One Hit Wonder is a novella by Elyssa Patrick I found in my digital TBR. (Must have been sample binging that day?) This is a light contemporary with a higher heat index than I go for but more than enough story to keep it on the romance side of the street. At times feeling like fanfic with a short attention span, One Hit Wonder still convinced me that I need to give a full length book by this author a go. I found the power dynamics so interesting I want to cut them up and put them under the microscope. Let’s spoil everything and bitch about all of it.
No really. I’m sincere. We’re not holding plot points back. Last warning. It’s on you now.
The book opens with Jane Timmons preparing to give notice to her employer, the one hit wonder teen idol Damon Suarez. Miss Timmons is timid in her interpersonal relationships. She’s the updated personal assistant version of the buttoned down librarian with a strong hint of Paltrow’s Pepper Potts mixed in. Damon Suarez is living a rock and roll lifestyle off a hit single he recorded decades ago. There’s no indication that (like Ricky Martin or Rick Springfield) Damon has supplemented this hit with acting or celebrity work. Improbably, the album was such a success that he simply tours on it over and over without audience fatigue. He falls into scandals on a regular basis, keeping his profile high, and he puts on a reliable stage show for an increasingly older set of enthralled women. Damon indulges in superficial relationships with interchangeable models while Jane sleeps alone. (Insert rant here about the typecasting of women as flash vs substance.)
Jane is preparing to leave because she fell in love with Damon over a year ago. It’s time for her to make her own life, free of his influence. Jane dreams of opening a PR firm. She dreams of doing this without the involvement of her star client, the man who enabled the connections she has and the man who can make or break that business with a word. Jane is a terrible businesswoman who has worked extensively in entertainment without grasping that relationships aren’t just everything, they are the only thing. Damon is used to Jane juggling two phones while tending to his every whim. Damon wants a glass of milk? That’s Jane’s job. Damon needs his bath robe? That’s Jane’s job. She’s his PR girl, his mother, his emotional support and his blankie all rolled into one. It’s only when he’s faced with losing her that Damon bothers to examine if he wants Jane to be his girlfriend.
The problem I had with One Hit Wonder is how easily Jane falls into Damon’s lap. He’s the star she orbits so when he shines upon her she submits instantly. Damon never has to live without her care, he never has to admit his expectations of service from her won’t fit easily in a romantic partnership, he sees only that he needs her. Neither Damon nor Jane ask if she really needs him, PR firm aside. If Damon had hired a different assistant and then set about winning Jane over the dynamic would be totally different. It felt like he was using an emotional connection to retain a valuable asset instead of finding the love of his life underneath his nose. We veer back into overly familiar territory as the boss and
librarian secretary teacher personal assistant make their way to bed. Damon counts the many, many bobby pins hitting the floor as Jane Damon reveals her passionate side.
Saving One Hit Wonder from exasperation is an epilogue that takes place three years later. It’s still the Damon show 24/7 but the passage of time implies that more has happened beyond Jane gratefully falling into a permanent role as Chief Caretaker. Damon’s success is now predicated on his talent rather than his hijinks. Overall Patrick’s characterization impressed me although I found the place holding names (Timid Timmons and Suave Suarez) distracting. It’s as good as the average category contemporary, with a little more freedom of language and sexuality.
*This post originally appeared at Love In The Margins. Since I wrote it I’ve added the author to my NFW list so this is likely it for us. Self fulfilling title, I suppose.