Review: Softer Than Steel by Jessica Topper (Love & Steel #2)
Note: This ARC was provided by Penguin Group (Berkley, NAL/Signet Romance, DAW) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Richard Rottenberg achieved the kind of success that other musicians would sell their souls for, but Rick lost more than his fair share by the time members of Corroded Corpse went their separate ways. Now, four years after the reunion concert that sparked the resurgence of Riff Rotten, Digger Graves, and the rest of what is Rotten Graves Project, Rick realizes that they're still slaves to the machinery that the music industry employs to strip them of their artistry and simply make them commodities. He's experiencing panic attacks and finally gives in to suggestions that he try yoga. His yoga instructor, Sidra Sullivan, stirs in him feelings he hasn't had since his beloved wife Simone passed years ago. She's teaching him to let go, but Sidra has her own demons to contend with and it's those very demons that could derail their relationship.
I'm going to be honest here and admit that I went back and forth with how to write up my review for this book and what ultimately my rating for it would be. It's predecessors, the full-length first in a series novel, Louder Than Love, and its novella, Deeper Than Dreams, are two of my top reads for 2015, so suffice it to say that my expectations for this sequel were quite high. While Softer Than Steel still employs Jessica Topper's amazing writing and storytelling and there were elements of the book that I did like, I just felt that there was something missing here. It was almost as if I was constantly on the look out for that one thing that would have made this the gem of a read the first two were. Maybe it was unfair of me to have set such high standards, but that's what happens when the books that preceded this sequel were exceptional.
There's no denying that this had a unique story, one that gave a feeling of originality that I appreciated. Having a rock star using yoga as a way to deal with his anxiety and stress is nothing new, but Rick's sessions with Sidra allow him to use what he's learned in other aspects of his life as well. Rick's love for Simone is the kind that rock ballads are made of, and finding someone new who sparked that much feeling and devotion from one man is a difficult endeavor, and maybe that's why Rick and Sidra simply didn't work for me. I didn't feel the connection between and often thought that Rick's feelings for Sidra were deeper than hers for him. While Rick dealt with his issues, Sidra, sadly, allowed hers to fester, showing she didn't really practice what she was preaching, which made it even more difficult for me to actually like her.
I liked Rick and thought that he was such an inspiring main character, one who fought to find a way to deal with his circumstances as healthily as possible. He made the necessary changes in his life that brought him far more peace and contentment than he's felt in a decade and a half. He and his best friend and band mate, Adrian Graves, have their issues but the brotherhood and kinship they share felt even more real because of it. His story is what made this such a worthwhile read, but I will say that I also enjoyed the bits and pieces involving Adrian and his fiancée, Kat Lewis (though I was surprised that four years have passed without a wedding), plus the side story with Liz Dooley and Kevin Underwood and the introduction of Seamus Sullivan. So, while Softer Than Steel may not be my favorite in the series, it still gets four stars. ♥
Release Date: 15 September 2015
Date Read: 18 September 2015
Learn more about Jessica Topper here.