Series: Starting From, 01
Author: Lane Hayes
Narrator: Michael Pauley
Length: 7 hrs, 8 mins
Publisher: Lane Hayes (15th May 2019)
Heat Level: Moderate
Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 5 Hearts
Blurb: Justin Cuevas is going through a rough patch. A broken relationship, a scandal, and the demise of his band have shaken the aspiring rock star’s confidence. Working two jobs and sleeping on his friend’s sofa isn’t ideal, but Justin isn’t ready to give up yet. With a little luck, he’s hoping to re-launch his music career in LA with his new band, Zero. The key is to stay focused, and not get distracted by his past…or the sexy songwriter he can’t get out of his head.
Gray Robertson has written dozens of hits and worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. But he’s never met anyone like Justin. The younger man is fiery, passionate, and smart. A powerful voice for a new generation. Other than an unforgettable one-night stand and a passion for music, the two men have nothing in common. Or do they? Justin knows the out-of-the-blue challenge to write a quintessential love song is a huge opportunity. And it’s the ultimate test for someone who’s doesn’t believe in happily ever after. When sparks fly, Justin and Gray realize they have a shot something special if they start from zero together. Maybe even love.
Review: Even though I find that I like Lane Hayes’ writing, I don’t particularly seek out or thoroughly investigate what comes out until something kind of just pops onto my radar. However, reading the blurb for Starting at Zero left me in two minds but I figured this would be a book that I would enjoy but not love. If only because for me Hayes’ writing style makes it so easy for me to connect to the characters. Being an audio, narration almost always lifts a book and how much I enjoy it.
Well, I was totally wrong.
Not on the narration – the narration was wonderful and did exactly as I said it would. Michael Pauley is a wonderful narrator and his voice suited this book, and the tone used for the two MC’s was absolutely spot on. Cannot say a bad word about his performance at all.
The part that I was totally wrong about was how much I would enjoy the story. I was completely pulled away and completely pulled in by the drama of the whole book. The whole struggling singer getting together with someone experienced in the industry is not entirely uncommon, but I really liked the direction that Hayes took on it. I also really liked the fact that the story was told from the POV of both MCs, which left me very satisfied in knowing what both the guys were thinking.
The singer is Justin Cuevas. He has dreams of being a rock star (he makes a comparison to Dave Grohl which, as a Foo Fighters fan, I really appreciated). However, a scandal caused by his ex, which in turn led to the band breaking up has ruined their chances. For now. At the age of twenty-six, Justin knows that he is facing his last chance to make it big. A new gig with what was left of the band and a trap laid by his ex and a slimy club owner leads Justin and his band to an opportunity, albeit with a plenty of drama.
Justin meets Gray Robertson, not realising just how successful Gray is until Justin gets an offer he can’t refuse. First, he is offered a job to sort and curate Gray’s insanely large record collection. Then later, it becomes clear that Gray’s friend (an aggressive producer named Seb) has plans to exploit the drama in Justin’s life, leading to the opportunity of a lifetime for Justin. But Justin isn’t just looking after himself, he has his band members of the newly formed band Zero to take care of. Gray sees Justin’s intelligence, appreciates and respects it. Gray is just one of those awesome guys that you just want to get a HEA for.
This story is Justin’s fight to get his band what they all deserve, but like anyone, there are so many facets of a life, and for Justin that also means finding love, trying to reconcile his mother and brother, generally trying not to have some sort of break down as his mind races and the stress gets to him.
The story is also Gray’s second chance at finding a love that would stand the many tests life throws his way. He has had his heart broken in the past, he has lived in the closet, at first by the necessity and then because he was asked to. He loves his home, his record collection and his music. And despite the age difference and the clear talent he wants to nurture in Justin, he wants more from Justin than he feels has the right to have.
The two men compliment each other, where Gray acts as a grounding force for Justin’s passionate mind. Justin is all emotion, often acting first, while Gray is all about thinking. I really enjoyed their relationship. It was passionate but it was deep, I really liked that they took the time to know each other, not just fall in love. Their love story is so entwined with the drama of the book, you can’t have one without the other, and you cannot have these two guys without having all the people that surrounded them.
The secondary characters are widely varied and very deep. This adds so much complexity to the whole story because although they are not Justin and Gray, these characters had a massive influence on the plot. I’ve already mentioned, Seb, and while he was a good enough character, he wasn’t the most important secondary character. Gray’s godson, Charlie, quickly becomes a character that I was intrigued by. Charlie had a lot of good intentions and is a strong character that cares deeply for the ones he loves. The passion that he shows has him pegged as one of my favourite secondary characters, in addition to member of Zero and Justin’s best friend, Tegan whose passion was just as intense as Charlie’s. I hope that both these characters have their own stories to tell.
I recommend this one to people that like their couples with an age gap and those that love the idea of a plot of men looking to capture their chance at stardom.