Title: Burning Tracks (Spotlight #2 – Standalone)
Author Name & Publisher: Lilah Suzanne (Interlude Press)
Publication Date & Length: August 11, 2016 – 224 pgs
In the sequel to Broken Records, Gwen Pasternak has it all: a job she loves as a celebrity stylist and a beautiful wife, Flora. But as her excitement in working with country music superstar Clementine Campbell grows, Gwen second-guesses her quiet domestic bliss. Meanwhile, her business partner, Nico Takahashi and his partner, reformed bad-boy musician Grady Dawson, face uncertainties of their own.
This was a difficult read for me. We’re reading about Gwen and Flora, who’ve been together for almost 10 years, and they’ve hit a rough spot where Gwen is freaking out about their lives together and Flora seems to be a bit clueless, even though this is definitely par for the course for Gwen. Toss in the fact that their best friends and family, Nico and Grady, who are definitely still in the honeymoon stage, have just had a fight and may be breaking up, and it sets the stage for Clementine, a client of Gwen and Nico’s and a friend of Grady’s, to come in and make things a bit murky for Gwen. I have big problems with cheating in the stories I read, so this book seemed to be headed down a predictable road that I really wasn’t sure I wanted to travel along. But I told myself that I didn’t necessarily know what the author was going to do, so I should stick with it. I’m glad I did, as things didn’t go exactly as I’d thought, but it definitely was a wake up call for Gwen. My problem with the book, and I’ll admit that it was all personal preference, is that Gwen seems to love Flora too much to go down the road she was headed. She acts like an immature brat instead of talking to her wife about her feelings, and she almost messes things up. Especially as someone who grew up with the parents that she had, it’s very difficult for me to believe that she’d treat the person who loves her so much so recklessly. And while she may have stepped up in the end, I didn’t enjoy the ride along for her stumble. The book was pretty well-written, and interesting, and if Suzanne decides to write about Clementine finding a woman of her own, I might pick that up. But I see that the first and third books are about Nico and Grady, and I’m not too sure I’d pick those up. Again, I’d say it’s more personal preference than anything really bad about the book or story.
“There’s a reason you two aren’t allowed to hang out alone.” Arms crossed, one impeccable eyebrow raised, lips twisted, hair artfully tousled, and dressed to the nines: Alexander Wang black-on- black tropical-printed board shorts, a slim fit black-and- white chino and matching black lapel jacket, black boots, and a black and white scarf to tie it all together. “Nico,” Gwen says.
“Nico?” Grady is up in a flash. “You came?”
Nico’s face softens into his Grady look. “Of course I came. Did you really think you were getting rid of me that easily?” Grady comes closer, and Nico brushes a spiraled lock of hair from his face.
“I’m sorry it took me so long. There were storms over Dallas, and I got stuck on the tarmac with a dead phone. I barely made my connection, and the clusterfuck of morons known as the United gate at JFK could not get its shit together, and I may be banned outright from Charlotte-Douglas International, can you believe they flag you as a security risk and hold you in a room with no phone signal or Wi-Fi just for threatening one person with shoving that goddam intercom up their—” He opens his arms for Grady; his look of annoyance slips away the moment they touch.
“Anyway, I’m here.”
Grady sighs, crowds into Nico’s space, and tucks himself into Nico’s body. Much better, a perfect fit. “God, I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Nico sinks one hand into his hair, strokes the nape of his neck with other, breathes him in, and closes his eyes. “I’m so sorry. About the apartment and taking off and not being here yesterday, I tried to so hard to make it because I know how difficult it is for you. You shouldn’t have been alone.”
Grady sniffs and holds him tighter. “It’s okay. We’re okay. I’m sorry, too.”
Still ensnared in the sheets and duvet and barely awake, Gwen presses her hands to her cheeks and awws. “You guys,” she coos.
Grady lifts his head from Nico’s neck to smile at Gwen. “I wasn’t alone, though.”
“Mmm” Nico says. “And how much trouble did she get you into?”
“None,” Gwen says, defensive. Here she kept Grady safe and sound, searched all over Nashville and Las Vegas while he was off burying himself in work and what thanks does she get? None.
But then Grady smirks and says, “Kind of a lot.”
“Grady.” Gwen throws a pillow at him. “You’re such a tattletale, gosh.”
He bends to whisper something in Nico’s ear, and Gwen doesn’t miss the way his lips drag and linger on the shell of it, or the way Nico’s breath catches and his eyes roll back. When Nico lifts Grady’s shirt and traces around the tattoos with reverent fingers, Gwen takes that as her cue to extricate herself from the bed, put on some pants and a bra, and go fetch her luggage.
“‘Kay you guys have fun and make sure to change the sheets when you’re finished.”
“Wait.” Nico tugs Grady’s shirt down. Then he goes to the case he always has nearby. “You have trouble of your own, Gwen. Thought you might want to know about this.”
Gwen catches the magazine and folded-up papers he tosses her way: screen grabs from a few entertainment websites printed out in black and white.
Is This Clementine Campbell’s Girlfriend? Our source says, “It wouldn’t surprise me.”
Clementine and Gal Pal Definitely More Than Pals Sunning On Vegas Pool Deck.
Our exclusive source and close confidant of both says: Clementine’s married girlfriend “would cheat for sure. She was always touching her. There’s been an energy between them from the very beginning.”
There are pictures: her rubbing sunscreen on Clementine’s bare back, which looks far steamier in a fuzzy long-range picture than it actually was; a picture of them from the back at the store in the Venetian with their hands clasped and Clementine curled in close and her lips on Gwen’s cheek; and most damning of all, grinding together at the VIP club at the Bellagio just last night.
“I don’t—” Frantic and confused, she flaps the magazine and printouts in the air. “What is this? This isn’t— Nico, I didn’t, I swear.”
Nico holds both hands up. “Hey, I am well aware of the slander of tabloids. I get it.” He gives her a sympathetic look. “I’m just not sure Flora is going to.”
Tell us about your pets – past or present. Pictures are a must! (Not really, but they would be welcome.)
Currently I have four pets: Tank, a chihuahua-Jack Russel mix (yes he’s exactly as crazy as you imagine) a blue and white parakeet named Sky, and two orange tabby cats: Buttercup and Dandelion. By happenstance I have only ever had orange tabby cats, and though I lack the experience to say for sure they are favorite kind of cat.
In a flashback chapter in Burning Tracks Gwen and Flora rescue two orange tabby kittens from a dumpster, and this is sort of borrowed from my life, as my current cats are also rescues, though we found them ditched on the side of a very busy road. Luckily I didn’t have to wade through garbage to save them, but the traffic racing by was pretty scary, and an enormous spider landed on my head. I think I’d pick swimming through a dumpster if given the choice, honestly.
We spend most the story later on, when Gwen and Flora only have one of the rescue cats, Cheese. And as I’m incapable of writing an animal in my stories without them becoming essential to the plot the story, Cheese and her siblings take on a lot of symbolism: Gwen’s fierce heart, Flora’s unshakeable faith, and Clementine’s continued sacrifices.
I don’t usually base characters directly on people (or pets) in my life, but for Cheese I did base her on Buttercup: They’re both enormous, lazy orange tabbies. Both love food and hate food somehow at the same time. And both cats are skittish and sensitive and very sweet. And so far Buttercup is taking being immortalized in a novel in stride, she’s spends just as much time sleeping under my bed as she always has. The the nice thing about orange tabby cats: they’re humble. Or, as humble as a cat can be, I guess.
Lilah Suzanne has been writing actively since the sixth grade, when a literary magazine published her essay about an uncle who lost his life to AIDS. A freelance writer, she has also authored a children’s book and has a devoted following in the fan fiction community. She is also the author of the Interlude Press books Spice, Pivot and Slip, and Broken Records, which was named a Top Pick by RT Book Reviews Magazine.