Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review, interview and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Lilah Suzanne. BLENDED NOTES is the third book in the Spotlight series and features the Happily Ever After for Grady and Nico, who we met in book one, BROKEN RECORDS, which you should probably read first. I’ve also liked book two, BURNING TRACKS, though you don’t have to read that one to enjoy BLENDED NOTES.
About the book:
Grady Dawson’s future looks bright. He’s at the top of his country music career, has a close-knit group of friends who have become his Nashville family, and has found solid ground in his personal life as he plans his intimate, private wedding with Nico, his stylist turned lover turned love of his life. It seems Grady has finally left his difficult childhood and tumultuous youth behind.
That is, until his past shows up on his doorstep, news of his upcoming nuptials is leaked to the media, and his record company starts issuing demands that challenge his integrity as an artist and as a person. The foundation Grady built his new life on begins to crumble and fast. Can he have his future if he’s haunted by his past? Can he continue making music if it means comprising his convictions? Must he make the ultimate choice between a private life with Nico and the public demands of his career?
How about a little taste?
Grady’s earliest memory of his mother is watching her leave. It wasn’t the first time she dropped him off at Memaw and Granddaddy’s house, and the remembered moment itself is unremarkable: He’s standing by the road; a cloud of dirt from the driveway into the trailer park lingers hazily in the air; he can see the taillights of her car lit red at the stop sign. The right one blinks a signal, the car turns, and she’s gone. Memaw came to collect him soon after, and he doesn’t recall what he did next—whatever rambunctious five-year-old boys like to do. Maybe he got on his bike and tore around the neighborhood, training wheels be damned. Or maybe he found a squirrel to harass with a makeshift slingshot of forked stick and rubber band. Maybe Memaw plunked him down in front of their old jumpy television.
Sit down for five seconds, Grady. Land’s sake! she’d say, with a look rather similar to the one Nico has when Grady comes around to the aisle where Nico is browsing for home decor. Grady had wandered off when he spotted an old gramophone on display.
“There you are.”
“Here I am,” Grady confirms, dropping a kiss onto Nico’s cheek. Nico leans into him with an easy, comfortable affection that grounds Grady, makes him feel wanted and safe. Grady takes a clear glass bottle from the shelf filled with clear glass bottles of all shapes and sizes and colors and asks, “Do we need apothecary jars?” The label on the jar reads: Green Pain Pills.
Nico takes the jar and turns, holding it up so it catches the sunlight streaming through the plate glass windows in the front of the boutique. “I mean, we don’t not need apothecary jars.” He tips his head and narrows his eyes, assessing the jar before putting it back on the shelf. Nico is determined to fill their new home with things that represent them; it’s sweet, but, for Grady, unnecessary. Nico expresses himself visually: his clothes, his hair, the elegant yet assertive way he holds himself. Of course he’d want knickknacks and furniture and art that speak to the life they’re building together. For Grady, it’s less tangible, not a particular thing he could put on a shelf. It’s two toothbrushes in the holder, the sound of a familiar car pulling into the garage, the lingering scent of Nico’s cologne in their bed, the way Nico brushes a peck to Grady’s lips before he leaves: never a goodbye, always a see you later.
“Did you find something you wanted?” Nico moves on to a display of antique paperweights. One looks like a crystal ball.
“Oh, yeah.” Grady lifts his eyebrows and quirks his lips. Nico shakes his head at that, picks up the crystal ball paperweight, and passes it slowly from hand to hand. “I knew you were going to say that and yet—”
“And yet you still asked,” Grady finishes, teasing, “Why, I think you may even like it.”
Nico hums. He puts the paperweight back. “I suppose I must, considering that I am marry—” He snaps his mouth shut, then glances around to be sure no one overheard him. They’re alone in the store, but still Nico mouths the end of that sentence: “Marrying you.”
And, lord, but does that thrill Grady to his bones, silent or spoken or acted out with charades. He’s marrying Nico, they’re getting married, he and Nico are marrying each other. Grady can tell his own smile is goofy, and Nico has one to match. In the quiet corner of this very unusual store, they can be openly giddy—for a moment.
Some thoughts from author Lilah Suzanne
Today I’m interviewing Lilah Suzanne author of Blended Notes, the third and final book in the Spotlight series. Hi Lilah, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.
Do you have pictures that you use for your characters? Can you share them with us? For Grady my character visual inspiration is a model named Cole Monahan and for Nico, a model named Diasuke Ueda. I’d like to encourage you all to do a Google image search on both of them for a little, uh, inspiration of your own.
What kind of book would you like to write that people would see as a huge departure for you? Since my books are all contemporary rom-coms that stick pretty close to reality, at some point I’d like to try a historical romance or maybe a fantasy or sci-fi story, really dig into research and world building in a way I haven’t done before.
Have you ever killed a character? Was it traumatic for you? Though I don’t kill off any characters in Blended Notes per say, Grady is coping with the death of his estranged father, which brings up a lot of old grief for his grandparents who raised him, so this book does deal with death and loss quite a bit. It wasn’t really traumatic for me, I knew it was coming and it was necessary for Grady’s development, though Grady might disagree!
Favorite location you’ve ever written about? I have a new short story out right now called After the Sunset about two strangers who inherit a farm that’s set in the Snoqualmie Valley in Washington state, about an hour outside of Seattle. It’s the most incredible place I’ve ever been, like a magical forest with green moss covering everything and crystal clear water and these lush green mountains. I’ve been dying to write a story set there for a while, and finally had a plot to go with it.
What’s your favorite season and favorite activity for that season? Fall. Does bundling up in blankets, drinking a warm drink and reading count as an activity? Or is that really the only fall activity worth doing?
Grady Dawson and Nico Takahashi made quite a splash in the country music scene when they fell for one another back in BROKEN RECORDS. Grady is an up-and-coming country singer and Nico a flamboyant stylist in LA, but they’ve relocated to Nashville and Nico, a private man, is settling into the celebrity status–not that he’s happy with some of the irate fans who blame him for Grady “dumping” a popular female country singer…
It’s good though. They’re planning their secluded, paparazzi-free, wedding and a life together. Only, well, Grady’s under pressure to change the single he wants to release on his forthcoming album. It’s a love song he wrote for Nico, and clearly talks about deep love between men–a topic too scandalous for the record label’s management. In fact, they’re holding up the release of his album until he makes the change which puts Grady into a “Breach of Contract” situation. And, the potential for Grady to lose everything–money, property, and his recorded music–in a lawsuit is high. It’s enough to drive Grady into depression, and kills his muse.
Add to this, Nico’s struggling with the wedding plans, the lack of privacy, and Grady’s self-isolation. He wants to help Grady find his bearings, and this might include opening some rather deep wounds in the hunt for Grady’s parents to be guests at the wedding. Grady’s been so long estranged, he has no desire to reconnect, but he might not have a choice.
This was an interesting read, with a lyrical and nostalgic tone. Grady tells this whole book from start to finish, and we get some insights into the darkness of his childhood, which includes substance abuse, abandonment and poverty. He was raised by his grandparents from early childhood because his too-young parents couldn’t stay employed or sober. I loved the realistic experiences we re-live through Grady’s memories. The juxtaposition lends a palpable fear to the legal battle Grady’s refusal to re-write his love song brings to his present. What if he’s soon-to-be destitute? Should he even marry Nico who could be saddled with Grady’s debt? And, should Grady just swallow his artistic pride and re-record the song so it’s palatable to heterosexuals? This quandary of conscience forms the biggest conflict of the book, and it’s both poignant and easily accessible to the reader.
The resolution to the conflicts are interesting and engaging. I had already lost my heart to Nico, but he swept me off my feet again with all his changes to accommodate Grady and their life together. Likewise, Grady’s tension and inner conflicts are so raw and exposed that he’s impossible not to connect with on multiple levels. Bits of steam here and there, but those aren’t the parts that struck me hardest. The end of the plot lines are so positive that it’s beyond HEA. These characters are ones to root for and cheer on throughout, and their happiness merits multiple celebrations. Good thing we get to experience it over and again.
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Good luck and keep reading my friends!
About the Author:
Lilah Suzanne has been writing actively since the sixth grade, when a literary magazine published her essay about an uncle who lost his life to AIDS. A freelance writer, she has also authored a children’s book and has a devoted following in the fan fiction community. She is also the author of Interlude Press books Spice, Pivot and Slip, and Broken Records, which was named a Top Pick by RT Book Reviews Magazine.