Susan Gottfried's Reviews > Backstage Pass

Backstage Pass by Olivia Cunning
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The biggest problem with great books is that you never get around to reading them fast enough. That’s the case with Olivia Cunning’s Backstage Passes, the first in her Sinners on Tour series.

It’s the story of a woman we know as Myrna, a psychologist who happens to specialize in human sexuality. She’s also had a very private thing for sexy guitarist Brian Sinclair, a thing she never expects to come anywhere near fulfilling – until she runs into the band. She’s staying in the hotel for a conference. The band, sans security, is on tour. Myrna likes Brian. Brian, even in his drunken state, likes Myrna. He’s not too drunk, so off they go, embarking on a torrid affair that is really this book’s strength.

Now, I’ve read plenty of erotica. I have plenty of friends who write it. None handle the merge of sex scenes and storyline as adeptly as Ms. Cunning. The action doesn’t grind to a halt while Myrna and Brian to get it on, for pages at a time. It makes sense within the story, and even though it does last for pages – hey, he’s a rocker. What do we expect, if not longevity? – it’s inventive, hot, and just tawdry enough to let us see that Myrna’s not merely living out her fantasies featuring Brian Sinclair, she’s living out every fantasy every woman has ever had about a rock star.

Best of all, Cunning lets Myrna experiment with sex in a safe setting – and is brave enough to let her not like certain elements, at least on the first go-round. Brian is also evolved enough to accept her comfort level. Is it too idealistic? You read and decide.

For all the good, there are some issues. Brian’s parents are a bit too good to be true, and the good psychologist finds a solution to the estrangement from his father that doesn’t take any particular skill to work out. Myrna herself seems awfully unaware of sex, its ramifications, and other mental issues that you’d expect of an expert in human sexuality. Not that she should walk around spouting off sexual facts or commenting on what it means when Eric gets involved in an encounter with Brian without it turning into a threesome, but she should have more awareness of what’s at play here. And finally, the situation with her ex comes into play too late, almost as if it’s an afterthought, a spot where conflict via a subplot was called for, so something materialized out of thin air. While many romances would have Myrna more aware of the threat Jeremy posed to the point where it gets to be too much, some middle ground in the form of an inkling earlier on would have been better.

And then there’s the rock and roll details. The band drives its own tour bus? Roadies are enlisted to drive Myrna’s car? The bus seems more like a Winnebago, which is fine if you’re on the Warped Tour, but The Sinners aren’t doing Warped. They’re represented as being on a bus. Also, when you’re on a guest list, you need to show ID, which means you can’t have a cutsie last name given to you by an impertinent band member. There are other details that suggest this isn’t Ms. Cunning’s area of strength, but she redeems herself by creating a band full of characters who live and breathe. They aren’t cliché in the least.

Still, this is an erotic romance, and it’s there that Ms. Cunning shines. She’s smart enough to let her rockers have warts, and she lets Myrna not only see them, but accept them. The exception would be the conflict with his father, where it’s Myrna to the rescue so she can prove her love for her man.

I don’t know many people who read erotic romance for the storyline or the authenticity of the rock and roll lifestyle details. Not as their first desire, anyway. It’s about the sex, and I’ve read enough of the erotic stuff that I’ve got no issue saying that she’s one of the best out there—although I will apologize to my many friends who write erotic romance. This is by no means a cut to you guys. Rather, it’s high praise for Ms. Cunning, whose sex is inventive and creative. It fits the story – and best of all, as the relationship progresses, the sex scenes become mentions, nothing more. It’s a mirror for how a real-life relationship plays out: all hot at first, then tapering off into something comfortable and right. And while the loss of these wildly fun scenes is noted, the storyline is strong enough, despite its flaws, to keep our interest. And those characters? You just want to spend days more with them.

I can’t wait to pick up the second book in the series. It’s sitting on my shelf, waiting for me.

Like I said, you can never get to the great ones soon enough.
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