Stacked Deck or FIGHTING CHANCE? Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a brand new contemporary M/M rock romance from Anni Lee. FIGHTING CHANCE is the first book in a series following a fame-hungry singer-songwriter and the jaded lyricist that falls hard for him.

Drop down to catch my review and enter for a chance to win a $50 GC.

About the book:

How can you write a love song before you’ve felt one?

Roland Finley is convinced he has what it takes to win the Battle of the Bands, a reality TV show where up and coming musicians compete for a record deal. But between college, work, and band practice, he hasn’t had time to experience any of the romance he sings about, and his amateur writing needs a lot of work. This is never more apparent than when a stranger in the park stumbles upon his notebook and tells it exactly like it is.

Jay McClintock wanted nothing to do with this silly reality show, but as the head writer for ALIVE Records, his boss had other plans. After being tasked with writing and coaching one of Roland’s biggest rivals behind the scenes, the only thing keeping him sane is teasing the strange (and low-key talented) young writer he encountered in the park.

Writing for the enemy should have been no big deal, but the more Jay accidentally (and not-so-accidentally) runs into Roland, the harder it is for him to come clean about his involvement with the show. Fortunately, there’s one medium through which they both know how to communicate: Song.

How about a little taste?

My heart was beating in perfect time with the crowd’s applause. Quick, loud, chaotic, completely out of control. A bead of sweat slid down my cheek, caught on my jawline, and dripped off my chin. I didn’t know if it was from my nerves or the heat of the blaring neon lights overhead. I can barely believe we’ve come this far. Would I be here if not for him?

No. Don’t think about him right now. I can’t. He doesn’t deserve a place on this stage with me. He never did. This is my one chance, and I’m not going to screw it up because of him.

I gripped the mic firmly and swallowed hard.

“I hope you’re ready to rock, Los Angeles!”

*

Three Months Ago

“Habanero Marmalade? What kind of a name is that?” Logan shoved another bite of garlic bread in his mouth, mumbling words between chewing.

“It’s the kind of name that people will remember. A little ridiculous, but also…deep. Poignant. Clever.” I leaned forward over the table, and I mentally deconstructed all the signs in the food court to spell our name. Using the Habanero from Habanero Juan’s and the Ma from Mama’s Pizza made for a fairly respectable logo.

“And fucking stupid.”

My guitarist had no class at all, clearly.

“Well, what do you want to call us then? If you’ve got a better idea, I’m all ears.”

“How about Death Ringer or Dragon’s Fury or something badass like that?”

“What? No. We’re not a metal band. We’re supposed to sound edgy, not like we eat children.” I stole a piece of garlic bread out of his tray and crushed it between my teeth as a symbolic display of my disappointment. Also, as a less symbolic display of the fact that I couldn’t afford lunch that day. “Look, as the writer and lead singer, I think I know more about what sounds good to people than you do.”

“Whatever, Roland.” Logan waved a hand in the air as if to knock away my self-importance. “You can have all the say you want as soon as you come up with something better than Hot Orange Jelly.”

“Fine.” I rolled my eyes. “But we need to have this settled by Friday if we’re really going to audition for the Battle of the Bands.”

“That’s four whole days away. Plenty of time.” Logan crammed an impressively large spindle of spaghetti into his mouth before he stood to toss out his tray. “All right, back to work.” He ran a hand through his hair and retied his bun to make sure it was neat and kempt enough for the jewelry shop. He was so tall, lean, and good-looking. I could only imagine how many diamonds he sold with his smile alone. Or how many relationships he broke up with a well-placed wink.

He gave me one last grin before he headed back. “The girls’ volleyball team has a game today. Go walk on over and find something more inspiring than your grandma’s pantry.”

Right. Because a bunch of jocks knocking a ball around is so inspiring. But despite my protests, we were going to have to agree on something if we were going to enter this competition. The Battle of the Bands was more than just a silly reality show. It was a chance at a dream in a world convoluted with fellow dreamers. If we could stand out there, we could stand out anywhere. But I needed Logan to take it seriously first. And I needed to figure out a name.

We had been through a couple of names already: Cheese and Cracker (my idea), Log Rol (his idea), Raining Soup (my idea), Dos Vikings (his idea), PIE-tastophic (my idea. In hindsight, I should probably stop coming up with band names while I’m starving). Having had no success with building a fan base doing local gigs, we both agreed that it would be good to get a fresh start for our TV debut. But I swear to God, coming up with names was the hardest part of being an artist.

I shook my head and grabbed my notebook. He was right about one thing, anyway. A walk would do me some good.

I left the mall and strolled back toward campus, cutting through the park on the way. I always liked this park. Birds chirped and whistled in the trees, creating the perfect ambience for deep thinking. Birds were what inspired me to sing in the first place. All those days sitting in my mother’s garden, listening to their high-pitched calls, watching them fly wherever they wanted to go. Their voices were the battle cry of freedom. Singing was freedom.

I glanced at the trees and whistled my best mockingbird call. Almost on cue, a mockingbird took to the sky. It flapped its wings to the music. Beautiful. I whistled again, and it came toward me. Closer. Closer.

Wait a second—too close! The bird swooped down and knocked into me with its wings. My notebook flew from my hands as I instinctively swatted it away. I always forgot that mockingbirds were assholes.

Once the bird flew off, I collected myself and looked for my notebook. A man stood before me, tall, poised, and sophisticated. He had frameless rectangular glasses that sat on a perfect nose, framed with light-brown hair that fell stylishly unkempt around his face. One of his black leather dress shoes sat pointedly atop my open notebook.

He reached down and picked it up. I watched on, dumbfounded, as his sharp blue eyes moved back and forth over the pages.

“Don’t read that—that’s private!” I heard my voice ringing entirely too loudly in the air, causing the remaining nearby birds to scatter. Something about the sky full of fleeing sparrows, surrounding this dark figure, felt like an image out of horror movie. Like he was an evil sorcerer learning all my secrets before promptly taking over the world.

“I can see why.” His voice was deep and smooth. “I wouldn’t want to share this drivel with anyone either.”

“It’s not…” I was too shocked to figure out how to respond. There was months of work in that notebook. My prized lyrics. My potential band names. Hand-scrawled sheet music. Everything that made up my hopes and dreams.

“I’ll shoot right past the goalie of your love. My puck in your net. Points on the headboard… Are you fucking serious?” He shut my notebook and tossed it over his shoulder, shaking his head in disgust all the while. Hearing my lyrics recited out loud was triggering all my fears and insecurities. Who the hell does this guy think he is?

“It’s supposed to be provocative…” I mumbled under my breath, averting my gaze so he couldn’t read the hurt in my eyes. “Th-that’s just the first draft. It was going to get way better before the competition.” I didn’t know why he was being so harsh anyway. Any words would sound like garbage if you said them like that. Any words… Right?

He walked past me with his hands in his pockets, his eyes hidden by the glare of the sun on his lenses.

“Find another hobby. You’re wasting your time.” He gave me one last kick in the heart before he stepped out of earshot. I watched as he walked away.

My Review:

Roland Finley and his best friend-slash-stepbrother Logan have been building their band for years. Both in college and working part-time jobs, Roland is sure that getting a spot on the Battle of the Bands reality show will be their breakout experience. Roland is the vocalist, who also plays keyboards, and Logan plays guitar. They don’t have a big following and their few gigs have all been for family or friends, but Roland has big dreams. He’s working on new songs for the show audition, and is startled to encounter a salty-tongued songwriter in the park near his dorm. Jay McClintock is a legend, the writer behind numerous top-grossing acts, notably Brad Garza, who Roland rather emulates. Jay’s sneering critique of the lyrics in Roland’s notebook is a lightning rod to help Roland write more heartfelt and cohesive lyrics. He and Logan, performing as Fighting Chance, grab one of the four LA-based band spots in the TV show. Along with longtime rivals Dread Theory, fronted by Lance Gold, son of an oil company billionaire and somehow former schoolmates with both Roland and Logan.

Jay McClintock is a man of secrets. He’s been raised under an alias after his family was murdered, but he’s become a notable songwriter, rising among the ranks at ALIVE Records. He’s made few friends over the years, though he and Brad are close–once lovers but better as friends. He’s not sure why Roland is so appealing, but he’s sure it’s only a whim. After all, his juvenile lyrics won’t get him into the competition. And, even if they do, well, Jay has been contracted by his company to write the songs Dread Theory will sing for the competition. Yeah, reality TV is a sham, when his own record company is just using it as a springboard for a rich man’s son to build an audience before the record launch. Yet, Jay’s intrigued further and further when Roland’s songs become more and more deep, and garner his professional as well as personal respect. He’d planned to toy with the kid a bit, but now, well, Roland’s fresh sound and virginal naivete call to Jay on a primal level.

This is a mostly fun and breezy rock romance, with some deeper currents relating to Jay’s backstory of violence. BRad makes some cameos, urging Jay to take his feelings seriously, even as Jay fears Roland’s response if he learns that Jay’s been providing the fuel for his biggest rival to steal his dream. And, well, the sex is both risky and amazing. Roland is an unqualified novice in nearly everything, and definitely relishes Jay’s attention and his expertise. They connect in ways Roland hardly dared to imagine, giving away all his firsts without a second thought. I liked Roland a lot, he’s peppy and sweet, the opposite of Jay, giving Jay the opportunity to display his softer underbelly–if infrequently. Logan and Brad can see the connection, however, once they’re all out in the open together, before Jay or Roland reveal their relationship.

The competition is fierce, but Fighting Chance is not going down without giving it their all–even after Jay’s behind-the-scenes activity becomes apparent to Roland. What he didn’t expect was the depth of his own feelings for Jay, nor the depth of Jay’s losses, and what fuels his own creative streak. The story ends with a Happy For Now, and a tease that Jay’s dark past with take center stage in the next book. I liked the rock romance part of the story, but felt the witness protection storyline was weak, by comparison. And, honestly, when did Roland and Logan attend class? These “college students” did nothing college-related but sleep in a dorm. For me that was an oversight which could have ramped up some tension, or fed into the growing fan base to prop these guys up.

Interested? You can find FIGHTING CHANCE on Goodreads and NineStar Press.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter Giveaway link for your chance to win a $50 NineStar Press gift card.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:

Whether she’s racing motorcycles faster than a RomCom lead’s beating heart, or scuba diving deeper than the pit of love they fall into, Anni Lee is always down for an adventure. She was born and raised in Los Angeles with four siblings and a single mother, which is probably why she has such a penchant for writing big city love and tenacious (albeit dysfunctional) heroes.

When she’s not typing away behind her laptop, she’s living out of a tent off the back of her motorcycle on her quest to ride around the world. The wilderness is the best place to catch up on reading, after all!

You can reach out to Lane on her Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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