Wanderlust by Roni Loren

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by KB. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Mid-Length Contemporary category.

The summary:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Loving on the Edge series and Off the Clock, a story of sex, love, rock & roll, and a reporter who’s about to learn a new meaning for staying on top of her assignment…
Restaurant critic Aubrey Bordelon is never at a loss for words to describe her meals in the fancy restaurants of New Orleans. But after her magazine’s high-profile music reporter falls ill, she finds herself out of her element and in a sea of screaming fans awaiting Wanderlust’s lead singer, Lex Logan. The sound of his voice gives her goosebumps, and the stage presence of the hard-bodied rock star takes her breath away. So when he pulls her onstage for a sexy stunt, she knows she’s in real trouble.

Lex doesn’t want to pretend that the sparks on stage between him and Aubrey never happened, but it certainly makes the fact that she’s writing a story on his band all the more dangerous. The last thing he needs is some nosy reporter revealing their problems to the world. But the sexy Southern belle doesn’t give up easily, and soon he’s wondering if the best way to chase her off the story is to coax her into his bed…

Here is KB’s review:

I was pretty excited to start reading Wanderlust. Roni Loren is an author I’ve been wanting to check out for a while–I know she has another series about sex therapists that sounds super interesting, and by all accounts H-O-T. I am also a sucker for a rock star book of any kind. Write about a hot guy who expresses his feelings through music, and I am probably going to be here for it. So when I saw the opportunity to review a rock star book by this author for the RITA challenge, I jumped on it right away. Unfortunately while the overall story was OK, there were some aspects of the book that really didn’t work for me.

So, Wanderlust is both the name of the book and the name of the fictional sequel-bait band that is depicted in the story. Our heroine is Aubrey Bordelon, senator’s daughter, Southern belle, magazine reporter, and DEFINITELY NOT SLUTTY (we’ll get to that). As the story begins, Aubrey is on her way to a Wanderlust concert to begin a profile of the band for the Nola Vibe, the magazine for which she is a columnist. She’s technically a food columnist, but has ended up on this assignment because reasons.

During the concert, the lead singer Lex Logan randomly selects a girl from the audience so that he can do a body shot (all I can think about is sweaty tequila at this point and it’s gross) and that girl just happens to be Aubrey. Sparks fly, it turns out Lex and Aubrey will be seeing a lot more of each other while she is writing this article, and there you have our setup. There is a lot more to the story, including some pretty intense family backstory for Aubrey and some not-unexpected interpersonal drama between the band members.

Wanderlust is fairly well-written, and the story flows along through all the twists and turns. That part I didn’t have a problem with. My main issues with the book were really just things that rub me personally the wrong way, and I will try to explain them now without spoiling the whole thing for you.

First, this is true of the book overall but particularly the first chapter: it is super slut-shamey. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I read a lot of category romance, and I tend to gravitate toward the ones where innocent English Rose heroines get whisked off to fabulous locations by Greek billionaires. My point being, I am no stranger to the virginal heroine thing. But I generally don’t expect to see this in a contemporary romance, especially from an author whose writing I have heard is pretty sex-positive, so in this context I found it jarring.

In the first chapter, Aubrey meets a Wanderlust “groupie” and becomes friendly with her while they stand in line. Despite the fact that on the surface they are becoming friends, Aubrey’s inner monologue is so snarky about the other woman’s background and intentions that it becomes super off-putting.

Like this:

The image of a herd of women charging the lead singer, yanking one another’s hair extensions and tripping their competition came to her. “But I had dibs, bitch!” each would cry. Aubrey handed her ticket over to enter the club, the amusing image lifting her mood.

I think the combination of the constant slut-shaming, and the fact that the heroine’s thoughts were so negative while outwardly she was pretending to be nice, made me dislike Aubrey in a way that I never quite got over. Plus, the women who follow the band wear t-shirts that say “Wanderslut.” I get the play on words but still…yikes.

There is a major plot point involving Aubrey and her family that drives a lot of the conflict for her, and I thought that whole part of the story was well done and interesting. For a while there I was ready to put the first chapter behind me and enjoy the rest of the book. Then came the conflict at the end, which just seemed unnecessary and contrived.

Show Spoiler
One of the band members OD’s on something (not really clear what exactly) and ends up in the hospital, close to death. Earlier in the story, Aubrey sees the guy using but decides not to tell Lex. When the OD happens, Lex gets angry and inexplicably blames Aubrey for not saying anything, to the point where he is so upset by her betrayal that he decides not to see her anymore. WTF? At the point when Aubrey witnessed this behavior, she and Lex barely knew each other!

Plus, you guys are in a band! If drugs have been an issue for this dude and he starts acting weird and changes his behavior all of a sudden, shouldn’t you, his closest friends, start to suspect something before putting that responsibility on a random girl you just met? 

As a side note, there was also one part of the book that really, really bothered me. Were I a different person with different life experiences, this event had the potential to change the book from “slightly problematic” to “DNF!” with a quickness.

The hero is at a photoshoot at the magazine where the heroine works and they run into each other. They go into an office to talk privately, and he LOCKS THE EFFING DOOR and won’t let her out, and then they get busy. Audibly busy. In her place of business. After he basically coerces her to stay in there with him and do this.

This made my face do something like this:

A gif of a woman making a disgusted face

To be clear, there is total consent to the sexytimes. That’s not an issue. But the whole interaction still left me feeling super weird.

In the end, I didn’t hate Wanderlust. However, I did not love it, for the reasons mentioned above. The writing itself was not bad though, and I will probably try more from Loren. In fact, at the end of Wanderlust there is a preview of her next book, about people involved in a video game that sounds basically like a sexual version of the SIMS, and they meet up unexpectedly “IRL.” I was still thinking about this short excerpt a few days later, which is definitely not true of Wanderlust.

Overall my grade for Wanderlust is a C, but your mileage may vary. Just please, for my sake, don’t refer to yourself as a Wanderslut.

This book is available from:
Wanderlust by Roni Loren

July 19, 2016

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