Love Evolution by Michelle Mankin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a fun fast read, with a really cool female MC who will have you rooting for and rocking with her all the way. When MC Avery's twin brother Justin is disappeared by the evil mob boss who's girlfriend he's fatuously fooled around with, her world falls apart. She's a super talented guitarist/vocalist, and she and Justin were on the cusp of a big career breakthrough when his disappearance derailed their dreams. Her agent tries to pull her out of her downward spiral by hooking her up with Brutal Strength, the angsty band trying to bounce back after their guitarist has quit, driven off by moody Marcus, their front man, fresh out of rehab. Wrinkle alert - Marcus's heart is in rehab too, after some smexy stillettos stomped all over it, and he's not about to allow some chick into his boy's club. Avery's kind of desperate though -desperate enough to duct-tape those tempting ta-ta's (not literally, she actually uses an Ace bandage), to try to pass as a dude. And, mirabile dictu,her plan actually works! But is successfully deceiving Marcus and the guys really where she wanted to end up, after she clicks so well with the band ... and with Marcus?
Michelle does a great job of creating an appeallingly vulnerable but tough character in Avery. She's fragile but game, and her talent and drive keep her going through some sticky situations. Equally well drawn is Marcus, who could easily strike you as kind of a dick, what with all his misguided, misogynistic malaise, but instead comes across as relatable, if a bit clueless (an essential element in a girl dresssed as a guy story!). I pictured him as kind of a Kurt Novoselic type guy, brooding and ursine. Michelle also creates a cool Vancouver vibe, all misty and markety, that makes the story more concrete and pulls you into its magic. The side characters, especially Marcus' brother Dwight, and the vampish vixen Veronica, are dimensional enough (although V. is a bit Cruella DeVil-esque) to add drama, spice, and some humor, as well as provide expos and conflict. Another really great element are the lyrics that Avery and Marcus collaborate on as BS finds it feet again. They create a vibe, move the emotional aspect of their relationship forward, and sound like awesome songs just on their own. I love how this worked to draw you into the world of the story, I really felt it! When all the deceptions and disguises and disorder start to blow up towards the fun finale, there are some satsifying moments of aha!, thank goodness, and what the hell just happened, that combine to make the HEAdlong rush to a dramatic conclusion feel fresh and fun, even though there's a Twelfth-Nighty subtext that suggests maybe this isn't all as novel as it nonetheless manages to feel. This is a cute, believable and readable romp, with some real emotion, that will make you glad you came!
Michelle provided me with a copy of Love Evolution in exchange for an honest review, which this totally is. Thanks Michelle!
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