Reviewed by Elizabetta
TITLE: Off Stage: Right
AUTHOR: Jaime Samms
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 350 pages/111,159 words
BLURB: Damian Learner and his grunge band, Firefly, are on a meteoric rise to success. If they get the right break, fame awaits. Seeking more professional management, Damian independently strikes a bargain with the best agent in the business, Stanley Krane. Unable to afford the penalty for breaking old contracts, Damian agrees when Stan’s best friend, country and Western megastar Vance Ashcroft, offers to buy him out of his old contract.
Overwhelmed by a crippling loan, secretive guilt, Stanley’s expectations, and a volatile relationship with Lenny, Firefly’s lead guitarist, Damian disintegrates. Bad habits of too much sex, booze, and drugs create a rift in the band. Finally Vance, with his understanding of Dominant/submissive behavior, sees that submissives Damian and Lenny are falling into chaos, clinging to each other to try to avoid the inevitable crash.
When the pressure to perform becomes too much and the unthinkable happens, Damian and Lenny have to decide: accept that they need something they can’t get from each other, or burn out and take Firefly with them. Vance is ready to claim Lenny, but even Stan’s hesitant agreement to give Damian the direction he needs might not be enough for Damian—or the band—if he loses Lenny.
This is not your regular take on celebrity musicians and the craziness of sex, drugs and rock ’n roll that can surround them. This takes a good, deeper look at that world and combines a D/s dynamic— or the concept of that lifestyle as an alternative— to give a really great rocker romance.
Based around two couples and their relationship to the up-and-coming grunge band, Firefly, we get a story of discovering limits in a hedonist, anything goes rock star life. While the band is the vehicle, the story starts with the relationship between music promoter/manger Stan Krane and his friend with benefits, Vance Ashcroft, who also happens to be one of his clients— a very successful country music singer. They are also both Doms (so right away you see the problem). In addition, Vance is in the closet to protect his career, Stan is out, and they seem to enjoy an open relationship. Complicated couple number one. The other couple, Lenny and Damian, are lead musicians in Firefly and have been besties since third grade. They’ve been there for each other through some very hard times, they live together and spend a lot of time fighting together. There is a sexual tension between them that they can’t figure out, and that frustration is becoming increasingly violent. So, each of these couples wants something from their partner that they aren’t able to give and the crux of the story is their finding out what to do about it.
Because this is fiction, the solution is brought about by keeping things in the family. Stan’s taking on Firefly as a client means he gets an up close and personal look into Lenny and Damian’s dysfunction and sees that their destructive relationship will also soon be the end of a very talented band. It doesn’t hurt that Stan has a thing for lead singer, Damian, and that Vance has his eye on guitarist, Lenny.
I really liked the set up of the story, the first third or so is especially good. The middle gets bogged down in some pretty heavy angst and high drama with a bit of man-handling as all hell breaks loose. While this got a little over the top (and wordy), it did allow us to get to know each character and where they were coming from and why they acted out in the ways they did. Especially Lenny and Damian, who are such complex mixtures of bad-ass and vulnerability that they suck you in, make you want to smack them and still hope they’ll find their way somehow, impossible as that may seem. The last part of the story focuses on Stan and Damian and while that was fun I kept wondering about Vance and Lenny and how they were handling things.
I also appreciated that while this was about D/s relationships— a big element— the story wasn’t overrun with sex and tie-em-up/tie-em-down scenes. What sex there was added to the plot instead of detracting from it. This was more about four people discovering what they need from each other and how to get it. I really, really liked that. I liked that the lifestyle is presented as a compassionate, nurturing bonding based on cognitive discovery as well as sexual need. Throw in some talented, broody rockers and you have something really sweet.
The ending, while it resolves the major issues does feel more like an HFN and I’m truly hoping for a sequel to see what develops between Stan, Vance, Damian and Lenny as well as the rest of the band members who have their own interesting stories to tell.
Elizabetta is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.
To read all her reviews, click the link: ELIZABETTA’S REVIEWS