Conquest

S.J. Frost
2009, YA Male/Male Romance
MLR, $14.99, 376 pages, Amazon ASIN 1608200884
Part of a series

Grade: B
Sensuality: Hot

Every teen musicianís dream of becoming a rock star is central to this romance about the perils and sacrifices endemic to the big time. When burnt out megastar Evan Arden hears Jesse Alexander perform, heís blown away and drags his mentor and record producer to hear Jesse. From these humble beginnings, a great career blossoms.

Twenty-seven year old Evan, however, isnít just enraptured by Jesseís singing voice and composing genius. Heís also attracted to the twenty-year-old himself. So Evan manages to meet Jesse and they click.

Suddenly Jesse, whoís been booted from his family, is not only living with his gay brother Brandon as Brandon pursues an acting career in their hometown Chicago but also has his musical idol as a boyfriend. To add frosting to this luscious cake, Jesseís band Conquest has a chance to become hot.

For his part, loner Evan, who has been spending the last few years roaming the world, is grateful to find someone whose agenda isnít to use him as a stepping stone to the limelight. Itís as if the bars to his self-imposed exile from society have lifted. Not to mention the sex with Jesse is hot and heavy, always a plus.

When Evan decides to return to the recording studio and concert stage as Jesse is recording his first album and readies himself and his band for a concert tour, reality sets in. Is the world ready for a homosexual megastar? Will announcing his love for Jesse make them lose fans and revenue? If so, how many fans and how much revenue? As the paparazzi circle like vultures, Evan, without consulting Jesse, makes a decision that affects them both, and both suffer from it.

At first, the character of Evan is a cypher, the personality-less rock star with too many possessions and too few friends. As he continues to appear, heís fleshed out, becoming a likeable yet frail man whoís adept at hiding but afraid to step up and admit who and what he is.

Jesse, on the other hand, is brash and rash from the beginning of the story. He has his ups and downs, but his core truthfulness and adherence to his own code of behavior, whether right or wrong, keep him afloat. His dependence on his brother as a leavening agent proves his brilliance more than his adept turn of phrase at song writing. Jesseís greatest gift is that he rolls with the punches.

The peripheral characters, from Evanís mentor to Jesseís brother and bandmates, provide the richness and veracity the story demands. The mentorís greed is counterbalanced with Brandonís perpetual protecting of Jesse. Frost is adept at making readers feel the constant pull between the private and public as well as the realities of rock and roll as a business versus a creative endeavor.

While the book will live on in my mind, I must admit that at first I had a problem getting into the story. Jesse was just too brash and Evan seemed too egotistical at the beginning to make me want to read on. But a discussion among AAR reviewers about how much time to give authors before we make a decision about a book prompted me to keep reading. And Iím glad I did.

There are a number of follow-ups to this first Conquest novel, and now Iím eagerly looking forward to reading them. All hail, rock Ďn roll!

-- Pat Henshaw

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