I liked this book a lot more by the end than I did at the beginning. At first, I couldn’t get where the author was going. I loved Morgan Lee Miller’s debut novel, All the Worlds Between Us, and it felt like she wanted to try and create an older, more rock’n’roll version of the complex but sweet teens that are Quinn and Kennedy.
For a significant part of Hammers, Strings, and Beautiful Things, I had the feeling I was watching a train wreck waiting to happen. At twenty-four, Blair Bennett is about to go on a tour with the world’s biggest pop star, Reagan Moore. The band she and her best friend Miles form is on its way to the top, and her talent as a songwriter is undisputed. Life would be perfect if only her grandfather hadn’t just died. A renowned musician, he was her idol as well as the only father figure she’s ever known. He was the one who taught her about music and made it possible for her to learn eight different instruments. So she’s a mess, and when we meet her, she’s breaking up with her girlfriend, claiming she can’t be good for the girl when she doesn’t know who she is anymore. At first, she comes accross not so much as broken but as irresponsible and spoilt. She’s in pain and it mostly translates through selfishness. It’s like she’s trying to tick all the boxes for the dark and broody rock’n’roll chick. I kept wondering when Blair would fall off stage, hurt herself or worse. Snorting coke and drinking that much alcohol can’t be good for your coordination.
Reagan is the opposite. At twenty-three, she’s incredibly grounded, professional and reasonable, despite being one of the most famous singers in the world. She also manages to be sweet, charming and kind. And she seems to see through Blair’s façade, all the way to the nice and romantic girl underneath the grief and self-destructive ways.
For a long time, the story is mostly the two of them flirting and falling in love and playing music, until Blair flips and goes too far, putting Reagan’s reputation and the whole tour at risk. And that’s when I really got into the story. I wanted Blair to overcome her issues, to let the nice person I could feel she could be out, to show herself to be deserving of Reagan’s love. Because as annoying as she was, I believed in her.
That’s why this book was a little frustrating. Morgan Lee Miller creates endearing characters, she writes them well and she knows how to tell stories. Yet this story took way too long to start. More than half the book is spent setting the scene. It’s well-written so not too boring, but had I not read Miller’s first book and hence been aware of how good she can be, I don’t know if I would have stuck until the end. Which would have been a pity, really. If you decide to read this book, stick with it, it’s worth it.
And I just found out that Miller’s third book will be the sequel to All The Worlds Between Us, giving Quinn and Kennedy that third chance I was hoping for. So, you know, life is good.