Overall I liked Gasp but perhaps I’ve moved out of serious fandom with this author. The books remain good and the same quality as always but they don’t engage me enough anymore. I find myself skimming parts and liking the characters well enough but forgetting the book pretty quickly once it’s done. The story is entertaining to read but not enough for me to really escape into the drama and romance. Part of that is the lopsided pace with the beginning starting slowly only to revel in the details of Nigel and Jeff together but then change the pace entirely by separating the two. I found these changes abrupt and jarring when I’d just settled into the slow, smooth upscaling of their relationship. Not to mention there are a few holes and leaps in the plot but I will say there are more good things to like about the book.
The story is a nice twist on the classic rocker. Here the rock star, Nigel Gasp, is an aging rocker who acts like a child. He’s petulant, destructive, rude, self absorbed, thoughtless, and careless. His behavior is also enabled far too much by his personal assistant, Dee. Dee’s brother Jeff is dispatched to keep Nigel alive and entertained for a short period of “laying low.” The problem with this is that Jeff is expected to cater to Nigel entirely – Dee’s orders – but Jeff doesn’t want to put up with such behavior. After a quick fight the two find common ground, mostly in bed, and learn more about each other. Life isn’t easy for an aging rock star and a military vet though.
Jeff and Nigel are well crafted and pretty nuanced. They have some obvious surface personalities but the story builds depth as the time goes on. Nigel eventually changes almost entirely from a man whose sole purpose is to make money and act irresponsibly to a loving, caring, genius. It’s quite the transformation but the credit goes to the writing for the subtle and gradual change that happens. It actually makes sense and feels real despite the drastic altering. Jeff is less likeable because he doesn’t really change very much. Instead he waffles from indulging Nigel’s every ridiculous whim since that’s his job and trying to force the older man to take responsibility and change his life. Jeff’s own needs and wants are muddy and undefined. Even he doesn’t know what he wants and what he can do as a job, this is especially highlighted at the end with Jeff’s issues still unresolved.
The plot is decent but it mostly revolves around internal drama of Jeff and Nigel figuring out their relationship and feelings for each other. This isn’t bad but the story doesn’t stick with this tone. The beginning starts slowly as Nigel and Jeff can’t stand each other, both denying an instant attraction, but slowly come to terms. For almost 2/3rds of the story the two men are isolated alone and mostly in bed. Once they actually get together though the story jumps forward in a jarring turn of events. Suddenly the two men are separated without any resolution to what their relationship is or isn’t. They’re only really brought together by a mysterious, never defined medical emergency. This is actually the weakest part of the book since it’s too obvious. The medical issue is never explained and no one seems to care. Instead all the characters seem to have a sudden epiphany about each other and their roles in life and the larger “family” they create. Sweet but a bit manipulated.
Overall the writing is solid and although the beginning is slower to take shape, I liked the more languid pace. I finally got into the tone and feeling of the characters, even their over the top antics like cross dressing and role playing came across as playful and fun. However when the two men separated the story kind of lost me. I never got back into the grove of the story and mostly just read it to get to the end. It’s a fun story and a nice entry into the rocker theme but not one I’d read again.