Review: Softer Than Steel by Jessica Topper


Title: Softer Than Steele (Love and Steel #2)
Author: Jessica Topper
Date of publication: 18 Aug 2015
Genre/themes: Contemporary Romance, Musicians

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My rating: 4.5 stars


As rock star "Riff Rotten", Rick Rottenberg has enjoyed all the perks that fame can offer, especially now that he's reunited with his former band mate, Adrian "Digger" Graves. But despite his success, Rick is a mess. Still reeling from the death of his wife years ago and terrified his demons will end his career, he agrees to seek help for his anxiety.

Burned by a musician in the past, Sidra Sullivan has closed her heart to love. So when Rick walks into her yoga studio, she wants nothing to do with him--until the bad boy shows an unexpected soft side.

As Sidra and Rick work through their painful pasts, they realize just how strongly opposites can attract. But when a crisis threatens the delicate balance they've forged, they'll discover if their love is strong enough to weather another storm or just too broken to survive...


This is the second full-length novel in the Love and Steel series and there was a sequel novella to book 1, Louder Than Love. It can be read as a standalone though I recommend following the whole series, these are some fabulous rockstar romances and always have something more in them.

I'd describe Rick and Sidra's story as an engaging, a rockstar romance of its own kind. Ms Topper gives the reader a beautiful mix of the world of rock-and-roll and the curious spiritual and physical world of yoga, mixed with Indian  (Eastern) philosophy and some Irish exuberance.

The story is told from dual POV and the romance is lovely but it's not the sole focus of the story. It's a beautiful tale of overcoming loss, of dealing with stress and anxiety, finding inner peace and learning to love (again).

Ms Topper masterfully creates complex characters, modern-day people with modern-day problems and add the gentles touches of philosophy and music.

One of the things I really liked in the story was the strong presence of NY in it. The author literally takes you there on NY streets and cafes and parks and yoga clubs and music stores. As someone who has never been to New York, or even USA, it was a fascinating journey and felt totally immersed in the world of Sidra (and Rick) where the city and the neighbourhood where she lived made a lot of who she was.

It's a slow-building romance, both Rick and Sidra have too many issues of their own to deal with. They don't really come together until late in the story. As I romance reader I wanted to romance to be stronger, more present, all-encompassing, but at the same time I appreciate how complex and multi-layered the lives the characters were and their slow coming together felt right and fitting. Like some of the other books Ms Topper, it's a very character driven story where the romance is strong and engaging but not the only focus. We experience the life of all the characters, including the supporting ones, in its richness and complexity.

I absolutely loved the mystic elements in the story - the Indian philosophy which means so much for Sidra, the restored Jewish faith of Rick, the intersections between them and how they fitted in the very much modern lives of the characters. It's a soulful journey for both Rick and Sidra (for different reasons) and it resonated deeply with my own understanding of love as the coming together of soulmates.

What worked well for me was the way Ms Topper brought the spiritual/artistic elements in the story - the process of making music, writing lyrics, performing, the elements of religion and philosophy of life, the intimate personal dreams and aspirations on the one hand and the routine, everyday issues - medical problems, alcohol abuse, social and work pressure.

Recommended read for fans of skillful storytelling and eganging romance with mature characters!

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / iBooks / Kobo / BAM / Penguin

Louder Than Love (Love and Steel #1) - 4 stars
Deeper Than Dreams (Love and Steel #1.5) - 4 stars

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