Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: May 6, 2019
Received From: Early review copy from the author
The tougher they are, the harder they fall.
Twisted Wishes bass player Mish Sullivan is a rock goddess—gorgeous, sexy and comfortable in the spotlight. With fame comes unwanted attention, though: a stalker is desperate to get close. Mish can fend for herself, just as she always has. But after an attack lands her in the hospital, the band reacts, sticking her with a bodyguard she doesn’t need or want.
David Altet has an instant connection with Mish. A certified badass, this ex-army martial arts expert can take down a man twice his size. But nothing—not living as a trans man, not his intensive military training—prepared him for the challenge of Mish. Sex with her is a distraction neither of them can afford, yet the hot, kink-filled nights keep coming.
When Mish’s stalker ups his game, David must make a choice—lover or bodyguard. He’d rather have Mish alive than in his bed. But Mish wants David, and no one, especially not a stalker, will force her to give him up.
GENDER: transgender, cisgender
SEXUALITY: pansexual, heterosexual
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: panromantic, heteroromantic
TROPES: age gap, bodyguard x protectee, protector x protectee, height difference, rags to riches, found family, class disparity
TAGS: adult, contemporary, romance, queer romance, queer characters, Spanish character, multiracial character
WARNINGS: hospitalization, hospital visit, physical injuries, physical assault, stalking, slutshaming, misogyny, rape mention, attempted rape mention, slurs, gendered slurs, mental illness (PTSD), anti-queerness mention, gaslighting, harassment, cancer mention, toxic masculinity, semi-public play, alcohol
At the point I’m writing this review, it’s been a few days since I finished reading REVERB, and I am still a mess of inarticulate emotion. I don’t know how I’m going to write a legible review, but bear with me, okay?
To put it simply, REVERB is amazing. From the plot to the characters to the varied emotional connections Zabo has built from the very first chapter of SYNCOPATION.
As the blurb indicates, in this book, Mish is struck with the reality that someone is stalking her and desperate to get close, and in walks David, who is hired to protect her. This makes REVERB almost as emotionally intense as SYNCOPATION, though in different ways. While Ray had to deal with the abuse and emotional turmoil he suffered under Carl firsthand, outside of a couple physical attacks, Mish is often the second or third person to find out about a new email or comment from her stalker. This adds an additional level of helplessness because there’s really no way to know who is pursuing her, but it also creates a kind of dissociation from the situation because there’s also no way to know when the next message will come. In effect, this leaves the reader on the edge of their seat, and in my case, it made me even more anxious than I was when reading SYNC. Because there are so many moments of happiness and love between Mish and her bandmates, Mish and David, David and other members of the band, etc., that it makes the hit land even harder when you’re thrust out of a brief happiness bubble and back into the current reality.
And in addition to that, there’s the added effect that most who have lived as girls or women at any point of their life have experienced. Because the stalkers taunts and missives come in the form of aggressive misogyny and toxic masculinity. They’re things so many of us have heard before as a way to tear us down and make us feel unsafe, and the emotional impact of that is absolutely heartbreakingly breathtaking. Anna Zabo honestly does an incredible job of creating a story and situations that resonate in so many ways.
Then there are the characters! Mish Sullivan is a badass, rocker babe who I fell in love with from her first moment on page. She’s vibrant and thrilling, unafraid to be vulnerable, and cares so damn much about the people that she loves. With REVERB, we finally get to see deeper into her life and how she became the stunning person she is today. And I continue to love how unapologetic and fierce she is! Because learning more about her life–living in poverty as a child, the loss of her mother, building herself and her career from the ground up all by herself–just made me appreciate even more how incredibly loving and supportive she is, as well as how strong she is emotionally. Mish is enviable, but she’s too nice and lovely to honestly be jealous of her.
And there’s David Altet, the man who is hired to act as security for the band and watch out for Mish while the stalker is on the prowl. He tries so hard to be a lone wolf when, really, he aches to be part of a family and wants so badly for that family to be Twisted Wishes. And much like Zavier and Adrian, he meshes with the band and fits in immediately, from his sense of humor to his intense dedication to his job and protecting the band. David is snarky and sassy, and it endears him to both the band and the reader from the get-go. He’s such a fun character, even as he’s weighed down by responsibility and a need to be independent, and it’s practically impossible not to love him.
Then, of course, there’s Ray, Zavier, Dominic, and Adrian, who all continue to be such wonderful and welcoming characters. Seeing them on page is like coming home and seeing your family again after a time away. They’re all so brilliantly sincere and care so much–about both Mish and David–and I enjoyed getting to see even more of them. But there’s also a new character–Marcella! She’s the band’s new manager (briefly mentioned in COUNTERPOINT) and is on page a lot as she goes on tour with the band. She’s such a lovely character! Takes no shit and tries to take care of the band in the best way possible. And much like David, she fits in with the band and becomes family, and it was so wonderful to see all of them, and especially Ray, developing such a strong bond of trust in someone outside of the band and their partners. I could easily read a whole other book about all of them, with Marcella as the main character.
Finally, I want to talk about the trans representation because it’s really important to me. And it’s so important to me because it was done so incredibly right. We know right away that David is trans because it’s right there in the blurb, but the way it’s presented in the book is wonderful. Even before the word “trans(gender)” is used on page, it’s made clear through David’s reflections on his past and present life experiences–from mentions of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and how he had to present as butch until such a time when he was able to safely transition, to a throwaway comment about his packer, and so much more. He does eventually come out to Mish and use the word “trans,” but it’s already well established from the simple presentation of his life and the way it’s just an aspect of who he is.
One aspect of the rep, in particular, that I loved was regarding Mish and the stalker, and the way in which David was able to empathize with what she was going through in ways that her bandmates could not. Because he had similar experiences when he was a child and young adult, before he was able to transition, and even during transition when he didn’t quite pass yet in the way he was expected to. It added even more intensely satisfying layers to the overall plot, as well as the relationship between David and Mish, and I loved this so much because it’s never used to discount his gender. Instead, it’s used as a way to help him empathize and connect even further with Mish, as one aspect that makes him even more equipped for the job at hand, even as his gender wasn’t at all the reason they hired him. It was just amazingly well done, in my opinion, and made certain scenes resonate even harder for me.
The trans rep in this book is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket during the winter–soothing and warming and emotionally satisfying.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this book is just all around amazing. While I know it won’t be for everyone, especially considering the content/trigger warnings, this book worked so well for me, and I think it was the perfect conclusion to the series. I highly recommend this book and the series as a whole.
Anna Zabo (they/them) writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow. They live and work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.
Anna is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns and prefers Mx. Zabo as an honorific.
Anna grew up in the wilds of suburban Philadelphia before returning to their ancestral homelands in Western Pennsylvania. They can be easily plied with coffee.
Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.