Stoned by Mandi Beck

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It’s hard nowadays to find a really good straight-up romance. The market is flooded with second chance that are replicas of so many that came before. I was a bit skeptical when I picked up this book, feeling a bit jaded about the genre in general, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The story starts with Stone, millionaire rock star addicted to heroin and basically anything else he can snort. His long-time girlfriend and love of his life, Willow, leaves after a painful blow-up that is too much for her to bear after years of his drug-hazed abuse. Through the fog of his high, he refuses to believe that she is gone. When he arrives home to find that she’s not there, he accidentally overdoses and sets the house on fire, which ironically leads to a rescue that is almost too late. After days in the hospital, where his band mates worry if he’ll ever recover, he is finally deemed fit for release and forced to attend rehab for the rich and famous. While this is happening, Willow escapes to Canada, where she starts a new life with friends who love her, a beautiful baby girl, Lyric, and the love of another man.

Stone was instantly likeable. While most readers probably can’t relate to his drug addiction, everyone knows how it feels to be depressed and experience times where your emotions are out-of-control. This makes him extremely relatable. He’s feisty and refuses to take no for an answer, no matter who he’s talking to, but broken and looking for a way to heal; all of which make him fun to read and easy to love. After many months of a sober search for the woman who got away, he finally finds her, only to discover that she has moved on. Or has she? He is not an easy man to forget, especially after a decade together.

I sympathized with Willow. She’d been treated horrifically by the man who was her heart and soul, but now, surrounded by people who love her and have become her family, she loses herself in her music and her daughter. Then, when suave and caring Joaquin shows up, she’s instantly attracted. It becomes an emotional battle when her first love appears after almost two years. On one hand is the man who stole her heart and adored her for years, before addiction set it, and on the other hand is the sweet-talking safe guy who just wants to take care of her and Lyric. Stone, being Stone, is determined to do whatever it takes to win her back, but the security Joaquin offers is comforting after all that she has endured.

Joaquin was a vital role in the story, but he didn’t get as much attention. The book alludes to so many more interactions, between all of the characters, then what is seen. When he first appears, he is handsome and composed, the polar opposite of Stone. I wasn’t sure if I liked him or not; he was almost too perfect. Since I adored Stone and his desperate need for Willow to make him whole, it felt like a betrayal to like Joaquin. There were moments, though, when I saw the appeal and I understood why she was so torn. As she struggled to find her happy ending, I felt sorry for both men, who wanted to be her home.

The side-characters are wonderful, even though they did not get as much action as I would have liked. Her new family is overly protective and willing to do anything to ensure that she doesn’t get hurt. Stone’s band is his family, since he grew up being passed from foster home to foster home, until the mother of his best friend and fellow band mate, Lawson, takes him in, showing him love for the first time in his life. They, too, are willing to do anything for him and Stone doesn’t always make it easy, but they stand by his side through all the ups and downs.

The book is full of highly sexual, but entertaining memories and stories. Some readers might find them too graphic, but they are presented in a less serious light and I enjoyed it. There is a good deal of humor, especially from the sarcastic Stone and his band mates. It is a constant throughout that gives the book levity. At the same time, there are a lot of moments that are heart-wrenching and I could feel their pain. It was a perfect combination for a story about people who have loved hard, lived hard, broken each other, struggled to find purpose, and been forced to accept responsibility for past and present actions.

The story is mostly strong and powerful, invoking many different emotions, but there is a severe lack of physical detail. Scenes are not described, so it was up to my imagination to envision the bar she works at that encompasses half of the book, or her house, his homes, and the rehab in Hawaii. The only place that was given any real detail was the nursery and even that was cursory. It wasn’t until the story was half-way through, that I found out he’s covered head to toe in tattoos. Knowledge about his plethora of piercings came long after that and I felt stunned, as I’d never imaged him with a nose ring or any of the other pieces of metal that adorn his body. All that was given about her was that she had caramel eyes and hair and was five foot four with womanly curves. It is an unspoken understanding of romance that everyone is gorgeous, though, so I had no problems picturing perfect people. I attribute this lack of detail to the first-person perspective, but it would have been nice to have more to go on. My only other qualm was the excessive amount of short sentences that began with ‘and’ or ‘but’. They would have flowed much better if they had been included with the previous sentence which was part of the same thought. Instead, it felt a bit choppy. As a reader, I’m a stickler for grammar, so I did find them to be distracting, but not enough to pull me away from the story.

Now, for my rating:

  • Genre and general reading age – it’s a second chance romance and definitely for adults.
  • Level of sexuality – very high, although the act itself doesn’t come until much later in the book. From start to finish, though, it was filled with sexual tension and some very dirty details, but not to the point of being raunchy.
  • Was there graphic language? He’s a famous rock star; of course there were a ton of f-bombs. All rock star romances are chock-full of swear words.
  • Did I cry? No, but there was more than one instance where my throat got tight and I hurt for the characters.
  • Did I laugh? You betcha. Some scenes were downright hilarious and there were a lot of moments where I smiled in amusement. It helped give what could have been a very serious book a more enjoyable and lighter story.
  • Level of character development – Stone and Willow are wonderfully written and I could feel what they were experiencing and dealing with. The side characters were nicely done, for side characters, and I liked them enough to wish for more.
  • Is this part of a series? This is the first book in the Wrecked series.

I loved this book, which says a lot. I have read enough romance to be sick and tired of the monotony, but this was a gem that kept me glued to my seat, eager to find out what was going to happen. I devoured this decent-sized book in a day and a half; I couldn’t put it down. I cannot wait until the second book is released, no matter which band member it is, because I appreciated each one so much. This book gets ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 stars. I am very impressed with this romance and it would have earned five, except for the abundance of sentence openers with ‘and’ or ‘but’, but that is the author’s style. I simply didn’t care for that, but it’s hard to hold it against this beautiful story. I definitely recommend Stoned for romance readers who want a bit of dirty, a lot of heart, humor, and characters that are stubborn to a fault.

Available here on Amazon

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