I read a handful of Karina Bliss’s Harlequin SuperRomance titles when I first started reading contemporary romance. I found them emotional without being manipulative, engaging and fun. Which is why was very interested in reading Rise.
Rise is the story of Zander Freedman who appeared as a supporting character in a several of the SuperRomances I read (What the Librarian Did, A Prior Engagement & Bring Him Home). Apparently fans have been lobbying Bliss for a happy ending for this charismatic and interesting villain.
Zander Freedman is the front man for a legendary rock band, Rage. When his original band mates jumped ship after his brother Devin collapsed on stage due to alcohol abuse, he refused to stop touring. Zander re-populated the band with younger and up-and-coming musicians through a reality show competition. To some of his former band mates this is just another cash grab and betrayal, but the truth is not as simple.
Zander is incredibly ambitious and driven. His career is his whole life. And he has gambled his whole future on his newest tour. He is playing a dangerous game of denial with his voice. Warned by doctors to cut the tour short or risk permanent damage, he refuses to consider stopping because it will leave him financial ruined.
Elizabeth Winston is a Pulitzer prize-winning biographer and celebrated historian. She lives a quite life, baby-sitting her nieces and nephews, teaching at a local university, sharing a whiskey at the end of her day with her elderly neighbor. She thinks it is a prank when Zander comes calling. She writes biographies of complex dead people, not megalomaniac rock stars. But it is no mistake or prank, after firing his second ghost-writing biographer, Zander wants to recruit Elizabeth to help him write his memoir. He wants her to lend credibility to the project & he makes all the right promises, and his charisma eventually overcomes all of Elizabeth’s objections.
Before long Elizabeth isn’t just prying into Zander’s past with probing questions, she is interfering in his everyday life and not letting him get away with ignoring the consequences of his actions have on others.
I loved Zander’s slow & determined pursuit of Elizabeth. It was nice to see them develop a friendship, to cultivate a somewhat adversarial working relationship, before Zander is finally able to lure Elizabeth to his bed. And I loved that sleeping together didn’t resolve their relationship issues, but instead complicated them.
I particularly liked that Elizabeth is not some sexual innocent looking to be debauched by a rock sex god or a prude in need of liberation. She might live a quiet life in Auckland, but she isn’t sexually inexperienced. She has lived a little more life than her siblings think she has, she just prizes her privacy and independence.
I thought Bliss did a good job over-all with her portrayal of the complicated repercussions of being a pastor’s kid. Elizabeth’s familiarity with life in a fish-bowl, her caution about her personal & professional reputation, and the complicated role faith plays in her life were very well drawn. There was one odd moment, where early in the book Elizabeth mentions Chakras, but it isn't followed up again, so we don’t get to explore if she has if has added any other unconventional religious beliefs to her traditional religious practice and without any kind of follow up or further mention it feels like remnant from a discarded plot line.
Bliss did a wonderful job building a redemption story for Zander that did not excuse his prior bad actions, or try to minimize the cost of those actions on others. The dark moments in Zander and Elizabeth’s relationship are well executed. I felt the weight of their choices and was really happy with the resolution.
Rise has been available at the usual e-book retailers since Jan 28, 2015
I received a review copy of Rise from Karina Bliss via Julie Brazeal at AToMR Promotions.