America has no King. Our founding father's insured us that, and hopefully we will remain "unkinged" and our constitution will hold out. But it's a fact of our times that, politics notwithstanding, celebrity is king. We might even take it one step farther: Rock is King. From the sixties on, hordes of screaming fans have been falling in and out of obsession with the rock star of the moment, and there are even some who hold their own long after any fifteen minutes of fame has long since evaporated. And as much as music consumers feel that someone becomes an overnight star, such a thing is never overnight. Before the moment when John Q Public realizes the person on the stage, at the mike, on the television, on the screen, on the radio, in the youtube, in the itunes library has a gift, that entertainer has spent long hours, months, years, sometimes decades developing what may be a flash in the pan, or G-d's own gift. It is something fans do not consider: that behind every gifted artist is a boatload of time spent developing that gift. So when a writer chooses to write the story of a rock wannabe from the point of view in the trenches rather than from the audience, it is an angle that feels new to us. And yet not completely new, because of how many fans are themselves frustrated artists who had some talent and some dreams and either gave up before their time, didn't have the grit or talent, or maybe just didn't have the Kelsey to do it.
Yes, Kelsey. Every artist needs a Kelsey. I'm referring to Kelsey Conklin, the protagonist of Lanie Kincaid'sKelsey's Song. I may have picked up this book thinking that Kelsey was going to be a Susan Boyle; but I soon figured out that Kelsey, having grown up as the only sensible manager in an exceptionally dysfunctional home, has an entirely different talent from singing. She has a gift for management. And her new neighbor, JD Hewlitt, the scruffy guy with band pipe dreams, needs some of that management to rub off on him and his daughter Andie.
JD is new to parenting, and has come into his daughter in much the same way as Diane Keaton's character in Baby Boom: from out of the blue. JD's new daughter a is six year old handful who is completely out of control and does not want anything to do with a father. It is sheer luck and proximity that bring together JD and Kelsey, in the same way that two distinct drops of water touch, and suddenly they're just one bigger drop, and there's no demarkation where the lines might have once been drawn.
Everything about this story rings true. Proximity brings together couples (yes, I read somewhere that a high percentage of weddings occur just because people live near each other). Yet the success of their relationship has a lot to do with what lies beneath the surface. Both JD and Kelsey are icebergs, with most of their secret past underwater. With buried secrets to negotiate, JD and Kelsey are both off on life quests that are completely different in nature in ways that would simply not intersect—except that in the process of solving a multitude of life-problems for each other, and developing a friendship, they manage to fall in love AND solve each other's problems.
Why does it work? Because the characters are so complete. JD and Kelsey live on the page, and beyond the page. They are not cookie cutter characters, but have lives that are bigger and grittier in dimension than those of most characters in simple romance. This book is a little charmer, even if you haven't dreamed of being the girl "with the band," whether or not you worship music and bands (but might be even more fun if you do.) Kelsey's Songwas an enjoyable read which I heartily recommend.