“You were incredible.”
“I always am.”
Reviewed by Tori
Elliott Dawson, is 27 years old and plays lead guitar in the band, Preload. Nicknamed Pyro, he was clinically diagnosed as a pyromaniac as a teenager but has learned to cope with his impulse controls though not the reasons behind them. When his manager asks him to do some goodwill promotional work by visiting a children’s hospital, he finds himself drawn to a young burn victim, Daniel, whose own demons mimic Elliott’s. When he meets Daniel’s gorgeous mother, Kendalee (Lee) Walker, Elliott falls head over heels and sees his chance at happiness and redemption. But, unless Elliott comes clean to his new little family and himself, all his dreams will go up in smoke.
While I didn’t read book one of this series, Jordan Reclaimed, this in no way limited my enjoyment of this story. Cole does an excellent job of recapping the main points without retelling the entire backstory. The Preload series (a spin off of Cole’s Second Circle Tattoo series) revolves around the world-famous rock band Preload with each book devoted to a band member and their journey towards love as they learn to let go of their past in order to embrace their future. This group of men all grew up together in a group home after being taken away from their abusive families. Each one has had an extremely rough childhood and suffers from PTSD. There are some triggers in here with mentions of past sexual and child abuse and suicide, so reader beware.
Elliott Redeemed is an emotional undertaking that introduces us to a damaged man who is trying to move past the trauma of his abusive childhood. Strong narrative and intriguing protagonists gives readers a deep and thoughtful storyline that more than tugs at your heartstrings. Family is a strong theme that repeats itself through out in here as Cole reinforces the idea that family can be anyone and is often made through shared experiences. Elliott’s family are the boys in the band and his group home mother Ellen and her wife, Maisey. They form a band and even buy a house together, basically isolating themselves off to the world. With Dred and Jordan finding the other half of their souls and moving on, that only leaves Elliott, NIkon, and Lennon. Having watched all this happen, Elliott is ready to settle down though his issues keep him alone and isolated.
“Fire would always be his mistress. He didn’t have room for anyone else.”
Cole introduces Elliott and Lee in an interesting mannor, gradually allowing Elliott to become a mentor for a teenager who suffers from issues similar to his own. While Elliott fears Daniel is a trigger for him in the beginning, he manages to pull himself out of his own head and offer Daniel something no one did for him till he was older…someone to listen and not judge.
“Elliott knew from personal experience just how hard it was to open up to strangers about the kind of thing he had gone through. It was a huge responsibility and a privilege that Daniel was trying with him.”
Lee appreciates Elliott’s attention to her son though she fears what will happen when it fades. As a single homeless mom with a low-level job and a son who’s looking at long-term physical and mental care, Lee is surviving day to day right now. Especially when dealing with her soon to be ex-husband who can’t seem to grasp how much he hurt her and his son with his choices. Cole takes Elliot’s and Lee’s relationship slow and easy. She guides their attraction with a firm hand, giving voice to the age, financial, and personal differences.
“I want this. You and me, Kendalee. I know there’s a pile of shite between us taller than the CN tower that we have to deal with. tell me this isn’t an experiment. That you aren’t going to just leave me because you decide I’m not worth it.”
The blending of Elliott’s and Lee’s issues assures readers that this is more than a simple erotic romance with all the sex and very little plot. Not that the sex isn’t an important aspect of this relationship because it is. Elliott has never had a long-term relationship with a woman. His experience comes from random hookups with fans and groupies. His developing feelings for Lee are completely new for him. Lee and her husband had an okay marriage that was subdued in the bedroom. Years of infertility and building a business left Lee sexually unsatisfied but resigned. Elliott introduces her to new experiences and she is more than on board. Elliott has a dirty mouth and they both have an easy sense of humor, allowing for some lighter moments to shine through despite the darker overall tone.
“Dear lord, Elliot. You’re-“
“Right here. Between your legs. About to press my skin to yours for the very first time. Ready to crawl down this hot body of yours until I can get a taste of you. Before I make love to you for the next few hours.”
“I was going to say handsome, or ripped, or some other descriptive words.”
I know, but I prefer my version.”
The ending is rushed and a tad melodramatic when Elliott comes completely clean about his past and Lee reacts in a predictable fashion. The scene and its reasons for happening are predictable. Regardless, Elliott and Lee get some much-needed help and advice from friends and family, allowing them to finally overcome this last hurdle blocking their happiness.
While I enjoyed overall, there were some issues. The books’ speed is uneven. In some areas, you race along firmly engaged while at others, the internal monologue drags you down and you have to fight not to skip ahead. Some scenes drop in from out of the blue while others seem only there to manipulate us emotionally.
Regardless, if hot and vulnerable rock stars are your jam, then this series is for you.