TITLE: Playing Dirty
SERIES: Stargazer #2
AUTHOR: Jennifer Echols
PUBLICATION DATE: October 29, 2013
PUBLISHER: Pocket Books, A Division Of Simon & Schuster Inc
PAGES: 448 pages
RATING: 3 bows
Sarah Seville screwed up royally in Rio with crazy rocker Nine Lives. Sure, she kept him concentrating long enough to record his album, but now he’s stuck in prison and when he gets out shit’s really going to hit the fan. To save her career, she takes on The Cheatin’ Hearts, a country group famous not only for their perverted lyrics, but also for their antics. This group is constantly starting fights and hitting the hospital for overdose’s. It’ll be a miracle if she can pull this off, but she’ll try anything to keep her mind off Nine Lives. The Cheatin’ Hearts have three golden rules to keep them together: no drugs, no sleeping with other band members, and no sleeping with record company spies. Quentin laid the rules out in the beginning and expects everyone to follow his lead. It’s kept the band together and successful for several years now and he isn’t willing to risk that, no matter how attracted to Sarah he is. But the longer she stays, the harder he has to fight his urge to seduce her and let all his walls down, a dangerous prospect indeed.
This is moderately better than it’s predecessor, but that isn’t saying much. It still falls desperately short when measured to Jennifer Echols other works. The best way to describe this novel is one word: DRAMA. The drama contained in just the four members of The Cheatin’ Hearts was enough to set me over the edge, then adding Sarah & Quentin’s tension-y relationship to it and I was just a bit miffed. I’m not a huge fan of drama. In fact, I like to keep it to a minimum, so you can image how I felt about all the subterfuge between the band, Sarah, and the media circus they create. The “dumb hick” act Quentin is so fond of had me screaming to just fucking stop. Seriously, it’s not attractive in the least and no, you’ll overly muscled body doesn’t compensate. I get you are physically attractive, but dumbing yourself down so the media will “like” you is about as dumb as girls who act brainless to get the guy. It’s infuriating.
What’s more is he keeps the act up throughout most of the novel, so by then end I feel like he and Sarah don’t know each other well enough to profess the feelings they claim to have. How can you love someone you don’t know? Sarah, by the way, is just as guilty. After her husband asked for a divorce, she had a massive makeover and has tried to match her new personality to it. But new Sarah and old Sarah are pretty different and it’s hard for me to reconcile the two when I’ve been in her head for half the novel, much less for Quentin who’s just been catching what she lets slip on occasion.
The rest of the cast is alternatively annoying or absent. Erin can’t seem to settle on whether she wants to be friendly or bitchy. Since the audience knows her and Quentin’s “relationship” is bullshit, it’s unclear why she plays that card. I mean, I know Sarah expects jealousy, but seriously, just pick a side and stay there. Same with Owen, who obviously hates Sarah intensely one moment and then is friendly the next. And they all blindly follow Quentin’s lead. You claim he’s genius level intelligent, but we rarely see him back it up because I don’t consider engineering the band’s publicity as a genius act. I consider it stupid. I get that it’s what got you the attention you needed to get a recording contract, but you got it so let the drama go!
The writing was mediocre at best and the plot felt highly predictable. ****SPOILER****Yes, Erin and Owen are sleeping together and of course Nine Lives is going to show up at an inopportune moment.****END SPOILER**** It almost felt like Echols recycled the end of Star Crossed, just changing the bare minimum of details so it would fit here.
It’s difficult to express my level of disappointment. This isn’t a bad read. It’s not great, but it’s tolerable and if almost anyone else had written it, I probably would have liked it more. But I know Echols is capable of more. She’s one of my favorite contemporary writers and to see her produce this hot mess makes me endlessly sad. Here’s hoping.
****Thank you to Pocket Books for providing me with an eARC via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review****