Note: This ARC was provided by TRSoR Promotions in exchange for an honest review.
"He may care about you, but he's not in love with you, Willow. I know what looks like. I know what it does to a man to love you so fucking completely that he can't breathe without you. So much that the sun doesn't shine bright enough and the dark is too encompassing, ravishing an already ravaged soul because you're not there to hold. I know what loving you looks like. I see it in the mirror every single fucking day. I know." I shake my head and give a little shrug. "It ain't him."
Seven months into 2016 and I've already read more than my fair share of rock star romances, so it takes something extraordinary for a book to stand out from the crowd and only one book has done that so far. Well, at least, until I read Stoned, the first book in the Wrecked series and my first read from author Mandi Beck. This was a novel about Stone Lockhart, songwriter and lead singer of rock band Wrecked, and the second chance he gets to live an addiction-free life and to regain the love, trust, and respect of the only woman he's ever loved, Willow Avery. Like his journey from the bleak, dark world of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, the book isn't always an easy read. Both Stone and Willow go through the lowest of lows and experience pain, loss, betrayal, and abandonment, desperately trying to create a new normal for themselves, no longer as a couple but as separate individuals. He wants another opportunity to prove he's changed, battling his demons on a daily basis, but she's already lost too much of herself and is only beginning to create a newer version of herself, one who's able to survive without the one man she's ever given every part of her heart, body, and soul to. She's no longer the girl he first fell in love with or the one who stood idly by as he wracked his body with drugs and cheated on her. There's someone else who comes first in her life and when Wills makes inroads to move on without him, what will Stone do to get her back?
In no way, shape, or form would I call Stone Lockhart the ideal hero slash male main character slash book boyfriend. He's made so many mistakes that you'd lose count if you had to itemize each one. He's abused the love and trust Willow Avery gave him and took for granted that she would be there for him, no matter how badly he fucks up or how many times he makes the same mistakes. There are times that his selfishness still takes over, focusing only on what makes him happy or unhappy and everyone else has to adjust to his whims and demands. Stone is far from perfect, but what makes him such a worthwhile main character to read about is his determination to stand back up each time he stumbled. He learns from mistakes, and maybe not even necessarily the first time he makes them, but he learns nonetheless. How can you fault someone for wanting to change. Yes, he initially didn't go to rehab for himself, doing so only because he was left with no better option, but the desire to be and do better was there--for himself, for Willow, for the band, and for Lyric. Now, for you to figure out who Lyric is, I suggest you read the book because I'm not going to be spoiling that little tidbit for you. Don't worry. She's mentioned early in the story and who she is in Stone's life becomes one of the most important turning points for Stone the man, not just Stone the rock star. Stone is human and is fallible. Perfect heroes--whether fictional or not--simply do not exist.
Willow Avery has been through a lot and she's made it through the other side, braver, stronger, and more resilient. She's a kickass heroine but she too is by no means infallible. There are moments where I feel she overcompensates for the fact that she still loves Stone but she knows she shouldn't give in to those feelings and she should dissuade him from pursuing her. Her handling of the whole situation regarding Lyric felt a bit disingenuous but I also understand that she did what she felt was necessary in order to protect herself and to protect Lyric. Her relationship was Joaquin Danjou, sometimes called "JD" in the book, certainly piqued my curiosity because of how sincere it was. There was nothing forced about it--well, not counting when the awkwardness of having Stone in Toronto rather than in Austin set in--and Joaquin was, for all intents and purposes, a really good guy who truly cared about Willow and Lyric. But like Stone reminds Joaquin, Willow is Stone's; she's his Birdie, singing pretty for him, writing songs for and inspired by him. The lyrics and letters he wrote to Wills were heartachingly beautiful and their love story is at times ugly, but it's wholly and solely theirs. Stoned is a five-plus-starred rock romance but also much more than that. ♥
Date Read: 15 July 2016
Learn more about Mandi Beck.