Author ~ Lauren Sattersby
Publisher ~ Riptide Publishing
Published ~ 18th January 2016
Genre ~ Paranormal/Fantasy M/M Romance
I’m Tyler Lindsey, and until recently, I had an okay apartment, an okay girlfriend, and an okay job as a bellboy at a respectable Boston hotel. Then rock star Chris Raiden died right before I brought his room service—stiffing me on the tip, by the way—and my life went to hell. My fifteen minutes of fame was more like five seconds, and my girlfriend left me in disgust.
But even worse—Chris is haunting me. Not the room where he died, like a normal ghost. No, somehow he’s stuck to me and is insisting on taking care of a bunch of unfinished business in California. So now I have to traipse across the country with the world’s most narcissistic ghost.
But . . . I keep having these weird thoughts. Thoughts about how much I like the way he makes me laugh. Thoughts where I kind of want to kiss the emo-narcissist, even though he’s a ghost and an asshole and I can’t touch him anyway. And even if I could, what will happen when he finishes his business and nothing’s keeping him here anymore?
Word count: 113,700; page count: 418
“Rock-n-Soul” is the rock-star romance to end all rock-star romances. I mean, how often does a rock-star romance feature a dead rock-star as its main character? There’s a ton of sexy rock-star gay romances, and an equal number of sexy gay romances featuring ghosts. But both of them together in the same book, with a happily-ever-after? That’s pretty rare, if not unique, and that’s coming from a voracious fan of gay rock-star romances.
And what a rollicking ride this book is, primarily due to the remarkable writing skills of Lauren Sattersby. This reader-friendly book grabs your attention from the very first page, and doesn’t let go until the very last word. I read it in a single sitting because I couldn’t put it down. I laughed a lot, cried a lot, and rooted for the main characters, despite the fact that they’re just constructs, flights of fantasy – nothing real or realistic about them. They are, however, believable. Their feelings, their thoughts, their tragedies and their love are written as authentically and honestly as any I’ve ever read. Kudos to Ms. Sattersby for her talent, her dedication, her imagination and her obviously passionate commitment to her characters!
The book starts out with Tyler, a bellboy in an upscale hotel in Boston, racing around the city to find seedless red grapes (they had to be seedless!) in the middle of both winter and the dead of night. It’s not like red grapes were exactly in season. He manages to find a bag of them in an all-night Korean grocery, races back to the hotel to dress his guest’s dinner platter with the heroically-obtained seedless grapes, thinking to himself that all rock stars are pampered egotists with outrageous demands, and this one probably won’t even tip him.
Unfortunately, he was right. When he arrives to deliver the platter, he finds the 24-year-old rock star on the floor, in a pool of his own vomit, dead of a drug overdose. Nope, no tip.
Once he stops being hysterical and calls security, everything seems to pass before his eyes at warp speed: the paramedics, the cops, his manager, his girlfriend dumping him over the phone. The crazy, demanding witch (redeemed only by her great boobs) accuses him of killing the bass player of her favorite band. If the lazy bastard had only found the grapes faster, he might have saved him. Not really, Chris Raiden was already dead when Tyler first began his epic quest for the seedless grapes. No matter, she’s calling him every name in the book, and he’s happy to be done with the ridiculous, crazy woman.
The newly-traumatized Tyler is sent home, back to his tiny low-end apartment, the one that’s always cold throughout the New England winter because he doesn’t earn enough money to keep the heat running at full blast. He finished two years of Emerson College on a full scholarship, but when his loving Grandma (who raised him after his mother abandoned him as a young child) had a health crisis, he dropped out of school, always intending to go back, but never quite getting around to it. He has no real prospects. Boston is a very expensive city, and he fears a glum future as an under-tipped and under-heated, struggling busboy, well into his sixties.
Tyler, however, is hardly fated to live such a boring, tragic life. The next time he had to go into the room in which the rock musician died, he ends up curled up in fetal position, terrified out of his mind. His life is anything but boring – the dead rock-star is right there, staring at him and talking to him like a perfectly live person – except for the fact that Tyler can see right through him to the room beyond.
Thus begins a highly-unusual, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous journey through the incredible, as the two young men find themselves attached by some kind of spiritual strings that neither can break.
No one but Tyler can see or hear Chris, and they quickly adapt to their newfound snarky, but surprisingly intimate, life together. I mean, what do you do when your personal ghost can’t be more than twenty feet away from you at any point? What do you do when your ghost is easily bored, and has to wake you up in the middle of the night to click the TV remote because he can’t pick up physical objects, let alone click buttons? What do you do when you can’t find twenty minutes of privacy to relieve your pent-up passion, now that your girlfriend has dumped your ass for killing the man who is now your live-in ghost?
Ms. Sattersby goes to town with it. Chris misses the simple pleasures in life, especially eating blueberry scones, so Tyler agrees to eat them while Chris sidles up right next to him, and eagerly watches every muscle in Tyler’s jaw as he chews, his Adam’s apple as he swallows, and hangs on to every moan of gustatory pleasure. That’s more than just a bit creepy.
She also has them fall in love. Interesting situation, since Tyler has never been truly intimate with a man and Chris is known as an over-the-top slut, bedding famous movie stars, supermodels and an unlimited number of hot groupies. Doesn’t sound hopeful. At least until Chris eventually reveals that he’s had a number of “experiences” with well-known men, too. Chris’ confession evokes a similar one from Tyler, who had never had sex with a man, but had “made out” with a few, earlier in his life, and admits he occasionally finds himself admiring good looking men – maybe even a bit more than admiring?
Unfortunately, his cousin, “Crazy Chad”, whom everyone believes is insane (he keeps talking to invisible people and therefore spends his life medicated) sees the two of them together – and I do mean “sees” them, which no one else can. Oh, everyone can see Tyler, but only Chad and Tyler can see Chris. As it turns out, this affinity for the dead and the ability to help them “move on” is, apparently, genetic. Chad is no crazier than Tyler is. But the news that Chad imparts is not good – all of his “personal ghosts” eventually move on to a better place, once they’ve tidied up their unfinished business, never to be seen or heard from again.
Now Tyler understands that his love, such as it is, is doomed. The couple may not have much time left. They have been recently “urged” by the “powers-that-be” to get going on their quest, to lay to rest Chris’ unfinished business with the people he loved and hurt. Tyler and Chris both realize that once they’ve reconciled the pain Chris left behind, Chris would be gone, and Tyler would, once more, be alone, without the first real love he’s ever known, the first real happiness he’s felt in years.
The author takes you along on their vivid journey. Imagine the challenges – they first have to convince each person that Chris is indeed there, a ghost, not a figment of Tyler’s tortured imagination, and then convince each one that Chris is honestly sorry for whatever he did to them, and forgives them whatever they did to him. That includes Eric, Chris’ former bandmate and best friend since childhood, Chris’ estranged sister, and Chris’ mother, suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s in a rest home Chris has been paying for all these years.
It’s a trek that will leave you laughing at the absurdity, moved by the love. It will peel away the layers beneath which Chris hides the pain that led him to bury his suffering in drugs and one-night-stands. Underneath it all, Ms. Sattersby evokes empathy for the lonely boy who was rejected, abandoned or used by everyone he knew, all the while desperately seeking validation in his music, his fame, and his love for the unavailable Eric.
Despite the fact that “Rock-n-Soul” was never intended to be a “heavy” romance novel, Ms. Sattersby deals elegantly and believably with the concepts of life-after-death, loneliness, and profound sadness hidden beneath a mask of detachment and self-absorption. She is a master of dialogue, and you can see the subtle shift from snarky tolerance, to caring, to love, in the words the men speak and the changing rhythm of their badinage.
This is an exquisitely written book, with nary a word out of place. My heartfelt thanks to Ms. Sattersby, for serving up such a wonderful, touching and inventive romance. If you’re in the mood for a light, but deeply moving, novel to while away a few hours and get beyond the trite, mundane and predictable, I can’t imagine a better choice than “Rock-n-Soul”. Read it. If you can suspend your disbelief, you’ll love it. I did.