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Burning Tracks (Book Two: Spotlight Series) Kindle Edition
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Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Gwen Pasternak’s got it all. Or so it seems…
In the sequel to RT Book Reviews’ Top Pick Broken Records, Gwen’s life looks perfect: She has a job she loves as stylist to the stars, a beautiful wife, Flora, and a house in the heart of Nashville. But the more she works alongside country music’s dynamic princess Clementine Campbell, the less Gwen is certain of her commitment to a life of domestic bliss.
Meanwhile, her business partner Nico Takahashi is happily settled down with reformed bad-boy musician Grady Dawson. But when Nico questions the permanence of their relationship, Grady retreats into some dangerous old habits. Will Gwen ruin the life she’s built with Flora for something new and exhilarating? Can Grady be convinced of Nico’s devotion before it’s too late? Burning Tracks is a story of tough choices, taking risks, and the pressures of living life in the spotlight.
Burning Tracks, the second installment in the Spotlight Trilogy, sees Gwen Pasternak take center stage in this saga of intertwined relationships. Gwen and her wife Flora have always been an integral part of Nico Takahashi's life. She's his partner, sometime life support, best friend and even foundation when things have gone wrong. And Nico has been hers, even if that put Flora on the outside. So bringing Gwen out here and letting us see more of her life makes total sense. She and Nico switch places for a book, with Nico and Grady switching places, their relationship drama swirling as a secondary although still greatly important element here in Burning Tracks. Neither Gwen or Nico can be separated from each other.
We have been leading up to crisis in relationships, small, large and everything in between and the cause of them. Here the push has been for a child from Flora, something that Gwen doesn't really think she wants or is capable of being a good parent to. Adding to that pressure is a new client, Clementine Campbell, who wants all of Gwen all of the time.
Lilah Suzanne expertly threads us through the confusion that Gwen feels about all the complications in her life, the pressure she feels, the knowledge that she's on the precipice of her relationship with her wife who she loves....we feel it all and love Gwen all the more. She's so human and vulnerable yet trying to do her best.
Clementine Campbell, the powerful charismatic country star on the rise is just as amazing. She's so brilliant a character, she shines off the page, even at her most irritating. Only Flora comes off as a grey figure here in comparison which is a shame.
Nico and Grady, and the others are all here too, fighting for their relationship, making mistakes still due primarily to communication, something that seems to plague them all.
I love the aspect of the country music business and style here. That never fails to entertain and inform.
Now to the sex. Yes, there's a lot of F/F sex here. If you don't care for that, then you can fly over it and still stay at the heart of this story, the relationship dynamics, the mistakes people make, and the paths back to the people who are really their HEA. I really enjoyed this story, loved it place in the trilogy and highly recommend it.
Cover art again is perfect.
When Nico and Gwen become business partners and take their star-styling business from LA to Nashville, Gwen and Flora need to make a new life for themselves in a new place. While Nico navigates a new and coltish relationship with Grady, Gwen and Flora are doing the hard work of staying together, weathering the long haul—it’s lovely balance: both couples are unsteadily trying to figure out how to live in new conditions, both literally (Nashville) and figuratively (new stages of lives and relationships, new pressures and possibilities). While Nico and Grady are stumblingly trying to figure out how to be in love, Gwen and Flora are trying to figure out how to stay in love—I don’t mean that they’re in constant danger of falling out of love, but that they’re trying to understand how to maintain their lives, keep beauty alive for each other, simply be in love without all the bang and fuss and glory that newness brings.
There’s heartache and drinking, of course (I mean, there are country music stars in this, so it would disappoint if it didn’t happen), but there is also contentment and joy… and some kittens at one point, too. I admit I’m not a big country music aficionado, but I can’t think of a single country song about the joys of living with kittens—this novel goes well beyond the clichés, in other words, to give a real picture of real lives happening.
They’re great characters, all four of them: loving, but not saccharine; interesting, but believable; complex, but still relatable; just stupid enough to make them real (I hate the sexism of “Mary Sue” labels, but because most people understand that term, I’ll use it: there are none here).
In this second novel, the group grows a little bigger to include Clementine (another country music star/Nico client), a couple kittens, and an endearing little guy named Cayo—but I won’t talk about how he figures into the story, because I don’t want to give anything away. Instead, I’ll say that Clementine is a fun and interesting character: she’s a shining penny of a woman, with the sleek sheen that money and fame seem to give, and she comes across as a bit vain, a bit too big for her britches, and yet still very endearing and well-meaning. She’s the kind of girl who gets her hair colored and calls people “Sugar,” but she isn’t one-dimensional—she gets a moment of awkward redemption, plus she hides a kitten in her coat like a crazy lady, so I think she’s tops.
The book’s paced just right—one is pulled along without any dragging, and the prose is efficient but loving (if you can say that about prose; I mean it feels neither self-indulgent nor too airy and speedy). It’s one of those books I could have easily (had I the time and no other stupid life obligations) read in one sitting, though knowing it was waiting for me to pick it back up again each evening was a good motivation to get through the daily mire.
While BROKEN RECORDS never felt unresolved to me, BURNING TRACKS feels like it resolves some of what got knotted up in BROKEN RECORDS, and leaves off at the top of a cliff—all the characters are just starting big new life adventures (I won’t say what, and you can’t make me). It felt quite nicely resolved, but still leaves room for more to happen in a future third book. Which I’m hoping Suzanne has in the works.