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Starting From #5

Starting From the Top

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The guitarist, the dad, and a band on the rise…

Johnny

A quiet place to live and some time to recharge before my band heads out on the road again sounds amazing. I wouldn’t mind a distraction too, but my new neighbor is off-limits. There are rules about not getting involved with your bandmate’s ex, right? And Sean isn’t my type anyway. He’s too bossy, too commanding, and he has way too much baggage. I’ve learned that it’s best to let go of the heavy stuff. So why am I so drawn to him?

Sean

Coming out later in life has taught me to protect my privacy at all costs. And while juggling a handful of businesses and two kids isn’t easy, I excel at the art of multitasking and keeping everything separate. But Johnny blurs those lines. He’s easy-going, sweet-natured, and cool. In short, he’s everything I’m not. I want to know all about him…starting from the top.

Starting From The Top is a MM, bisexual romance with some rock and roll, an age gap, and a little family fun! Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

310 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 5, 2021

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About the author

Lane Hayes

85 books1,510 followers
Lane Hayes loves a good romance! She’s the bestselling author of the Out in College, Starting From, Better Than, A Kind Of, Right and Wrong, and Leaning Into Series! Lane loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). All things she can find in sunny SoCal where she lives with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.

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5 stars
300 (51%)
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219 (37%)
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53 (9%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 131 reviews
Profile Image for Cadiva.
3,223 reviews291 followers
March 2, 2021
I pretty much love everything Lane Hayes writes but I must admit to having a real fondness for this rock band series.

A lot of it is to do with the fact that Zero aren't mega famous. They're on the way, but still mostly able to just be 'normal' guys.

Each book has brought something new to the table and with Starting From The Top we get a bit of an age gap, definitely an opposites attract element and also a smidgen of lost souls finding a home.

There's a lot to be said for developing a realistic slide from a sex only arrangement through into a friends with benefits and then having them fall in love realistically.

Especially when there's tensions from outside forces including ex wives, growing fame and a visual artist running his own agenda.

But it works brilliantly. Sean slowly unlocks the different boxes he keeps his various pieces of his life in as Johnny provides him with the motivation to relax.

The kids are sweet, Parker's teenage trials pull at the heartstrings and all the rest of the Zero and Jealousy crew are on hand to add their brand of chaos.

It's a seriously hot book, but also has a wonderful sense of warmth and comfort. They might struggle through to their happy ending but it feels all the more real for that.

#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for .Lili. .
1,153 reviews260 followers
March 5, 2021


Lane, Lane, Lane, you have such a gift at writing relationship development, the transition from casual to more.

Loved everything about this book.

-Opposites attract
-Age gap
-Family
-Romance
-Chemistry

I smiled, I cried.

I fell in love Parker & Penny.

This book is lovely.

Profile Image for Annery.
924 reviews120 followers
March 11, 2021
Oh my ❤️❤️ this was absolutely lovely.

Johnny and Sean have appeared in some form or other throughout the previous books and they're the couple whose story you didn't you'd been waiting for. Totally worth the wait.

Sean is 45 and only came out as bi five years ago. He wen't through a difficult divorce and is desperately trying not to rock the boat with his ex-wife, be a perfect father to his two kids, and run his various business concerns. It's a tall order for anyone but more so for Sean and his pretty hard and fast rules on how to live. Johnny is the unexpected spanner in his world order.

Johnny is 30 and never had anything, not even a proper family, so he doesn't expect anything. So sad. Zero's inexorable rise, the fame and financial security it represents is nice but jarring at the same time. He'll deal. What he never expected was that a one off with Sean would turn into more: shared meals, spending time with Sean's kids, being taken care of and caring in return. That's love for you. It sneaks up on tiny cat feet or slobbery dog tongue when you least expect it.

Rest assured that if you're here for the burn-the-sheets smex you won't be disappointed. Fiercely independent Johnny melts (in the bedroom) to Sean's bossy and Sean loves to have Johnny in his care. However my favorite thing was witnessing the organic growth of the relationship, I could smell and taste it. The movie night, game night, or dinner with the family that slowly starts knitting their lives together without them even noticing. How Johnny, just by being himself, helps Sean access his children in a different way and makes him realize that you can't hold water in your hands, just enjoy watching it flow like a river. It's still beautiful.

Sean and Johnny are outwardly opposites who fit perfectly together and I loved them.
Profile Image for Jennifer☠Pher☠.
2,692 reviews222 followers
April 12, 2021
Lane Hayes is pretty much an auto read for me but I’ll admit, the last two books in this series did not knock my socks off, especially Starting from Here.

This story though, this one was so much better! I really enjoyed both Johnny and Sean, I even liked the kids. Actually, I think the kids added something a little extra to the story and the series. Johnny kind of getting to experience a little bit of his missed childhood through Sean’s kids made me heart sing.

It was a treat watching these two men who weren’t looking for anything, if anything, were protecting what they had and leaving it as enough, find each other and were unable to let each other go. It was quite a romance even if they didn’t realize it. I liked it quite a bit. Even the stupid was believable and dare I say it, necessary.

This story though, did something like what was done in Starting from Here and I didn’t get it then and I don’t get it now. I’ll put it under a spoiler so I don’t ruin the story for anyone else.

This was a very good addition and I think conclusion to the series. I can’t wait to see what Lane Hayes gives us next.
Profile Image for Ky.
480 reviews59 followers
March 16, 2021
* 5 stars *

"Starting From the Top" is the fifth and final installment in the "Starting From" series.

It's a second chance age gap story and a friends to lovers/casual to serious romance.

Johnny is the guitarist of Zero. They're well on their way to the top. They haven't made it yet, but after their next album the prognosis says their fame is going to go way up.

During the few months of down time between the end of a tour and them beginning to record their next album, Johnny is trying to find something to fill his days. He has a new house and a cat, but he feels lonely.

Sean is a businessman, well established and with many connections. He's a divorced father of two and shares custody with his ex-wife. He also has an adorable dog named Lullah.

They have ran in the same social circles for years, since they have mutual friends, but whenever they happened to meet it was because they were part of a larger crowd. They were never friends, just casual acquaintances.

As it happens, Johnny's new house is just a few doors down from Sean's and the two start to spend time together.

The attraction, the connection, the sexual chemistry - it's all there. But neither feels like he's in a place to start a serious relationship. The solution they come up with sounds pretty great to both of them: casually mess around for a few months and then easily move on.

Seems pretty simple. Except for the feelings. That's another story.

They spend so much time together and they have become part of each other's life. More importantly, they have become part of each other's daily life.

There's some great relationship angst while they're trying to figure out what to do next. Their friends-with-benefits arrangement doesn't seem to work anymore so they have to decide how to best handle the situation they have found themselves in. They don't think that they can move forward, but their feelings are a lot different from when they first started seeing each other so they can't keep going as they have so far either.

Sean's relationship with his ex was a complicated one, so it was realistic. I liked her and I liked how the author presented her. Characters from the other books in the series are present, as it was to be expected, and it was great to see them all coupled up and happy.

I loved Johnny and Sean's characters, both of them were mature and down to earth, even if not exactly sure about where their life was going. I also liked that here's a family feel in this book, as Sean's kids were very present and not just a mention. They actually play quite an important part in the whole story. And there were pets!

Even though you can read the book as a standalone, I highly recommend reading all - or at least most - of the rest of the books in the series and, preferably, in order. The series basically follows Zero's rise to fame along with its members finding love, so you'll be missing out details by skipping books. Plus, there are so many characters between the two bands, Zero and Jealousy, that, if you're not familiar with any of them, you'll likely feel a bit lost at first in the scenes were they're all together.

I always enjoy Lane Hayes's stories and this one was no exception. Highly recommended!



~ I read an ARC of this book. ~
Profile Image for Ana  Nimity.
904 reviews48 followers
March 6, 2021
I'm convinced that Lane Harris cannot write a bad book. I've enjoyed the "Starting From" series from the very first book and I think that this may well be my favorite of the series and Johnny my favorite from the band. His general attitude about life is delightful, and I fell for him hard early on. I can understand why Sean tried to keep him at arm's length, as Sean's emotional wounds have scabbed over but not healed underneath.

Overall, this may be the sexiest of Lane's books I recall reading. Sean and Johnny can't resist each other and their sex scenes are melt-your-reading-device hot.

I'm not a huge fan of kids in a book, but Sean's children won my heart, too, and we learn a lot about Johnny through his relationship with Parker, and to a lesser extent with Penny.

While you could probably read this book as a standalone, don't. Start from the beginning for best enjoyment.
Profile Image for haletostilinski.
1,143 reviews333 followers
March 13, 2021
4.5 stars!

Oh, I adored this. It's one of my favorite in the series. Before this, Johnny was a bit of a mystery to me. I mean we saw him in the books and everything but I didn't pay much attention to him. And Sean was just Tegan's ex.

But they become characters I loved in this one. I did give .5 off for the beginning of their connection seeming a tad rushed. They barely know each other and then one afternoon of talking and Johnny kissed Sean. I felt that was a little fast and slightly out of nowhere. I know Johnny found Sean attractive and all, but still.

But other than that, I loved this. Once these two started their "just casual" relationship thing, I thought the build up to them being in love with done so well and it was so believable and just seeing them slowly integrate into each other's lives over time, and how Johnny became so close to Sean's kids as well, warmed my heart.

The drama wasn't too much, either, and it was believable. Maybe Sean came around a tad too fast, but it wasn't so fast or unbelievable that I was like "woah, no" or anything. And I was just happy that they two were able to work things out.

The chemistry between them was so good too, I loved it, and their sex scenes were hoT ;). It was great to finally get Johnny's story and learn more about him and see a different side to Sean than we saw from Tegan POV. Their love story was just *swoon*

And the way that Johnny just fit as another parent to Parker and Penny, Sean's kids, just melted my heart. I know they have Sean and their mother, Fiona, but now they have a third parent in Johnny. *heart eyes*

I highly recommend this. Hayes is always so good at conversations between the MC's that build on their connection and make their romance so believable. Definitely one of the better books in this series, imo.

Two big thumbs up from me! ❤️
Profile Image for R.J..
Author 250 books2,538 followers
March 23, 2021
Lane Hayes is definitely an auto-buy author. I've loved the entire Starting From series, and this one is possibly my favorite so far (I'm a sucker for a single dad story!). Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Kaity B.
1,232 reviews13 followers
June 30, 2022
3.5 stars

I wished for more time with the kids, Parker was great.

I did enjoy this book more than I thought! I really liked Johnny as a character so it was great to read. I also skipped books 3 and 4 so this can definitely be read as a standalone.
Profile Image for Edga.
1,570 reviews15 followers
March 10, 2021
I’ve loved this series so so much, this one is all about Johnny and Sean, who are immediately attracted to one another, but, of course, life really isn't that simple. Both carry baggage, however, I loved that this didn't impede their relationship developing so naturally, it was very believeable. Ms Hayes has written a lovely romance here, there's no obvious insta love, they start out no strings attached, and it was a beautiful thing to watch their feelings grow.

They had their little misunderstandings and doubts about each other, and I loved that little bit of uncertainty they both experienced, it especially demonstrated to Sean his own shortcomings. His reveals to Johnny were heartbreaking.

I absolutely adored Johnny, he's cute and funny, is so humble, and just exudes a sexy confidence that you can’t help but love. In fact, he's definitely one of my favourite Lane creations, so far 🥰

A wonderful, truly enjoyable and addictive book. An emotional story, which demonstrates how important family and self forgiveness are, it also took a surprising turn I didn't expect. It's packed full of family, love, laughs and second chances. Highly recommend the whole series.
Profile Image for ML.
1,055 reviews1 follower
March 3, 2021
My favorite in the series.

Johnny and Sean had a great meet cute that involved a random naked dude. I was not expecting that!

Johnny is excited about his new home and the direction his life is taking. Sean is supposed to be a bit of fun but becomes so much more.

The chemistry between these two was smoking hot! I mean seriously HOT.

This book made me laugh, cry and think.
What would you do for love?

It is by far my favorite book in the series. Learning more about Johnny and his backstory, it was not what I thought. He’s a guy that definitely persevered after a trying childhood.
Sean was complicated and had his life perfectly orderly until Johnny came along. Both of these characters needed each other. They were ying to the other’s yang.
I enjoyed their banter tremendously. The side characters were fab too. Sean’s kids, Parker and Penny , really gave insight to the internal struggles that Sean had when raising his kids.

The conclusion will definitely make you smile. This was such a hot age/gap, rock in roll romance.
Loved it!
Profile Image for Cindy M. Green.
727 reviews18 followers
March 5, 2021
Be still my heart, I absolutely loved Johnny and Sean 💙💙💙

I think this is my favorite Lane Hayes book to date. The writing is fabulous and the development of their relationship was perfect. There was the initial attraction and sexy times right off the bat, but the connection between Johnny and Sean was so much more.

Their conversations and banter were great. They were lovers with some serious heat, but their friendship was also front and center. They took time to get to know one another. They shared details of their lives, asked for advice and had a true respect for one another.

Sean had baggage, Johnny did too, but in a completely different way. Because of that there where a few bumps in the road, but it didn't last long. Their age difference didn't matter when it came to affairs of the heart, they spoke to each other in a way they both craved and needed. I loved this series, I would highly recommend checking in with all of the guys!
Profile Image for DTM.
1,144 reviews6 followers
March 5, 2021
YES YES YES IT IS LIVE!! It’s no secret how much I love Lane Hayes’ writing and nothing has changed! LOL She crafts the most gorgeous, unhurried, organic love stories. After every book I say, WOW, this is my new favorite Lane couple!! 🤣 A one sitting read, I freaking LOVED Starting From The Top (Starting From #5/KU)!! A beautifully written, SMOKING HOT love story! *SIGH* It is a sweet, tender, age gap, completely opposites, hurt/comfort, unlikely friends to lovers read…Sean, the older, commanding 😏, successful business man and oh SO SEXY HOT single dad of 2 who protects his kids with everything he has and with air tight walls built around his heart and Johnny, the sweet, funny, tattooed, lead guitarist in the upcoming rock band Zero, who has worked so hard to overcome his rough start in life embark on an unlikely friendship that turns in to so much more. 🥰 The story unfolds, as always, in such an organic way. I love how we, the readers, get to experience the development of their relationship step by step by way of fabulous dialogue. It is swoon worthy!! Let me also add their chemistry is OFF THE CHARTS!! 🔥They just needed time to realize just how good they are together and those on the outside don't matter, even though they don’t fit the perceived, perfect mold. I gotta say the relationship Johnny forms with Sean’s kids just melted my cold, tiny heart. I’m not gonna lie, Lane had me pressing on my heart and fighting the leaky eyes!! I loved every single word of this book and can not wait to get it in my ears!! Although part of a series, Lane writes her books so they can be read as standalone and this one is no exception. Go forth and clickity click!!
Profile Image for Heather.
727 reviews6 followers
March 4, 2021
I loved Johnny and Sean’s story! If I could give this more stars, I would. They grabbed me from the start and I found myself immediately invested in seeing Sean’s walls fall and Johnny to find what he’s been searching for. I loved Sean’s dedication to his kids, being a great Dad and trying to make them the most important part of his life. I loved the way Johnny was able to roll with his new fame, and the way he was able to connect with Sean’s kids. Sean and Johnny had amazing chemistry with steamy sexy times (hello hot AF office sex). Most of all, I loved the friendship they built as their relationship evolved. There are so many wonderful emotions in their story. Do yourself a favor and grab some tissues and settle in for a really fantastic read!
Profile Image for Grace.
2,515 reviews106 followers
March 10, 2021
This author is hit or miss for me but I've generally enjoyed this series and this was no exception! Had a number of things I'm generally into so I had high hopes, and overall I quite liked the characters and their relationship progression. The kids weren't annoying (for the most part) and though some aspects of the plot were a bit odd/confusing (still no idea what the point of the Grey subplot was??) I enjoyed these two together and the smut was exactly what I wanted. :D I will say, the previous characters/pairings do crop up a bunch, which mostly feels quite natural, but given that it's been 2 years since I started reading this series and I don't really remember the intricacies of all of the friendships and relationships that have been imparted in earlier books, I was occasionally frustrated--this is something I recall from the last books as well, and you'll def get more out of the series if you read them all back to back while everything is fresh.
Profile Image for Dawn Nicole Costiera.
686 reviews22 followers
March 31, 2021
I can not believe Starting From The Top is the final installation in the Starting From Series. Talk about bittersweet! I have honestly loved every book and all the guys. Lane Hayes has fabricated an alluring world of talented rockstars and the often ridiculous LA scene... She showed us the ups and downs of rising to the top!

Lane enamored me with Starting From The Top. Johnny Martin and Sean Gruen made me giddy and had me swooning like a loon!!! Did Lane save the best for last??? Hummmm, it's close. I am all about the age gap, opposites attract romance...
She reeled me in right from the beginning with book one, Starting from Zero. Justin and Grey were similar to Johnny and Sean with their age difference and opposite factor...
But their stories are completely different, yet just as good.

The Rockstar and the older single dad...
Johnny comes from nothing and he's never had a proper family. So, his friends and band have become his world. He is out, proud, young, and free. He's also on the brink of being uber-famous.

Sean's life could not be more different... He's older. More controlled. An accomplished businessman with many responsibilities, including his two younger children.
How in world could they work? All it took was a kiss... What started out as a fun, sexy, no-strings arrangement, slowly became more. A deep caring friendship filled with long conversations, dinners with kids, and intimate toe-curling sex. I love seeing them evolve into more without them even noticing!

Younger but sometimes wiser, Johnny taught Sean how to enjoy life and let go a little. He brought joy and light into Sean and his children's lives.
Meanwhile, Sean showed Johnny, he was worth everything! He gave him the care and family he always deserved. They made my heart full and happy. Starting From The Top was the perfect ending to this incredible series.
Profile Image for Beth.
2,256 reviews15 followers
June 11, 2021
I just love this series and this newest addition to storytelling. Johnny, as the only single member of Zero left, finally gets his chance at his HEA. The other half of this story? Tegan’s ex and the owner of Vibes, divorced father Sean. What starts as hot attraction and “harmless sex” of course turns into more.

I loved the dynamic here and the gradual change in their relationship from “harmless fun” to friends to friends with benefits, to an unnamed “more.” Johnny’s background is heartbreaking and I just wanted to wrap him up in a warm, mothering hug. I loved his relationship with Parker and the way Parker reflected the trajectory of the story.

The crisis moment is heart wrenching but I adore the way it resolved. I kept waiting for a shoe drop from the whole photographer angle which kept me on pins and needles for a good portion of the book. I didn’t want to put the book down and it was an all in one sitting read for me (laundry can wait until tomorrow!)

Hayes is a great and vivid storyteller. I have thoroughly enjoyed everything of hers that I’ve read. I highly recommend this series and you should really read it in order to fully appreciate the characters and the overarching storytelling.

**I voluntarily read an arc and this is my unbiased opinion.**
Profile Image for suz ~Always Reading~.
462 reviews22 followers
March 9, 2021
Another great story from Lane Hayes. I had a lot of personal stuff going on so I put down my current read and started this. I needed something light and I knew I’d get an enjoyable story from Hayes.

I loved Johnny. He was so optimistic and I wish I had his outlook on life. Sean came off as strict at first but all he really needed was the right person. I adored his children and I don’t always enjoy children in books. They fit in perfectly here.

The one problem I had was the issue with Sean’s ex-wife. It seemed like it was just a filler to make the guys separate. I think it was unnecessary. The woman doesn’t always have to be the one who misunderstands her exes bisexuality for causing their divorce. That was clearly not what happened.

Overall this was an easy read that helped me get my mind off some heavy stuff. I still wish Bobby J and Cody got a full length book. That was my biggest letdown of this series.
Profile Image for Bibliophile.
759 reviews
April 12, 2021
Now that I'm in my 40's, I find books that feature two MC's who are mature adults that avoid unnecessary miscommunication problems to be very, very, sexy. This book does that. Not super steamy, but a warm and heartstring-pulling pulling read to be sure.
Profile Image for Ruthie Taylor.
3,496 reviews37 followers
March 9, 2021
~~I received a free copy of this book to read and review for Wicked Reads ~~

This is the fifth book in the series - and whilst I would recommend that you read them in order, I also think you could read and enjoy this as a standalone ... you can always go back and catch up!

A series which revolves around emerging and upcoming rock bands and the dynamics developing between the men who live for their music careers. Now that the relationships have settled down a bit, the record label is thriving and the guys are in the studio laying down tracks, singleton Johnny has finally bought himself a house. As someone who lived in the system this is the first home he's every had, and it is a truly significant moment for him, to recognise that he has made it.

When he is finds himself affected by Eric, an older man who had a brief relationship with one of his band members, he is confused and not inclined to do anything about it. Add in Eric's rules designed to protect his children and the level of complexity is also dissuading from action. But we can tell from both their thoughts, that there is something there which is going to scratch away at them until they act.

Following a couple of bands whilst they are all pretty settled down and are at home is quite a change for a rock romance, but I rather enjoyed the slower pace. It dealt with some more family based issues, and reminded us that their life is not all about being on tour.

An enjoyable addition to the series, and I am always glad to catch up with old friends and see how their lives have improved and moved forward.

Wicked Reads Review Team
Profile Image for BevS.
2,689 reviews2 followers
March 8, 2021


I've absolutely ADORED this series from Lane. Her writing seems to be much more relaxed, the sex is hotter than hot and these two characters just did it for me big-time [maybe it had something to do with the kids as well 🥰]. Have to admit, Sean wasn't my favourite character in book 1, Starting from Zero...huge control freak, too uptight, and not my cup of tea at all but now we know his backstory, I can sort of understand why. Johnny I've loved from the start of the series, and I was SO hoping that he'd get his own HEA...after all, the rest of the guys in the band have had theirs.

I just want to say a quick word about Sean's kids...LOVED them to bits 🧡, especially Parker, and wouldn't it be great if further down the line, we could maybe get a story for him...pretty please Lane!! He certainly strikes me as a geeky nerd, and is pretty enough to get himself someone to love in the future. Looking forward to Lane's new series The Script Club later this year, and this particular series is on my All-time fave series shelf.

Love, love me do 🎵 🎸🥁
You know I love you
I'll always be true
So please
Love me do
Profile Image for WycEd Reader.
2,062 reviews30 followers
March 12, 2021


Check out our full post for STARTING FROM THE TOP on Wicked Reads, which includes an excerpt.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

Shannan – ☆☆☆☆
STARTING FROM THE TOP is the fifth installment in the Starting From series. It can be read as a standalone, but reading the series in order as the author intended is, of course, the best way to enjoy each story building upon the last.

STARTING FROM THE TOP is Johnny and Sean's story. Johnny is the guitarist from the band Zero. He hasn't had the best childhood but meeting his band members had him finding the family he was searching for. Zero was on the cusp of becoming internationally known and insanely popular. But Johnny didn't see it that way. He was just a guy doing what he loved. The fans asking for pictures and autographs still just weirded him out. Doing a favor for his interior decorator, he was picking up a color wheel from a neighbor, well not just a neighbor, Teagan's ex, Sean.

Sean is a complicated man. He strictly keeps his personal and professional lives separate. He was married for twelve years before divorcing and announcing he was bisexual. With two kids and an ex-wife he was adamant about keeping apart from any of his lovers or partner, having a relationship was hard to do. Sean didn't like failure and always portrayed a man that had his shit together. That was true in a sense, until he found Johnny standing on his porch. Johnny didn't fit into Sean's world. Johnny was the all-black-wearing emo rock star. So completely different than the designer suit wearing Sean, but oh so intriguing.

I loved seeing these two come together. They exploded in hotness when together but took the time to learn each other on a friendship level. The complemented each other in ways they never expected. When everything looked to be against them as a couple, they fought for what they wanted. Johnny's patience with Parker showed such a softer side to the man. I loved seeing that.

The last few chapters of this one brought me to tears but in such a good way. I was rooting hard for them to make it!


Ruthie – ☆☆☆☆
This is the fifth book in the series and whilst I would recommend that you read them in order, I also think you could read and enjoy this as a standalone... you can always go back and catch up!

A series which revolves around emerging and upcoming rock bands and the dynamics developing between the men who live for their music careers. Now that the relationships have settled down a bit, the record label is thriving, and the guys are in the studio laying down tracks, singleton Johnny has finally bought himself a house. As someone who lived in the system, this is the first home he's ever had, and it is a truly significant moment for him to recognise that he has made it.

When he finds himself affected by Sean, an older man who had a brief relationship with one of his band members, he is confused and not inclined to do anything about it. Add in Sean's rules designed to protect his children and the level of complexity is also dissuading from action. But we can tell from both their thoughts, that there is something there which is going to scratch away at them until they act.

Following a couple of bands whilst they are all pretty settled down and are at home is quite a change for a rock romance, but I rather enjoyed the slower pace. It dealt with some more family-based issues and reminded us that their life is not all about being on tour.

An enjoyable addition to the series, and I am always glad to catch up with old friends and see how their lives have improved and moved forward.


Erica – ☆☆☆
STARTING FROM THE TOP is the fifth installment of the Starting From series. While there are cameos of past narrators, I do believe it would be free of confusion to read out of order or as a standalone.

Johnny is thrilled to have a place to call his own, finally having purchased a home, where it's just him, not dependent on roommates to help foot the bill. He's carving out a life for himself. His interior designer inadvertently puts him in the path of her ex, who just so happens to be an outlier in Johnny's life, his fellow bandmate's ex turned friend.

Sean has rules, many, many rules when it comes to dating, all these rules are to protect his children but more so protect himself. Only problem is how Johnny has gotten beneath his skin to where the rules no longer apply, blurting out to ask Johnny to teach his son how to play the guitar.

STARTING FROM THE TOP made all the right moves, but for some reason I just wasn't feeling it. The journey is there, but I wasn't invested. I was eager to read from Johnny's point of view, but it just fell flat for me. I didn't connect to Johnny or Sean, the warm and fuzzy or the hot and smoldering or the angsty miscommunications, I just didn't feel anything as I was reading the novel.

I'd love to say it was only me, but I've had this reaction on and off while reading most of the author's novels. Either the book resonates with me to where I devour it in a single sitting or it leaves me feeling meh, there is no in between. Hit or miss. Same as with the entire series. Some of the books in the Starting From series were massive hits with me... and this one wasn't.

The fact that my reading tastes didn't suit this novel doesn't mean I don't highly recommend it or the series or every other novel by the author. I do believe MM Romance fans will devour it, hopefully feeling all the emotions, the warm and fuzzies that I didn't. This also doesn't mean that I won't read everything Lane Hayes publishes, because the next might just be a major hit for me.

Reviewers received a free copy of this book to read and review for Wicked Reads.

Wicked Reads Review Team
Profile Image for E.Muddle.
1,030 reviews17 followers
March 5, 2021
I cannot get enough of this rockstar series, and I swear that each one gets better and better. Johnny and Sean give us a steaming age gap, bisexual, opposites-attract romance that evolves into something more sweet, especially in those interactions between Johnny and Sean's kids. I find that the no-strings-attached trope generally needs to be very well-written for me to become truly invested. Starting From the Top is a terrific example of such a trope being skillfully executed. The development of Johnny and Sean's relationship is paced perfectly - there's no insta-love vibe, nor does it drag on unnecessarily. Of course, they each have their own doubts and insecurities, but the way they acknowledge these as they slowly open up to one another is beautiful. I loved every word in their story!
Profile Image for Donna.
2,780 reviews34 followers
March 20, 2021
By far, my favorite in the series... my Granny always said, "watch out for the quiet one!" *grin*

This has been an enjoyable series and we were lucky enough to have the best for last... IMHO! Sean and Johnny just clicked! Their lives didn't mesh... their lifestyles were miles apart... but, somehow it was just meant to be!

Of course, Penny and Parker added a different dimension to the whole feel of the story and then there were the times I even had to wipe a tear or two... good job, Ms. Hayes!

I am sure that I will be reading more from this author in the near future! ;D
Profile Image for Veronica of V's Reads.
1,528 reviews41 followers
March 9, 2021
4.5 Stars

Johnny is the lead guitarist of the up-and-coming band Zero, and we've met him in previous stories but he takes center stage finding love and a family in this book. It can be fully enjoyed as a standalone.

Johnny is an out gay 30 year-old man who is finally getting recognized as the lead guitarist of Zero, a band known for their LGBTQ members and currently trending in the charts. While the band works on its third album Johnny is taking some time to pause and set up house. He grew up with a single drug-addicted mother and was always being shuffled off from one bad living situation to another. This is the first home of his own, one he isn't sharing with ANYONE, and he's reveling in it a bit. He has a designer and the whole thing is coming together nicely. Attempting to do a small favor for his designer leads Johnny to a neighbor's home, and he's surprised when the door is answered in a very strange and sexy way--but not by the homeowner! It's even more shocking that he does know the owner, Seth Gruen, owner of a popular WeHo gay nightclub called Vibes and also former boyfriend of his bandmate, Tegan.

Seth is 45, and out as bisexual. He's also the divorced father of two kids whom he co-parents. Seth is super protective of his kids, and tries to keep his personal life very separate from his work life and his dad life. Tegan only met his kids twice, briefly, though they dated for a couple of years off and on. Johnny is definitely attracted to Seth, but he's pretty much attracted to lots of gay/bi men. Johnny is a truly sex-positive person, and he's a bit glam, both of which are not necessarily traits Seth looks for in a partner, not that he's looking for a partner. That doesn't mean he isn't intrigued. It's just that he really wants Johnny's guitar skills a bit more...sort of. See, Seth is struggling to connect with his introverted 13 y/o son, and he thinks maybe connecting young Parker with a rocker for lessons might open him up for conversation. It's only a partial ruse to keep in contact with Johnny. But, that connection leads to further business ideas, and they get a little tangled in the details. Oh, and they have sex. Often. And Seth's kids adore Johnny.

Johnny has never really wanted a family--he didn't have one growing up and his home life was atrocious. He is mostly sober, following a period of heavy drinking, though he never does drugs. There's a lot of competing interests in Johnny's life but things with Seth and his kids are simple: he and Seth have mind-blowing sex and he gives Parker some lessons just for kicks. The more time stretches on, though, the more Johnny and Seth connect in friendship, and eventually love. If only either of them was ready to admit it--or change their plans to expand into a true partnership.

This one was really fun and a bit sweet. Johnny is irreverent and honest, qualities Seth truly values. He helps Seth see that he keeps punishing himself for coming out so late in life, taking the blame for his failed marriage. Johnny's struggling with some fame growing pains, too, and Seth (and the kiddos) help to keep him grounded. The kids really are a nice part of this story. There is a parenting dynamic that was well-explored and allowed Johnny and Seth to grow in their understandings of how to communicate when it's awkward and build bridges instead of burning them. Expect some intense steam that mellows into a smoldering love story. There is a bit of struggle near the end, as they outgrow their original no-strings arrangement. It leads to a happy ending, with plenty of family for Johnny to revel in, now that he and Seth can build theirs together.
Profile Image for Amy Dufera - Amy's MM Romance Reviews.
2,671 reviews118 followers
March 8, 2021
Starting From the Top is the fifth book in the Starting From series by Lane Hayes. It's easily read as a standalone, but is definitely more fun if you've been reading along since Starting From Zero.

Johnny and Sean. A rocker and a single dad. Johnny's a rocker who suddenly finds himself involved with Sean. The same Sean who used to date Johnny's bandmate. Ohhh, so much fun.

I love their journey. Everything starts innocently, and the progression to friends and then to more is a fabulous ride for the reader. It's slow going, with all of it written in a realistic and compelling manner, with the reader rooting for them throughout.

These men are complete opposites. But they perfectly blend to make each other better. Johnny is constantly aware of Sean's tendencies and repeatedly stands up for himself.

And then there's the sex. It's hot, with some amazing chemistry. But it's also a new exploration for Johnny. He's one who never wants to be bossed around, but he finds himself repeatedly turned on by the bossy Sean.

Sean's kids are wonderful. I adore the way they connect with Johnny. But, it's complicated since they've never seen their dad with a guy before. And Parker, oh sweet Parker. I truly love him and his own journey. He had my heart hurting for him and I am thrilled that Johnny understands him so well. Even better, I'm thrilled with the way Johnny encourages and supports him.

They certainly have their share of internal conflict. Both men seriously have some decisions to make and some insecurities to deal with.

They also face a lot of outside conflict, with each element being well developed. They have to deal with Sean's ex wife. They have to deal with the price of fame and the pressure to do business in a certain way. They have to deal with the need to keep the band in the public eye, including relationships being forced upon Johnny.

This entire series is just amazing. And I love that this book continues the fun with the bandmates and friends. I love all the men as well as the way they all are with each other.

Starting From the Top is a wonderful age gap/neighbor romance. Lane Hayes impresses with the way she takes these men through the steps of their relationship. Everything is perfectly paced for a realistic and enjoyable romance.
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