Louder than Love By Jessica Topper
ORDER A COPY: Louder Than Love
Publishing Date: September 17, 2013
eBook: 343 pages
Rating: 4 stars
In this powerful debut novel, a young librarian grieves the loss of her husband…and discovers a love that defies classification.
It’s been over three years since a train accident made a widow of Katrina Lewis, sending her and her young daughter Abbey back to the suburban town of her youth…the only place that still makes sense. Lauder Lake is the perfect place to hide and heal.
Recluse rocker Adrian “Digger” Graves survived the implosion of his music career, but his muse has long lain dormant. Until Kat hires him to play at her library—not on the basis of his hard rock credentials but rather, because of the obscure kids’ TV jingle he wrote years ago. In a case of mistaken identity, Adrian stumbles into the lives of Kat and her comically lovable daughter.
Using tattoos as a timeline, Adrian unfurls his life for Kat. But as the courtship intensifies, it’s unclear whose past looms larger: the widow’s or the rocker’s. Will their demons ever rest, or will they break these soul mates apart?
Katrina Lewis never realized how much one e-mail could change your life. As the new volunteer librarian at the Lauder Lake Library, she was looking for a program to entertain the children when she decided to try and locate Adrian Graves, the writer of the theme song to Maxwell MacGillikitty, Feline Private Eye, her four-year-old daughter Abbey’s favorite TV show.
Adrian was not receptive to the idea of playing at the library, but Katrina eventually convinces him to show up. Katrina is also hoping that his appearance at the library can be a boost in his career. Although Adrian is not what she expected, he was a hit with the kids, and a bit of a hit with Katrina herself. She hasn’t had any interest in a man since her husband was killed three years ago, but she finds there is something compelling about Adrian.
As their sparks begin to sizzle into a true romance, Katrina is shocked when she finds out that her Adrian Graves is also “Digger” Graves, lead guitarist for the Corroded Corpses, her brother’s favorite heavy metal band growing up.
Katrina feels the fool for not realizing her new lover is actually the former rock star, who before he disappeared from the limelight was heavy in the whole sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll lifestyle. She confronts Adrian on his duplicity, but finds she understands more than she thought she would why he hid that part of his life that he long since put behind him.
Adrian walked away from rock stardom and got his life cleaned up ten years ago. After years of heavy drug use and being used by his manager, his friends, his ex-wife, and his estranged daughter, Adrian was delighted to find someone who just treated him as Adrian Graves, the unknown musician. Over the next few weeks, Adrian gives Kat a look into his battered soul and walks her through the ugly world of rock stardom.
And ugly though his scars may be, it just might be Katrina’s scars that keep them from finding true happiness. Although Adrian is willing to open up his life and pain to her, Kat hasn’t fully comes to terms with the sudden, tragic loss of her husband. If Kat continues to keep the ghost of her dead husband between them, she might just lose the man who would fill the emptiness in her life, as much as she fills the emptiness in his.
Absolutely compelling. I just loved these characters and their dynamics. Little Abbey is, of course, adorable and opens her heart to Adrian as only an innocent child could. Adrian was on the road when his own daughter was young and was never able to truly develop a relationship with her. Abbey accepts and loves Adrian in a way his own daughter never did.
Although Adrian cleaned himself up, without the drugs and his music, he really didn’t have anything in his life. Meeting Kat and Abbey made him realize that he was existing, but not really living, and Adrian knows that they are the best thing that ever happened to him. (Again, my favorite, the damaged hero trope.)
Although Kat thinks she has moved on from her husband’s death, she too just exists to take care of her daughter. She has family and friends who supported her emotionally but she never truly shared her grief with anyone and keeps her memories of her lost husband to herself. Whenever Adrian visits Kat and Abbey, he is surrounded by photos of the man that he is in a way competing with, but Kat won’t speak of her dead husband to Adrian.
I enjoyed watching this story unfold and watch these characters heal each other as their feelings blossomed.
Received an ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I stopped short, almost causing a pileup of French backpackers behind me who had been close at my heels, eager to see the New York City landmark. I needed a moment to collect myself, to survey the situation. To capture his image before all hell broke loose. Black faded Norton Motorcycles shirt, tattered jeans, brown leather boots that looked like they had journeyed across a hundred dusty desert miles on a Harley. At his feet were two Starbucks cups of coffee, which almost broke my heart. Our fourth date and the man not only brings coffee, but I knew it was exactly how I liked it, too: one sugar, two splashes of skim. Adrian was the type of guy who noticed the details. A shame he didn’t bother to clue me in on some of his own important details, I thought bitterly. “Nothing is real” indeed.
He kept gazing periodically to his right, figuring I’d enter the Fields like most people did through the 72nd Street entrance. He glanced at his watch more than once, and I observed his shoulders rise in what could only be a gusty sigh. Does he think I failed in solving his riddle? To thick–or thin skinned–for the challenge?
I remembered his remark in the Naked Bagel. If someone were to call his given name, he had said, he would barely think to turn his head. I felt all the rage return. Who was this guy really? He was a lie, a stranger.
Before my brain could chicken out, I let the word fly. I knew the moment it exited my lips and entered his ears, there was no going back.
What was meant to sound strong and absolute came out as a quivering bark. But sure enough, he jerked up his head in a pitiful Pavlovian response and met my gaze across the mosaic. I had vowed to stomp off the moment I received confirmation, but somehow I just couldn’t. The look in his eyes could only be described as haunted. Go, go, go. My feet finally obeyed my brain and twisted me back the way I had come.
“Kat! Katrina!” I had only taken a few steps before I heard the collective gasp of tourists and pigeon-feeding bag ladies alike. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Adrian hurtling across the middle of the mosaic, which had to be some sort of sacrilege. He deftly hopped over the lit votive candles and the bouquets of limp roses carefully strewn across the shrine, making sure he didn’t tread upon John Lennon’s resounding and timeless single word on his way to me. I dodged bumps in the pavement and people and dogs in my effort to leave gracefully as he pursued.
“So that’s it, you’re just going to walk away because you think I’m a washed-up scumbag who doesn’t deserve a chance to prove himself?”
“No!” I yelled, causing the people and dogs in our path to leap and scatter. “I’m walking away because you didn’t trust me enough to tell me the truth.”
I stood rooted to the spot, my body white-hot and twitching as adrenaline flooded it. Many times I had witnessed shouting matches int he streets of New York, but I never imagined I would find myself in the middle of one. It was mortifying but strangely liberating.
“Trust?” He sputtered. “All my life I trusted people to do right by me, and I was burned at every turn! Made a commodity by those who I thought cared about me–my friends, my wife, my own daughter…” His voice dwindled as he drew a ragged breath and stared me down.
I held my ground. “Well, I’m thinking of my own daughter! She trusted you! I let her get close to you, and you hid the glaring fact that–”
“The fact is, Kat, I’m never going to fit into the neat and logical order you’re used to!”
Logic? He was really going to play the logic care with me? Life had already pulled the mother of all tricks, pulling the rug out from under me and leaving me to ponder the ultimate disappearing act.
Could he blame me for wanting life to play nice for a while?
“I’m not asking you to fit into anything. I…I…” I had no idea how to express what I wanted, what I needed. My heart wanted to ask plenty, but my head was afraid to.
“That isn’t me anymore,” he explained calmly, approaching me slowly as if I were a Central Park hipster brown squirrel that would scurry off with any sudden movement.
“What–did you go to prison and find Jesus?”
“No, I went to hell and back and found myself.” Three giant steps and he was nose to nose with me. “I sprouted wings and I carried myself far away and stared a new life!” He shook his book at me. One glance at the cover and my heart soared. It was Ursula K. Le Guin’s Catwings the book I had mentioned on the day we met. “But until you and Abbey came along, I wasn’t really living it. I know that now,” he finished softly, resting his forehead on mine.
“I was going to tell you; I just need the right time. I brought you here”–his arms swept backward toward Strawberry Fields and upward vaguely toward the high-rises that lined Central Park West–“because I had decided I was ready. It’s not to easy to say, ‘By the way, while you were walking down the aisle at high school graduation, I was snorting lines off some groupie’s arse.’ I told you, I was a different animal back then.”
I heard the weariness in his voice and saw the years lining his frown, but his eyes were what led me right down to where he was laying his soul bare. I had thought for certain his eyes would be different, seeing him in a new light today. I had feared they would be cold and unyielding steel. But they were as deep and as pliable as ever, and they began to well as I finally embraced him.