Exposed by Kristen Callihan
July 13, 2021, by Plain Jane Books
Review by Melanie
The first two books in this series, Idol and Managed, came out in 2016, and the third and most recent one, Fall, in 2018. That means it has been a 3 year wait for the fourth (though hopefully not last) book in this series and let me just begin by saying this book is more than worth the wait.
Maybe a third of the way into this book, I texted Angela to say that there was a solid chance my entire review for this book would just consist of heart-eye emojis. I don’t know if there is a word in the English language for when someone is highly anticipating something eagerly and their expectations are out of control and then the thing finally arrives and not only meets every expectation but just completely blows it out of the water. That’s how I felt about this book.
So, this series, if you’re unfamiliar with it, focuses on Kill John, the biggest rock band in the world, and this book in particular, focuses on Rye Peterson, the bassist for the band, and Brenna James, the band’s long-time publicist as well as cousin to Killian, the band’s lead singer. It’s really best if you read these books in order because there’s a lot of stuff that happens in the first three books that are referred to in this one and secondly, Rye and Brenna are the kind of slow-burn relationship that has been teased over the course of the first three books. To get the full impact of their love story, you really need to witness all the highs and lows (ok, mostly lows) that come before.
Brenna and Rye have a history that is over a decade in the making. When the band was first starting out, Brenna developed a crush on Rye, and Rye rebuffed Brenna in a very public and humiliating manner, thus setting off years of bitterness and bad blood between the two. When most of the rest of the band have paired off and found their HEAs, Brenna finds herself increasingly lonely and to put if bluntly, in need of some great sex. When Rye catches wind of that information, the two come to an agreement of sorts, setting the tone for a book that’s full of delightful banter and super hot sexy times and a romance that is at once tender and sweet and poignant in how much power each of these characters wield over the other.
Brenna, for her part, harbors massive trust issues regarding Rye and their past. Unwilling to put herself completely out there, she’s hesitant to show her true vulnerabilities in front of him. Rye has his own secrets he’s dealing with, along with this revelation that his feelings for Brenna may go far deeper than just physical desire. One of my favorite things about this book is that it doesn’t immediately just have these two jump from their antagonistic relationship to a sexual one without addressing the giant elephant in the room, their shared history and how awkward it all is to suddenly make it more.
A laugh bursts out of me again.
“I’m sorry!” I’m giggling like a schoolgirl, and just as flustered, my cheeks searing hot. All I can think is, Rye is about to kiss me. Rye Peterson is going to kiss me. Rye. Kissing. Me.
I love that these two characters, who have been through a LOT, both with each other and with the rest of the band, aren’t just jumping blindly into bed, never mind the consequences and how it might affect not just them, but the rest of the band, too. And when that inevitable dark moment comes, it doesn’t feel abrupt or like it’s coming out of left field because Kristen Callihan is so good at laying the groundwork and doing the character development in such a way that you can see how these two characters might act and react in exactly the way they do. That’s not to say it’s predictable, but after spending the first three books in the series getting to know Rye and Brenna and their strange, tension-filled dynamics, their burgeoning relationship in this book is explored in a way that feels true to both of them.
I have to say as much as I loved Brenna and Rye, both as individuals and as a couple, I also love the rest of the band members (and their significant others) and the role they all play. It’s such a beautiful found family series, their bond stronger than ever, especially due to the events that unfold to start the series. (CW: The series kicks off when one of the band members attempts suicide and the attempt is referred to in this book but not depicted on the page). Watching the whole band and their love interests come together is a beautiful affirmation of the true and lasting power of friendship.
In the end though, it is Brenna and Rye who are the focal points of this story and again, I can’t stress enough how much joy I got from finally reading their story. It’s got hints of enemies to lovers and friends to lovers and there’s also a secrecy element to the relationship because Brenna doesn’t want the whole band finding out and being all up in their business. The writing is beautiful, the dialogue is sharp and funny, and at the heart of the book are these two lost, lonely souls, who manage to find themselves even as they lose their hearts to each other.