Title: The Return (The Austin Trilogy #2)
Author: Brad Boney
Cover Artist: Tricia Dunlap
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Publisher Buy Link: The Return
Amazon: Buy Link The Return
Genre: contemporary romance
Length: 350 pages
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Andrea
Review Summary: Two wonderful romances for the price of one. It was going so well until the final wrap up…
Music. Topher Manning rarely thinks about anything else, but his day job as a mechanic doesn’t exactly mesh with his rock star ambitions. Unless he can find a way to unlock all the songs in his head, his band will soon be on the fast track to obscurity.
Then the South by Southwest music festival and a broken-down car drop New York critic Stanton Porter into his life. Stanton offers Topher a ticket to the Bruce Springsteen concert, where a hesitant kiss and phantom vibrations from Topher’s cell phone kick off a love story that promises to transcend ordinary possibility.
The Austin Trilogy
There are a couple things I need to clarify before I get into my review. First, The Return isn’t listed as a sequel to The Nothingness of Ben, but they are very closely related. I wouldn’t recommend reading it until you’ve read The Nothingness of Ben. It’s a fantastic book so that shouldn’t be too much of a hardship. The second thing is that I would consider this to have a bit of paranormal in it. The blurb hints at it with the line, “… a love story that promises to transcend ordinary possibility.” The paranormal twist a major part of the story so you need to expect and accept that.
The Return is two love stories in one book, and it switches back and forth between them. The first love story is between Stanton and Topher. Topher is a mechanic at Groovy Automotive. His good friend, and coworker, is Travis. You’ll know Travis from The Nothingness of Ben. Topher earns his paycheck at the shop, but his dream is to be a successful musician. One day Stanton walks into the shop and Topher is immediately drawn to him. Stanton is a famous music critic and they bond over their shared passion for music.
The second love story is between Stanton and Hutch. Their romance takes place in the early 80’s. Stanton was just a confused college kid at the time he met Hutch. Hutch is working as a bartender but dreams of making it as a singer/songwriter. They too initially bond over their shared love for music. Hutch, and his friends, are the ones who challenge Stanton to think about music in a new way. They are responsible for setting Stanton on the path which eventually leads to Topher.
Both love stories are fantastic. The chemistry between both couples is substantial and I truly wanted them to be together. That made it rather interesting because I knew that it must not have worked out with Hutch if Stanton was single when he met Topher 20 years later. The romances were great, but the story was elevated even further by the side characters. Some of Stanton’s friends changed and some friends stayed the same over the different time periods, but they always had an important role. There is also that paranormal twist I mentioned earlier. I loved how that played into their lives and relationships.
Those are the things I really enjoyed about the book. Unfortunately, there were also some things which detracted from my enjoyment. The first was that I didn’t have the knowledge base to get some of the references. Stanton and Hutch met in the early 80’s, which makes them part of my parents’ generation. The characters bonded over discussions of music and pop culture of that time period. I didn’t know most of people or music they were talking about. Then, there were a couple of phone calls toward the end which I didn’t find believable. I needed more convincing to buy into that. My biggest issue came right at the end. The very last paragraph of the book seemed to come out of nowhere. It wasn’t that it was bad news or anything, it was just an odd tweet and it didn’t fit. I really wish it had been left out or thrown in a few pages earlier. I was happy riding the HEA rainbow until I got dumped into a pot of WTF was that!? It wasn’t a good way for me to end the book. I would have rated it a 4 all the way until the phone calls. It moved to a 3.5 after the phone calls, and then it slammed into a 3 with that last paragraph.
Despite my issues with the end, I did enjoy the book. I think die hard music fans and people who experienced the early 80’s would enjoy it on a level I could not.