TBR Challenge Review: Rise by Karina Bliss

​I really wanted to review a romance written by, or featuring African American character(s) for SBHM but … it just didn’t happen. I feel really guilty about that, but it just didn’t pan out.​ Alas. That being said … ​

Rise by Karina Bliss
Contemporary romance released by Karina Bliss on January 28, 2015

RiseRise – The redemption story of a rock star going straight(er) through the love of a good(ish) woman.

Acclaimed literary biographer Elizabeth Winston writes about long-dead heroes.
So bad-boy rock icon Zander Freedman couldn’t possibly tempt her to write his memoir.
Except the man is a mass of fascinating contradictions–manipulative, honest, gifted, charismatic and morally ambiguous.
In short, everything she seeks in a biography subject.
When in her life will she get another chance to work with a living legend? But saying yes to one temptation soon leads to another.
Suddenly she’s having heated fantasies about her subject, fantasies this blue-eyed devil is only too willing to stoke.
She thought self-control was in her DNA; after all, she grew up a minister’s daughter.
She thought wrong.

Rock star Zander Freedman has been an outlier–many would say an outcast–for most of his life.
But there’s no disaster he can’t overcome, from the breakup of his band to the inevitable damage to his reputation.
His Resurrection Tour is shaping up to be his greatest triumph–if his golden voice holds out.
Contracting a respected biographer is simply about creating more buzz. Elizabeth’s integrity is the key to consolidating his legacy as one of rock’s greats.
All the damn woman has to do is write down what he tells her. Not force him to think.
Or encourage the good guy struggling to get out.
And certainly not make him fall in love for the first time in his life.
Turns out he is scared of something: being known.

​I’d seen a lot of buzz for Rise, and most notably (to me) was Nalini Singh recommending it. She also touted Laura Florand and Sonali Dev, so I figured there was a good chance I’d enjoy it. I quickly figured out this was the connected book to What the Librarian Did (which I still need to read :X). Rise was more easily found in my digital library though, and who doesn’t like a rock star hero? Honestly a prevalent reflection was Rise is reminiscent of a Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel. SEP updated, we’ll say.

I really liked the heroine Elizabeth. Elizabeth Winston is so very relatable. She’s normal, staid, reliable, the under appreciated responsible family member. She’s a professor and while at the top of her game, still “regular.” I liked that she kept her sense of self and agency throughout. And what makes her special, though, is that you get why Zander is so intrigued, and then smitten. Let me explain. Elizabeth is regular in that she’s “one of us.” She could be someone you know – a star young professor at a university. But her person – her character, personality, wit, mischievousness, all set her apart. Elizabeth is a prime example of still waters run deep. She’s someone you want to know, and someone you want to be. She’s also kind. A peacemaker, but someone who stands in her own truth. She doesn’t preach at you or belittle you, but she doesn’t let people run all over her either. And that’s exactly what Zander needs.

Zander Freedman. Rock God. Bad Boy. Darling of … nobody? What saves him from being an ass is first, his actual physical concern(s). But next, the fact that he’s already on his journey to bettering himself. His willingness to be self deprecating. I think Zander’s sobering up is a split between the wake up call ” ” from his brother/the original band falling apart, and his health – but it makes him take a long hard look at himself. I won’t spoil you, but the very end, when Zander reveals his deepest darkest secret, you understand why he’s acted how he has for the past twenty or so years. He’s damaged but ignoring it – and being a rockstar has allowed him to do so. Of course he’s insanely hot and talented, but what makes him dynamic [as a character] is how he’s kind to his ex, and immediately sees Elizabeth’s worth. He appreciates her, and is indignant on her behalf. Zandar has depth but he doesn’t want you to see it.

The intricacy of the characters is the biggest draw of Rise. I don’t even have enough space to mention the great cast of secondary characters. The relationship between Zandar and Elizabeth develops slowly and subtly. I like that both of them have push and pull at different times. And I really appreciate there aren’t any over the top or too stupid to live moments. Sure, Zander and Elizabeth both might have moments of idiocy or bad behavior. They’re human. Overcoming their problems is what makes the story special. Living is hard enough – especially with such different people, and one constantly in the public eye. The story is organic, and doesn’t rely on outside factor to make things more exciting. I might be making the story sound boring (I don’t see how though) – but it isn’t. It’s wonderful and draws you in. You’ll start reading, and make sure you have time, because you won’t want to stop.

Oh and I didn’t even mention how the fact that both their professions are an integral part of the story. Much of Zander’s conflict has to deal precisely with him being the lead singer of Rage, and her of course “the biographer.” It’s refreshing (although I wish it was more commonplace) when the character’s profession matters to the story. The grueling tours, the physical demands, the professional responsibility and reputation to maintain – all of that is addressed nicely. Ms. Bliss touches on all that in a realistic manner that adds to the complexity of the story without making it dull or pedantic. Tricky stuff.

I really don’t have any complaints. I think I like and respect Elizabeth and Zander as much as I do because they were sure of themselves before they get physical. (Also different from so many books out there, especially rockstar romances.) Oh – one thing – I wanted more from the ending. It’s good, but just … a tiny bit more oomph would have made it perfect. I think it’s left the way it is though, because this is the first in a series, and we all know we’ll be seeing more of Zander and Elizabeth in the various band member’s romances. (And I’m good with that.)

So in short, not only is this one of the best romances I’ve read this year, it’s one of the best I’ve read in a long time. (I mean come on – reminiscent of old school SEP! And if you don’t know what I mean … who are you?!) Rise is a beautifully crafted and written contemporary romance. I recommend it to anyone. Even if you don’t like rockstar romances, or contemporaries, I think you should give it a try.

Grade: A –

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

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