I first fell in love with Axelrod’s work through “The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes”, the first book in the Lillys contemporary romance series, all featuring absolute rock star women. In this book, we follow the best drummer around—Kayla—as she tries to stay one step ahead of her secret identity getting out, and their booknerd, kilt wearing tour driver—Ty—as he tries to reclaim his life after being falsely accused of a crime. Both of them are trying to live their truth, while still hiding aspects of themselves that don’t represent the people they are. It was that connection—plus an absolute love of literature and the same taste in alt-rock music—that became the basis for this instant attraction, and slow burn romance where authenticity and consent are key.
There’s a lot going on in this book beside just the romance. You have Kayla, worried that the bands’ success is going to oust her as the inspiration for America’s perfect child—Little Miss Yolanda—and thus ruin her mother’s career, alongside working through her identity free of her mother’s domineering plan, plus the drama around the band courtesy of Candi (who you meet in the first book, but if you don’t read that one it’s fine, you still get the gist of what happened), and that’s just Kayla’s side of things. With Tyrell, you have his fear born from the false accusations and trying to move on from that, on top of him trying to rediscover the path he wants to take in life now, and managing his loyalty to his grandfather that is so deep and sweet that it sometimes holds him back from moving forward. The story is told in dual POV so you see both of these characters grow—together and separately—but there was a lot going on in between the tender moments. So much so that, at times, I wish the story was a bit tighter so we could focus a bit more on their romance. I say that mainly because I just adored Ty; he’s such a sweet and marvelous character—a kilt wearing bisexual and demisexual man? Uh, yes please!
I love the premise of this series though. All the members of the Lillys are so distinct and I can’t wait to see where their band goes and to get more of their stories. Right now, Toni and Seb’s story (the first in the series) is still my favorite mainly because Axelrod writes phenomenal second chance and friends to lover’s romances. I also thought Ty’s struggles were a bit more gripping than Kayla’s, but that’s probably just because we needed more time to unpack Kayla’s family drama which would have further taken the emphasis away from the romance, and that wouldn’t have been good, either (hence the 4 stars). It’s a tough place to be, for sure, but Axelrod still managed to tell a sweet love story with just enough steam to keep the reader warm at night. If you’re a fan of contemporary romances with a rock n’roll flare (Axelrod knows her stuff when it comes to the music industry and it’s always a treat to read) then you’re definitely going to want to read “Girls with Bad Reputations” and all the Lillys books, honestly. And thanks to Netgalley for providing an eARC for review!
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