Author ~ Louise Lyons
Publisher ~ Dreamspinner Press
Published ~ 31st August 2015
Genre ~ Contemporary M/M Romance
Can romance and rock ‘n’ roll dreams survive with a storm raging around them?
Alex Randall has always wanted to be a rock singer. When he answers an ad from a local band, his dream finally comes true. He loves the stage, and the group’s fans love him. Things couldn’t be better, except for the attraction he develops for the band’s guitarist, Lindsey. Alex is surprised and initially worried, since he only had one brief flirtation with a boy in his teens. But even though he and Lindsey become close and start seeing each other, Alex fears commitment, and Lindsey worries that Alex might only be experimenting.
When Lindsey’s ex contacts him following a health scare, fear and anger drives a wedge between Alex and Lindsey, which causes rifts within the band. Alex and Lindsey’s relationship is still new and fragile, and with Alex unwittingly blaming Lindsey for their problems, it becomes a true challenge for them to weather the storm.
Louise Lyons is a talented author. She writes gently and lovingly about her characters, no matter how much angst they survive, no matter what the vicissitudes of life throw in their way. And she really, deeply understands gay men, their feelings, their experiences, their dreams. But most important, she writes beautiful lyrical prose that is a pure pleasure to read.
Beautiful Thunder is no exception.
This is the story of two men who couldn’t be much more different, nor any less likely fated to be together. Lindsey is a delicate, beautiful young guitarist, whose silken hair, lithe, sexy body and powerful music belie his inherent shyness and tendency to barely speak, if at all. Alex, on the other hand, is a much more confident young man. Unrelentingly heterosexual for most of his life, he’s also a surprisingly well-off young man with a high-end “maisonette” in Nottingham, and a beloved BMW to tool around town in.
Alex and his sister have been on their own for the past decade, since their parents died. Being a bit older, Anna raised Alex through his teenage years. Although they both inherited their parents’ fortune, and neither needs to work a day for the rest of their lives, Anna always needed something meaningful to do with her life, and hence, works long hours as a dedicated nurse. That works well, because Alex still needs quite a bit of mothering, usually forgetting to shop for food, often skipping meals and barely taking care of himself. He’s content to drift, not just without a career, but bouncing from one-night-stand to one-night-stand, usually with nameless chicks he picks up in a local rock club.
But beneath it all, Alex does actually harbor a dream: to sing with a band, help them write their music, to perform in front of appreciative audiences. Fortunately, he’s gifted with a powerful, beautiful voice, so it’s not just a pipe dream – Alex has the power to back it up if he can just grab hold of an opportunity and ride it for all it’s worth.
There’s not a lot of successful rock bands in Nottingham, though, surprisingly, the area does sport a number of clubs with great music, sometimes featuring well-known performers, which spawn a surprising number of hopeful bands, all seeking recognition, fame and fortune. So every day, Alex sits with the local classified and responds to ads from bands seeking new members.
One of those bands gives him an impromptu try-out over the phone, and invites him in for a face-to-face audition. He kills it. The River Rats is just at the starting blocks, but the band was beginning to gain some traction performing a number of well-received gigs when their lead singer upped and quit. Alex is a perfect fit.
It’s at this live audition that Alex meets the shy, talented guitar god, Lindsey. So reticent, Alex doesn’t think Lindsey even likes him, but when the music starts, he morphs into an incredibly expressive, powerful performer who projects both passion and pure sex.
It isn’t until Alex (literally) bumps into him at Rock City, the top local music club, and barely recognizes him that things start to spin out of Alex’s control. Lindsey’s in heavy makeup, glitter, skin-tight red spandex pants and hot leather boots. At first, Alex mistakes him for a girl. But the spandex pants prove that nothing could be further from the truth. His heart skips a beat when his immediate reaction is “hot!” In his head, Alex desperately repeats his reassuring mantra: “I’m not gay, men are not hot”. It doesn’t work. Alex is struck dumb, and never thinks of Lindsey the same way again, especially not in his fantasies, at night in bed alone, or standing beside him rehearsing late into the evenings. Alex is clearly smitten, and he has no idea what to do with that. His knee-jerk reaction is to reassure himself through anonymous hookups with nameless girls, but that doesn’t work. He’s obsessed with Lindsey. No one else will do.
Eventually, they kiss and it turns it turns into more. Still confused, and afraid of being outed as a gay man, their relationship is off to a rocky start. It doesn’t get better when they have an HIV scare (it was 1991, and the outcome of AIDS was nowhere near as hopeful as it is today), and in a fit of stupidity, Alex blames Lindsey, and fails to offer the support he should to the equally-terrified young man. He’s so afraid of what they have together, that he can’t bring himself to tell Lindsey the truth – that he has fallen madly in love with him, and probably is gay (he’d had one experience with his best friend in High School). In a sea of miscommunication and non-communication, they separate. Lindsey leaves to join a band in London and Alex is destroyed.
He soldiers on, though his heart is barely in it, until his band starts to fall apart, not even due to his issues with Lindsey. But it’s almost a relief. He hooks up, as an acoustic duo, with the cute guitarist (just friends) who replaced Lindsey in the River Rats. They do meet with some success in the local clubs, but it isn’t the same. Nothing is the same without Lindsey.
It’s not a spoiler to let you know that Beautiful Thunder does supply a well-earned Happily-Ever-After. As I said, Ms. Lyons treats her characters gently, and with love. It’s much the same way she treats the reader, with her vivid descriptions, authentic dialogue, realistic situations and lyrical prose. I once managed a rock band (hence my affinity for the subject matter) and I can vouch that she got it exactly right. It’s always interpersonal relationships that break up bands, almost never the music, the tours or the money. And they do tend to just fly apart from their own momentum, with the individual artists moving on to other bands and opportunities. That’s exactly how she leaves Alex and Lindsey – together again, the seeds of success planted and growing, and the reader with a satisfying sense that the boys will be just fine.
Beautiful Thunder is not a story of tortured men. There are a few challenging moments, including homophobic incidents and a bad case of domestic abuse, but nothing that isn’t recovered from in a reasonably short time. Ms. Lyons doesn’t dwell. The reader is not endlessly tossed-about on waves of manufactured angst, just gently moved from early days, through doubts, insecurities, and challenges, to a promising future, with souls intact and the boys still beautiful. It’s not the plot, it’s the beauty of the journey that propels Beautiful Thunder. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just need to read for pleasure, times when I’m not in the mood for tortured souls, relentless pain and crushing despair. This book delivers exactly that kind of gentle, moving experience, without sacrificing quality, empathy, believability and passion. Ms. Lyons manages a delicate and exquisite balancing act in Beautiful Thunder.
If you like reading about musicians, particularly gay, up-and-coming rock-stars, you might just want to get your hands on Beautiful Thunder. It’s a lovely read that will touch your soul, as it did mine, a gripping story by an incredibly talented and confident author. I recommend this book most highly.