Every now and then, I surprise myself.
Every now and then, a book surprises me more.
I’ve been a fan of Tara Mills for some time, having started reading her stuff years ago and keeping with it ever since. But here’s the thing. There are only so many hours in a day, and a gajillion books available on Amazon that you can choose from. Okay, maybe not a gajillion, but definitely a lot. And because I love to read almost as much as I love to write, I’ve acquired a to-be-read pile on my iPad that’s fairly substantial. That’s when I realized I wanted to make more time for reading and decided to start making a dent in that pile, so I picked up Going Solo.
Now, fans of mine will know I’m not a huge romance fan. I write books with romantic elements, yes, but I tend to shy away from reading the genre simply because it typically doesn’t resonate with me. But when I do buy a romance novel and read it, it’s for a very specific reason. In this case, Mills has a style I adore. She doesn’t rely on clichés to tell story, she doesn’t write about bodice-ripping, and she definitely doesn’t write about characters that need something external to them to fix a flaw or a damaged past. I should also add that even using the terms “hero” and “heroine” for Mills’s work feels wrong. She just writes from the heart, and she writes what’s real.
So here’s the thing about Tara Mills’s writing that grabs me. Her voice is unique, and her command of language and storytelling are strong. She can write opening chapters (hell, she can write opening paragraphs) that grab, and she can write in a way that will keep your attention until The End. More than that, she offers rich, descriptive worlds and characters that make you feel as if you’re right there in the middle of it all with them.
Hmm…somehow I digressed. But maybe all that backstory about Mills is important because all those things play a critical role in what works for Going Solo. In the opening pages it becomes obvious to the reader that you’re in very deft storytelling hands. The storyline is clear, the stakes are evident, and the hero and heroine (ahem, I really don’t like using those words!) are so far pulled into their own respective corners it’s no wonder they don’t immediately get along.
Which is where all the fun begins.
Shasta is a singer who blows out her vocal chords during a concert and who is forced to take vocal training from Blake, a guy who seems to have a stick up his ass and a desire to make her life difficult because she’s clueless about singing. A big star, yes, but she has no idea how to practice scales much less read a lick of music. All along, her singing has just come naturally to her. This is a serious frustration for Blake, who’s lived music for most of his life and who takes the craft seriously but who can’t understand how someone with such raw talent and stage power could so easily dismiss the gift she’s been given. And, worse, she’s pursuing it with a group that doesn’t seem to recognize her talent (because they don’t know better at the time) or that she’s playing to the wrong genre and crowd.
What follows is a story that dives into the damaged history of both these very realistic characters and finds a way to bring out the best in both of them. It’s a bit of an unconventional romance, too, which proves that what someone sees on the surface isn’t necessarily what you’ll find on the inside — if only you’re willing to look.
Going Solo is about self acceptance, and finding inner strength and happiness even if it means letting go of the comfortable route and embracing the unknown. It also offers up a wonderful reminder in life: sometimes the people we’re closest to can be our most demanding critics, but often it’s because they see the potential in us before we do.
And when that happens out of love? Well, it’s all the sweeter.
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