Charm City Rocks

Cover of Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman
Matthew Norman
Oct 17, 2023

Hello and welcome to this week's edition of #NoWaitWednesday, where we take a look at a title from our adult New Release shelf that's just waiting for a lucky patron to discover it. Fantasy, science fiction, mystery, thriller, horror - we look at all kinds of books here at #NoWaitWednesday, however it's been a while since we've looked at romance in this space. It seems all of Kansas City is buzzing about the relationship between Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs and Taylor Swift, one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. Even though Kelce is a star in his own right, Swift is several degrees of magnitude larger, and I'm sure there's something about dating someone like that that comes with its own difficulties. Let's dive in to a novel about a romance between a rock star and a regular guy and the obstacles that just might come from it. (Maybe we can give Travis some tips!) (While we're on the topic of romance - have you listened to our latest JoCoLibrary Uncovered podcast about some of our favorite romance novels?)  

Billy Perkins is a single dad deep in his 40s whose life hasn't turned out exactly the way he thought. However, on the main he's doing pretty okay for himself: he's a music teacher who lives in an apartment above a local Baltimore record store, Charm City Rocks, and the most important thing in his life is his teenage son, Caleb, who's a high school student looking ahead to college. While Billy is divorced, he has a great relationship with his ex, and he enjoys nothing more than hanging out and watching music documentaries with Caleb. When the topic of an all-female indie rock band that became the hottest thing on the charts for a short minute back in the day comes up, Billy mentions that he had an immense crush on the band's drummer, Margot Hammer, who retreated from the limelight after a famous - and disastrous - performance on the national stage. She then married a famous actor after the breakup of the band, and, while currently separated, lives a quiet life in New York City.

Caleb goes to the internet and arranges a meet-cute between his dad and Margot, who travels down to Baltimore, and after meeting Billy, does an impromptu sit-in playing drums with local bar band. She thought she had put her music career behind her, but caught up in the moment, her electrifying performance goes viral, reminding the world of her talent and igniting a long-dormant interest from her record company. While in Baltimore, Margot not only strikes up a relationship with Billy and meets a charming, eccentric cast of locals, but she also starts wondering what a second chance at a music career might look like - and who she might want to spend that career with.

Smart, warm, and comfy and more sweet than spicy, this feel-good Generation X romance novel is all about second chances, perfect for fans of Linda Holmes or Annabel Monaghan. As adult characters with almost-grown children approaching middle age, Billy and Margot both bring a lot of baggage to their relationship, and the novel takes care to portray their passions and obstacles with care: Billy is a centered nice guy but has a lack of ambition and can't help but be a bit star-struck in his crush's presence, while Margot's previous fame-driven relationships, a parasitic music industry, and a fear of betrayal continue to haunt her. I love that Norman's novel looks at the realistic difficulties that a more mature relationship brings - bodies don't work exactly like they did in their 20s, for example, and both characters have children who need to be prioritized in whatever future they create. But with time and a bit of work, these two might just make it. Norman also uses the charm of the old-town neighborhoods of Baltimore as a perfect backdrop to this romance novel that deserves to be on your hold list. Check it out!

Reviewed by Gregg W.
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