Reviewed by Elizabetta
SERIES: Death Rose, book #1
AUTHOR: Melanie Tushmore
PUBLISHER: Less Than Three Press
LENGTH: 250 pages
Young painter Alex Tatton has always loved music. When a tragic accident takes away his parents, he turns to a darker style of music and discovers the rock band, Death Rose. Feeling isolated from his own life, Alex develops a crush on guitarist Danny Death who, despite the name, is vivacious, full of life, and has a reputation for being ‘the nicest guy in rock n’ roll’.
After a gig, Alex finds Danny to give him a signed painting. Danny is everything a star should be: charming, sexy, a beacon of light in Alex’s otherwise dark life, and after meeting him Alex is determined to see him again—and this time he wants more than just an autograph.
Phoenix is a different approach to a rocker story… This time not from the rock star’s POV but that of an adoring fan.
And really, it’s a fairytale romance wrapped up in a new love, first time, coming of age story. And that difference is what kept me reading.
Phoenix is set in London, the late 1980s, a time of glam rock: guys onstage with big hair and big makeup, and lots of flash ’n dash. Lots of squealing, adoring fans. Alex, an introverted seventeen year old, has just lost his parents to a terrible accident and he feels alone and adrift. Except for his art; he loves to paint, and that is what keeps him going.
What wakes Alex out of his grief is a sudden interest in a local rock band, Death Rose, and their sexy lead guitarist, Danny De Ath (aw, I saw that, clever name stuff). Alex falls in love with their heavy metal music and then fixates on the very cute Danny.
So, a lot of this reads like teen-aged obsession and things get a little squicky when you wonder where it’s gonna go. I mean, obsession can get so close to stalking…
But the author, with a kind of chatty approach, takes us step-by-step through Alex’s climbing out of his grief, moving into a new life, and making friends. We see his fan-boying after Danny not only as an awakening to life again but as a discovery of his sexuality. He finds that he likes boys more than girls, and there is relatively little drama on his part about that. Especially considering the time period and the less informed views towards homosexuality. The author smartly plays up Phoenix more as a NA (new adult) falling in love and finding your way story while integrating a feel for the era quite nicely.
I wasn’t sure just how much I was going to like Phoenix as I started reading… both Alex and Danny are so very young (their story spans just one year); I don’t read a lot of NA books, and this did look to be a YA read for a while. That does change eventually with some hot scenes between the two guys, but their relationship is a very slow build. And I liked that.
I think it’s Danny who made the difference for me. He is refreshingly sweet, good-natured and vice-free for a heavy metal glam rocker. And Alex is immediately drawn to this… “Looking at Danny… was like basking in the sun.” He’s in it for the love of music, is talented and confident, but has his own insecurities. There are some wonderful light moments with rockers obsessing over clothing and makeup, fans, and life on the road… their own hangups.
Alex’s awkwardness and insecurities are always there as he quietly reinvents himself. He finds a real friend in Danny first, even as he’s physically drawn to him. And Danny’s charisma and attraction to Alex feels very natural (really, I wondered how the author would pull this off). I came to like and care for both these guys, got swept up in their fairytale love story.
Though the style of writing is not my favorite, I thought it was very well done (ok, there were some edit issues) and I would recommend Phoenix to readers who want something sweet, slow-paced, a bit angsty, but ultimately fun and satisfying.