Review: A Cruel Kind of Beautiful

tl;dr: love story between two young adults is cute, but overall, lacking in chemistry and believability 

The Story:

By night, Jera is the drummer for The Red Letters, a rock band in Portland, Oregon. By day, she’s a struggling student, living in her late grandmother’s ancient house, and has completely sworn off relationships for one reason: she sucks in the sack. A newspaper tossed through her front window changes all of that, because Jacob, a fellow student with his own dark secrets, crashed into her life and she finds it nearly impossible to stick to her no-romance rule.

The book follows her push-and-pull with Jacob, discovers his back story, and also the rise and fall and rise again of her band, with her bandmates own troubles in the background. Jera tries to fill her time with concern over her classes and her band, and relegates Jacob to a friend in order to protect herself. Her last relationship went awry when she was apparently so not-turned-on in bed that it caused her ex-boyfriend to be unable to perform, even after they broke up, and his haunting confessional voicemail that she keeps on her phone as a reminder makes her want to avoid going there with Jacob.

Technical Elements:

My biggest issue with this book is that there’s too much going on, and that not enough time is taken to fully develop any of the characters. I didn’t feel like Jacob himself was a real character, and he just was there, with this slowly revealed tragic backstory. The Jacob we’re introduced to at the beginning doesn’t vibe with what we’re told about him, and the difference is so stark, that I had a hard time melding the two Jacobs together. I also didn’t really feel the connection between Jera and Jacob.

The bad-at-sex plot was also uneven. We get some pieces of why she feels that she’s bad at sex, but then once she fully gives herself over to Jacob and the prospect of a relationship, she’s suddenly cured. I didn’t buy into that at all. It was too convenient. Here’s the thing: this is a new adult romance. Jacob himself isn’t even old enough to buy a beer. I just don’t have the suspension of disbelief that a guy this young is that good at sex. Now, if the story had gone the way that I was sort of thinking, that maybe Jacob was incredibly kinky or even maybe had a dark secret as a male escort (truly what I was starting to think, with his secrecy over his schedule and not allowing Jera into his bedroom), then I would have maybe believed he could cure her of her supposed frigidity. But as the story stands, I didn’t feel it.

I also bought more into the chemistry between Jera and her male best friend Danny, and thought they should have ended up together.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, this isn’t a bad book. Personally, I feel like the first person present tense style that it’s written in does a disservice to the story. Third person past tense would have allowed more room for all the characters to breathe. It’s also not the kind of story that benefits from present tense, as there’s not really any real suspense. I had a hard time staying invested in the story because I just didn’t feel the relationship, but other readers may really connect with Jacob and Jera. Also, there’s lots of great music competence porn, so if that’s your catnip, you’ll really like that.

This book is unavailable at libraries. Check this link for ways to purchase from your favorite retailer.

For other musician romance novels, check out Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive series, starting with Lick.


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