nodded at us and we turned to go back to our respective places.
April put her hand on my arm before I could get too far from her. “Thank you,” she whispered into my ear. “I’ll keep them forever.” I allowed a small smile to play on my lips before turning away from her. I grabbed a new pair of drumsticks and watched as she exited the stage. She turned back and stood, watching me the entire time again.I wasn’t sure what I was doing, but I could still feel where she’d touched me on my arm.
Twists, mental illness, and finding love when everything seems lost is at the heart of this story. Beau is the damaged, emotionally abused drummer of Jaded Regret, a rock band. As a young child, he discovered his father’s dead body after his father had committed suicide. As if that was not traumatic enough, his mother later abandoned him in a mental institute after emotionally abusing him. Thankfully, his sister, Natalie, never left his side when they were foster kids. Beau has survived, but inside he still hears his mother’s harsh words against him.
The author was wise to have both Beau’s and April’s POVs included in the story. It really helped to have Beau’s thoughts and feelings revealed, as he was often shut down around others. That would have made him seem cold and aloof and thus, hard to sympathize with. Instead I got an inside view to Beau’s struggles with mental illness, recovering from abuse, and trying desperately to cope with life. I enjoyed having April’s viewpoint as well as I sympathized with her and saw her as more than a privileged woman. She worked hard and cared deeply about being a social worker and assisting foster children.
Then there was Robbie, who was out of control and silent. He was a new foster kid that the system had no room for. He had been in and out of the foster system, and now his mother had died of an overdose. He was so young to be left alone in life. My heart went out for him. He was the personal story of a foster kid that brought home the plight of unwanted kids in a system that often tries to sedate children, rather than take the time to connect with their pain.
In the midst of this, Beau and April fall for each other. I really liked that they had the same amount of limited experience with the opposite sex. Beau was not a manwhore; what a relief! There were explicit, sizzling sex scenes in the story, but it was also romantic.
Then there was the rest of the band with the expected bad boy rocker, Tanner, the happily married Bex and Johnny, and the ever attentive Natalie, Beau’s sister. Bex and Johnny were a sexy married couple, who made being on the road with kids work. Tanner was the cliched manwhore. Natalie was so kind and loving to her brother with unfortunately bad taste in men because she was attracted to Tanner. I agreed with Beau: I don’t want her with him. She deserves the best.
This story revealed examples of foster kids and mental illness. The system is largely broken for foster kids, and I liked how it was dealt. Mental illness was shown and handled with prescription medicine and without. It’s not an in-depth look at either topic. It was enough for me learn a bit more about both and to have a new respect for the internal struggle of the mentally ill. Reading about Beau’s struggle to cope with life, to silence those voices in his head, and his feelings of unworthiness felt real. And I just wanted to hug the angry, confused, and hurt Robbie!
A solid story that kept me absorbed and involved. I would like to read more in this series; this was the first book I’ve read in it.
Note: I received an ARC for review purposes.
L.L. Collins loves spending her days in the Florida sun with her husband and two boys, reading, and writing. LL has been writing since she was old enough to write. Always a story in her head, she finally decided to let the characters out made her lifelong dream of becoming an author come true in the self-publishing world. She’s the author of the Living Again Series and the Twisted Series, plus a new standalone, Back to the Drawing Board. Visit LL on her website, www.llcollinsauthor.com and on all social media. Look for more of her emotionally charged novels soon!