Review of Moonlight Drive by A.R. Hadley
Much of this book about a rock star and his (unrecognized) teenaged soulmate didn't ring true enough for me to feel that I could buy into the story.
Moonlight Drive relies upon a seemingly implausible premise: Nick, a rock star, doesn’t recognize the person who provided the pivotal, years-long emotional connection in their early teens. The new band “groupie” was really Nick's dearest friend in his (recent) teens. She once went by the name Dani and now goes by Daniela--another reason it doesn't feel like it would be an enormous stretch for Nick to make the jump to identifying her. Daniela soon lives on the bus, is invited to share rooms with the band, and tantalizes the star--all without being recognized by the soulmate of her youth.
Nick engages in outrageously destructive, hurtful behaviors. Exploring this brokenness could have been intriguing, but I found his character frustrating and off-putting. He absurdly feels he deserves congratulations for the small measures that he considers restraint (in one example that felt staggering, he receives oral sex from a stranger with his soulmate sitting next to him rather than having sex with the woman, and he seems to feel this is a sacrifice).
The relationship at the heart of Moonlight Drive just didn't hold up for me. There were some steamy moments, but the sexiness often felt violent, the racy talk didn’t land for me and at times felt jarring and aggressive, and most importantly, to me, the characters' emotional connection didn’t feel real.
A style note: there are many instances of interrupted speech--so much so that sometimes I wasn’t even sure what the characters were getting at--and frequent instances of what felt like unrealistically intuitive mind-reading as characters pieced together what they imagined the other to be trying to express. This felt unnecessarily confusing.
I was puzzled as to why the "secret" that Nick, a professional musician, played piano and wrote songs would be considered too sensitive or personal to be made known. This felt forced and a little silly. I also wasn't clear as to how his broken, consistently self-destructive drug- and alcohol-fueled implosions allowed him to feel irresistible, even to the most grounded characters. Even solid mentor Jim inexplicably says to Dani about Nick's appeal, "Keep spending time with him, on him, you're gonna fall in love."
The specter of Nick's addiction overshadows much of the story, and this element felt tragic and compelling. Hadley's descriptions of the clothing styles of the musicians of the era were entertaining and a highlight. But much of this felt too convenient and unrealistic for me, and reactions frequently didn’t seem to follow from events.
I received a prepublication digital edition of this book through NetGalley and Chameleon Media Productions.
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