Review: Rock Hard by Olivia Cunning

Saturday, April 30

Title:  Rock Hard*
Author: Olivia Cunning
Series: Sinners On Tour #2
Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Format: Tradesized paperback, digital e-book
Date/Year: April 1, 2011
Reviewed by: Booklover1335

*This book was provided to me by the publisher for review 

Summary from the publisher:

This second book in the Sinners on Tour series features lead singer Sedric Lionheart who became a playboy after his fiancee, Jessica, broke his heart. Forced on a summer tour together for two entire months, but stubbornly desperate to stay apart, they find a million steamy reasons why they had that lovin' feeling in the first place.

Sinners’ lead singer, Sed, had his heart shredded when Jessica left him to pursue her dreams,so when she dances her way back into his life, he's not sure he's ready for her brand of pain, or pleasure, again. When she convinces Sed to engage in a benefits with benefits relationship, things seem to be going his way, until one of his fans catches their explicit public display of affection on film and posts it all over the internet. Will Jessica ever trust Sed again? And has Sed become the man of Jessica’s dreams or is he just posing to get what he wants?

My Musings:

Last year I was really blown away by Olivia Cunning’s debut novel in the Sinners on Tour series, Backstage Pass.  I thought it was original, and sexy, and I couldn’t wait to read each one of the band members stories because you could tell that each book would highlight a different theme of erotic romance.  I loved that idea! I was especially drawn to the lead singer’s character, Sed Lionheart being the dark, dramatic, and wounded type.

In Backstage Pass Sed came off as egotistical, manipulative, self-serving , controlling to a fault, and even a bit sinister in his need to sabotage every relationship that the hero in Backstage Pass had by seducing his love interest at the time.   Sed was a sabotaging, seducing “sinner” in every sense that those words evoke.  He was so bad that you couldn’t help but be intrigued by his story, especially when you learned that he was the way he was because of a woman that broke his heart.  That woman is, Jessica, the heroine in Rock Hard.

We meet Jessica for the first time in Rock Hard.  She’s smart, and has a need to survive on her own.  She is independent to a fault.  In fact it is Sed’s need to control (take care of) those he loves that leads Jessica to leave him after a short but passionate love affair.  She is the catalyst for his destructive behavior, has been a lyrical Muse in his song writing, and many of his actions including his meaningless encounters with other women are a direct result of her leaving him without reason…at least that is his perception.

One of the major issues that I had with Rock Hard is that so much of Sed’s detached, disreputable, reprehensible behavior, bordering on some kind of sexual disorder, came as a result of Jessica leaving him and appeared in the book Backstage Pass, but not really in Rock Hard.  Yes, there’s lots of sex in Rock Hard to, but in a much different way than it was for Sed in Backstage Pass.  In Rock Hard the reader is told over and over again in vague terms of the impact that the end of their love affair had on him, but his behavior in Rock Hard lacked the intensity and impact that was in Backstage Pass.  So while it is said that the book can be read as a stand alone, I don’t think you get a clear picture of Sed and how he uses sex as a character without having read Backstage Pass.  Consequently, I felt that Sed’s story came across as much weaker and less substantial than it should have been.   I didn’t feel that in Rock Hard you could understand his alleged devastation, nor do you fully comprehend the kind of self destructive person that Sed became since the “badness” of him isn’t completely illustrated to Jessica or the reader in this story.  Without Jessica understanding the depth of Sed’s love and loss, neither can the reader.  As a result, I didn’t feel that Sed’s character grew very much in Rock Hard.   He’s given a second chance with Jessica and makes the same mistakes again, but this time it somehow all works out instead of falling apart.

Jessica is also virtually the same person that she was when she left him the first time.  Their chemistry together is still on fire, their sexual chemistry is combustible on practically every page, but she still has the same independence issues that she had before.  She is still pursuing her dream of being a lawyer, despite being discriminated against within her law school, and by the end of the story she somehow believes that a marriage between them can work despite her career, Sed’s love of being on tour, and them barely being able to go one day apart from each other.  I still have my doubts how this relationship will work even though they have renewed their love for each other since neither of them grew enough as characters in my opinion for this time to be different than the last.

The last two major issues that I had with Rock Hard had to do with Sed’s role as the lead singer in the Sinners.  At the beginning of the book Sed’s throat is injured which became life and career threatening, much like one of the other band members in this story.  But Sed’s injury and the impact to his singing, which is how he defines himself as a person, is kind of glossed over as less important than his fellow bandmate’s career threatening injury.  Quite a bit of the story that wasn’t sexin’ focused on the other bandmate, Trey’s, injury and his resulting drug dependency.  And while it brought Sed and Jessica together I can’t help but wish that those pages would have been devoted instead to Sed and how he would cope with having to change his singing style when he is THE “voice” of the band.  It’s what made him famous, but he can’t really be that “voice” anymore.  I was baffled that in Sed’s story that this wasn’t a bigger issue.

Sed’s other role in the band is writing the lyrics for their songs.  And towards the beginning of the book the reader is given a glimpse into his notebook of ideas, yet not once is the reader gifted with one of his songs.  In Backstage Pass, Brian’s creativity was sparked by his love for his Muse and even though he wrote music the reader still got the sense of his inspiration.  That didn’t happen for me in Rock Hard and I was very disappointed in that.  Especially in the one scene that I felt it was critical to the story…when Sed proposes to Jessica for the second time.  He wrote a song, just for her or about her, that expressed his love (or so I can only assume).  It is supposed to be the epitome of what he feels for her, or how he felt when he lost her, yet the reader is left out in the cold.  For me, this was an absolute necessity and I can’t understand why the reader couldn’t “hear” the song as it was played for Jessica at such a pivotal moment in their romance.  His songs could have said so much in so few words.  They could have shown the devastating loss he felt when she left (and it is hinted at that the songs were written), as well as his undying and enduring love.  They could have made the story work for me.

Was there anything redeemable about Rock Hard you may wonder?  Yes, I think there was.  I still enjoy Olivia Cunning’s writing style.  I think it is sexy, fun and easy to read.  I still am in love with the Sinners as a band.  I love each of the characters that make the band as a whole and I am still looking forward to each of their stories despite Sed being a real disappointment as a lead “hero” and character (not to mention that I never really warmed up to Jessica as a heroine that would inspire such strong feelings in Sed…other than intense sexual attraction of course).
Overall, if you are looking for a sexy, steamin' hot read with lots of sex (yes, sex does bear repeating in this instance) without too much kink then I think you will enjoy Rock Hard, but if you like a bit more character growth and plot substance with your erotic romance, then you might find the story lacking.  I think Rock Hard is a slight misstep in the Sinners on Tour series, which is very sad for me because I was most intrigued with Sed in Backstage Pass.  However, it doesn't diminish my love for the band.  I still consider myself a "Sinners groupie" because of the promise this series offers, and you better believe I'll be eagerly anticipating the next book.

For a complete understanding and definition of the ratings at Seductive Musings, click here  

Overall: 3.00
Sensuality level:  4.25 (lots and lots of sex, including sekrit public sex, sex in front of people in a more private setting, and one or two times in an actual bed :)

Other Reviews: 

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Confuzzled Shannon May 10, 2011 at 6:52 AM  

Wow sound very steamy!

Artemis May 10, 2011 at 9:03 PM  

It seems as if Ms. Cunning dropped the ball on this one. A tease into Sed, but not the whole enchilada. I may get to it; one day.

Excellent review as always.

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