This is the second book I’ve read this month that presented a healthy consented BDSM relationship between two man, it is also the first romance book I think I ever read that one of the main characters (and the love interest) is aro (aromantic).
Ray Van Zeller is the singer of an up-and-coming rock band called Twisted Wishes, after the band drummer quit due to alcoholism (and a big public fight with Ray), the band is desperately looking for a new drummer. Enter Zavier Demos a classically train drummer (a Juilliard graduate) and Ray high school crush. Add to this, Carl the band manager, seems intent on hurting Ray and making him lose control which doesn’t go unnoticed by Zavier.
This is one of the better m/m romance books I’ve read recently, mostly because it doesn’t fall into the trapping of this genre. The characters feel authentic and their struggle feels realistic (Ray dealing with confidence issues, Zavier with his sexuality), and do not fall into the alpha male stereotype that often plague this genre. I mentioned before how I am uncomfortable with the fact that in a lot of m/m romance the main characters are alpha male cops/army types and how heteronormative those stories always feel. This book managed to avoid those pitfalls, the characters feel queer and their love and relationship is focused on them being queer (including a touch of non-binary representations and femme characteristics).
The most interesting aspect (at least for me) is the fact that Zavier is aromantic. Romance books very rarely mention characters who are in the A spectrum of LGBTQA representations (asexual and aromantic) and even if they do, they are generally not a main love interest. While Zavier is not asexual (he enjoys sex) he doesn’t understand romance (at least in a traditional sense) and even in the end while it is obvious that he cares for Ray he describes their relationship as friendship and not romantic love. While it is not perfect (some of the idea in the book of romantic love are kind undated) having this kind of view of sexuality and romance and Ray accepting Zavier the way he is feels huge and something I wish you can see more in those types of books. As someone who is asexual, this kind of representation and acceptance, while not perfect, is very important.
Another thing that works well is that Ray and Zavier relationship and their developments focuses on consent. It is especially important as it is a BDSM relationship. Ray, as someone who struggles with confidence issues (which are aggravated by their manager behavior), finds that submitting to Zavier helps clear his head and deal with his issues in a more mature way. Zavier enjoys being a dom, but also understand that part of it is about taking care and helping Ray, and not necessarily about controlling him. It feels like the writer did their research and understand the dynamics of such a relationship.
The one thing that didn’t work for me was the band part, not due to the way it is describe (actually the descriptions are wonderful and really gets you into the mood of the music) but rather because it feels very outdated. Everything (including the name) sounds very 80’s and don’t necessarily reflect the way the music industry works right now. Like I am sure there are still rock bands that tour, and have managers and a record labels, most of the industry doesn’t really work like that anymore (at least from my limited knowledge) and it makes that aspect of the book feel really like it should have happened in a different era (like the 80’s).
In conclusion, while not a perfect read this is one of the better m/m romance book I’ve read and I really respect the author for having an aromantic love intrest
Note: there is a sequel, it is cute but doesn’t have the emotional resonance of this one, also I hate the book cover with a passion as it is just feels completely unlike the way the characters feel in the book (I am not sure how to describe it better)