Pop Life, by Ryan Loveless
Series: Standalone, 2nd Edition
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: April 13, 2016
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Andrew writes the songs everyone sings along with on the radio—tunes full of love, longing, and heartbreak. He has a knack for tapping into emotions, but when it comes to his own, the feelings aren’t so easy to manage. Sent to New York City to work on Irish singer Paeder Brogan’s first solo album, Andrew is caught in the middle of a boy band’s infighting and secret love affairs while battling the memories of his last trip to the Big Apple, which ended when English pop star Jamie Webster drunkenly kissed him.
Andrew’s heart leaps when he discovers he’s staying at the same hotel as Jamie, yet he doubts Jamie recalls him, even though Andrew wrote his biggest hit. Jamie remembers him, though, and he seems to think Andrew is the only person who can save him from his downward spiral. Even as his feelings for Jamie swell, Andrew faces the real threat that the maelstrom he’s walked into will pull him down alongside Jamie.
Pop Life is a refreshing change from the books I’ve been reading lately and Ryan kept me guessing how the story would play out. Will they get their HEA? My need to know made it difficult to tear myself away. I was happy to see that several of the characters identify as bisexual. Bi-erasure is a nope for me so it’s always a plus when characters recognize the fact that they’re attracted to more than one gender, rather than suddenly feeling that they’ve been gay all along.
Taking place in 1999, the book is written from Andrew’s POV and we get a lot of great back story on him from his insecurities and heartbreak to his desire to be with a man. The side characters also get quite a bit of page time and if I hadn’t already read the blurb, by 50% I still wouldn’t have been positive who Andrew’s love interest was supposed to be – a point I liked because it started to feel more like a mystery that I had to figure out. I enjoyed reading about the dynamic between Jamie, the boy band members of Icon, and the other people who live within their circle of fame. It felt real and I could imagine that it’s very close to what it must be like in their world. When it became clear that Jamie was the guy for Andrew I started to have concerns for where the book was going.
Jamie’s issues with celebrity excess have him keeping Andrew at arm’s length. He doesn’t want to hurt the one person who makes him feel safe but that doesn’t excuse the way he treats Andrew throughout the majority of the book. We get these tiny glimpses of Jamie’s feelings for Andrew but it’s such a small amount that, up until the last few pages, I felt the bad far outweighed the good.
Andrew likes feeling needed and it’s this trait combined with his belief that there’s underlying good in Jamie that has him forgiving Jamie’s behavior time and time again. He also has trouble early on expressing what he wants so he’s often not taken seriously. Thankfully we start to see that change in him as the story unfolds. I like a lot of character growth in my books so I was cheering him on as he gained the confidence to go after what and who he wanted.
Although I thought the writing was very good for 90% of the book, the ending just didn’t work for me. In fact, for as much as I enjoyed the unique departure from a typical romance format, in the end I wouldn’t consider this book as such. There’s a lot of hurt and not enough resolution for me to believe that it could work out for Andrew and Jamie. I thought I would get what I was looking for in the epilogue but that wasn’t the case. A missed opportunity, for sure. Having said that, there’s so much potential here that I’m definitely interested in trying other books from Ryan to see if they’re a better fit for me.
Ryan Loveless is a farmer’s daughter. She has a BA in English from a private college in Illinois and a master’s degree in library and information science with an archival certificate from a university in New York. Raised in a conservative family, she was shocked and relieved when her coming out was largely uneventful. She has been writing since she could read and has always drifted toward M/M because she enjoys the relationship dynamics. It’s possible that her first story was about GI Joe. She wishes she still had that story.
You can find her on various social media platforms:
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ryanloveless
- Facebook: http://facebook.com/ryanlovelessbooks
- Tumblr: http://ryanlovelessbooks.tumblr.com/
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4500872.Ryan_Loveless
- Blog: http://ryanloveless.dreamwidth.org
You can buy Pop Life from the following sources:
I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.