Shauna Stellar, nee Chantel Evans, reigning R&B princess has hit rock bottom. After a public breakdown on the day she buried her mother, she was dropped by her record label and her accountant and lawyer ran off with her money. All she has left is her manager, the recording studio her mom left her, and the last artist her mom signed to produce: a country music group fronted by Truman Woodley.
After ten long years trying to make it in the music business, Truman thought he and the band had made it big with this record contract. When it turns out the owner’s nutcase daughter has inherited the contract, the guys urge him to get out of it. Doing business with an unstable R&B star seems like a detour they don’t need.
The romance in Crazy in Love is slow to start. Shauna has misgivings about producing, especially producing a country group. The group is split between those who want to give her a chance and those who resist any attempt to change their sound. There are the requisite misunderstandings muddled by insta-lust before our hero and heroine land on the same page. I thought the build to the relationship was handled fairly well. It was believable without straining credulity.
The supporting cast is… guys. They’re adorable. There’s Chantel’s flirty cousin who takes an immediate shine to one of Truman’s bandmates. Chantel’s other cousin is a popular rap star so we get a bit of posturing before the band and the crew find a happy equilibrium. They’re funny without stealing the show from main couple.
On the whole, I can easily see this book being in my regular pick-me-up rotation. The characters were charming, I liked the story, and I immediately looked for more books by the author when I finished it.
And now for all the things that gave me pause about the book.
Shauna/Chantel and her long-time manager, Craig are characters I struggled with in the book. Both characters are written inconsistently, and it’s hard to get a read on whether you’re supposed to like them at any point in the story.
For example, when you meet Shauna, she’s emotionally overwhelmed immediately following her mother’s funeral. (Understandable!) She’s also, frankly, a diva, wondering why her dressing room doesn’t have all-white furniture and a dish of Now and Laters (apparently standard features of her rider). Throughout the story, Shauna/Chantel spends a lot of time running out of rooms. (Is she easily overwhelmed? Does she have IBS? What’s happening?)
We’re meant to make something of the Shauna/Chantel split, but it never quite gels as it should. Early in her career, Chantel adopted the Shauna public persona to help her perform. But the line between the two personas is never clear. I don’t know what behavior Chantel puts on in an attempt to be Shauna–or even how the Shauna character is protective for her–and what’s Chantel letting herself come out. If this was intended to be something of significance, it was poorly executed.
For his part, Craig gets a weird character arc as well. His first scene features him pushing Shauna to perform a concert just hours after the funeral. So, he’s greedy and insensitive. Months later, after Shauna is ready to return to performing, he informs her that she’s broke but can stay with him and his wife. Now he’s encouraging and generous. Then he tries to shut down the relationship between Shauna and Truman. I’m not opposed to complex characters in a story, but we don’t get enough of Craig’s perspective. As a result, this comes across more as whiplash than anything else.
There are other bits of tacked on drama that aren’t done very well, but serve as road blocks on the way to the HEA. Truman and Shauna do openly address whether Truman’s country fans are ready for him to go public with a black partner? Even one of the bandmates struggles with it. The story doesn’t get bogged down in the racial politics of R&B and country music, and the tensions are pretty quickly glossed over. (Truman “doesn’t see color” and “music is music”. Love is love is love is love, y’all.)
Additionally, Truman is battling an ex for custody of his five year old son which leads to a bout of Noble Idiocy. The synopsis makes it sound like this is a more dominant portion of the story than it is. Fear not, dear reader, the Happily Ever After arrives right on time.
I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley.