No matter the claims to originality, no matter how new and fresh the voice, 99.9% of romances follow the narrative pattern of encounter, attraction, obstacles, false Eden, betrayal/estrangement, and resolution/HEA, and all centring solely, exclusively on the central couple, their conflict, their feelings, and their between-the-sheets time. But Bliss always manages to surprise me, always twists that old familiar, comfortable pattern to make me stand up and notice. In historical romance, only Rose Lerner has managed to do the same (see especially my review of True Pretenses). I’ve loved each of Bliss’s Rock Star romances. She delighted, moved, and surprised me in each one, but her fourth, Resurrection, might be the best one yet. Surprisingly, its quota of romantic tension is near-zero. The hero and heroine’s feelings are so apparent and easy that all the while, Bliss sneaks in other interesting things, themes and ideas, and still, in the end, makes me sigh with the perfection of her HEA (I also ugly-cried, but the scrunched-up faced Miss Bates is a thing best left unimagined).
Resurrection starts out mundanely enough: former rock arm-candy Stormy Hagen has remade herself as Lily Stuart, nanny to a lovely aristocratic British family and making her way to an online degree in Early Childhood Education. Her past, however, returns with a vengeance when a sex tape she once privately made with a rock-star lover is pirated and uploaded. In swoops her white-lady-knight best friend Dimity Graham. Lily finds sanctuary with Dimity and the rock band she manages, of which her sweetheart of a boyfriend Seth Curran is a member. The other members of T-Minus 6 are Jared Walker (with wife Kayla and precocious kids in tow, Maddie and dumpling Rocco), and Lily’s secret crush, lead singer Moss McFadden.
If Lily carries a little candlelight of liking and attraction for Moss, Moss carries a great big torch for her. But Moss is the king of horn-dog cool, a night prowler, a man of the streets who keeps his heart under lock and key. What I loved about Bliss’s romance the most is that you would think this is sufficient to build and ho-hum play out this will-they-or-won’t-they-you-know-they-will romance between Moss and Lily. What Bliss does is so much more interesting: she makes the romance a given, not secondary but essential to Moss and Lily’s growth. Bliss works out a premise for Moss and Lily to stay together beyond the band and Dimity’s house-sharing. Moss understands that it’s important for Lily to maintain her dignity by earning her keep and being useful: he hires her as his driver. Lily has a place and purpose while the sex tape debacle tapers out … until Moss is thrown a huge, life-altering loop and he has to ask Lily to stay on.
Resurrection‘s first half tilts more towards Lily and what she’s about, only hinting at the reasons behind Moss’s darkness and torment. Lily is easy to read: she was arm-candy, but it was never what she was about. It was how her mother wanted her to be and she played to type. A break-up with Zander Freedman (Rise‘s hero), bad decisions, humiliation, and deep sense of shame at not being true to herself saw Lily bring about her own “make-under”: she removed implants, gave up collagen, stripped her hair back to its natural brown and gave up contact lenses for tortoise-shell frames. More importantly, she got her GED, became a nanny, and is studying for her Early Childhood Education degree. Lily is kind, loving, and giving. She loves soft, hurt things and she loves hard, hurt things and in this novel, she nurtures both. She knows what she wants: a home, a family, and a man who is faithful, loving, and committed. I loved her: she was funny, true, ethical, and kind, but never a pushover.
Moss is one of the walking wounded: talented and aloof, he doesn’t stand a chance against his Lily-crush. He’s a goner, though he holds out against his Lily-love in the worst possible ways. Moss doesn’t think he deserves or is capable of love. And because this is a trope we see too much of in contemporary romance heroes, you’d think it’d be trite. Not in Bliss’s hands. Moss is real: a man who wants love and comfort, friendship and commitment, but whose life has left him adrift as to how he can have these things. Bliss’s phrase, “If darkness was his friend, hope was his bitterest foe” describes him perfectly.
With two protagonists who’ve had their share of wild oats in the form of an overabundance of between-the-sheets clocking-in, Bliss cleverly keeps the loves scenes to very late and very few. The importance is to build up the yearning and affection, the care, tenderness, the love, so that these two experienced souls are awkward and helpless: ” ‘I’m nervous,’ he admitted. ‘I want you so much, but I have no experience of intimacy … how to make love.’ ‘That’s okay,’ she reassured him. ‘I don’t know how to be made love to.’ ” Isn’t that beautiful?: how the arm-candy and “pick-up king” are like gauche teen-agers before their first time making love and yet so aware and adult of what this means.
From the way I’ve described it, you’d think this is what there is of “resurrection” for Lily and Moss. Nope. Like my favourite of Bliss’s Superromances, A Prior Engagement, Bliss has curveballs, so curvy they defy physics. Moss’s “resurrection” is a long, difficult, emotionally wrenching road: all the while, love in the form of friends, support, care, and joy are right there, if only he would take them for himself, if only he would recognize his own worth. I think Bliss has penned one of the best romances out this year and I hope it gets the readership it deserves, just as Moss does in his and Lily’s HEA. With Miss Austen, we can agree that in Bliss’s Resurrection, “there is no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” Emma.
Karina Bliss’s Resurrection is self-published. It was released on June 17th and may be found at your preferred vendor. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from the author.