Tantaliser
by Rose Middleton, contemporary (2006)
Linden Bay Romance, $5.99, ISBN 1-905393-33-4


Tantaliser is the hot Australian rock band fronted by our hero Nicholas St Eve. Tantaliser recently lost a drummer when the poor sod died of overdose, which leaves a vacancy in the band. This is where Catherine "Charlie" Brown steps in. Actually, her reporter best friend Rachel pulled a prank on Nik by, during an interview with Nik, getting Nik to invite this "Charlie Brown" to audition for the band. Catherine is a mechanic who also plays the drum - like Charlene from the Australian soap opera Neighbours, I suppose - and poor Nik has no idea what to make of her.

Nik's a chauvinist type who believes that his band should be made up of men and men only and hence he rejects Charlie from being part of the band. I suppose he only feels comfortable sharing a trailer with three other sweaty men. Charlie's plan is to flummox him and knock him off-kilter with her skills as a payback for his attitude towards women, but she ends up getting Nik so obsessed over her that he starts writing songs and dedicating them to her, causing a frenzy of media speculation as to who his mysterious muse may be. By that time Charlie is in her own band, an all-girl group Mystique. Nik isn't going to give up on the chase, however. This time Charlie is the one flummoxed when he starts being sweet and adorable - as much as a diva-like rock star could be, that is - instead of acting like the single-minded horndog he once was. What is Australia's very own Michael Hutchence-wannabe is planning this time around?

Judging from the samples of Nik's songwriting in this story, I'd say that the man really should leave songwriting to the professionals but damn if he isn't one adorable hero. Nik starts out a silly single-minded lecher but as the story progresses, he starts doing these unexpectedly thoughtful and romantic gestures for Charlie. He's a most appealing mix of arrogant bravado and thoughtful sensitivity, especially when the thoughtful part is so unexpected coming from him. He and Charlie have plenty of heat to burn and it is fun to see him unrelentingly pursue her like that. Poor Charlie isn't as well-drawn a character as Nik but that's because she often ends up reacting to Nik instead of doing her own thing. She is a rather familiar heroine who has been burned by love before and is therefore now suspicious of Nik, but then again, Nik also has a stereotypical been-hurt-before background and yet he's the star of this story.

The chronology in this story is quite vague though. It is hard to discern how much time has passed from scene to scene and it isn't until I visit the publisher's website do I realize that two years have passed from the time Nik fires Charlie from the band to the time Charlie forms Mystique. Other than that, Tantaliser is a most enjoyable story thanks to the hero who steals too many scenes for himself from the other characters in this story and his sizzling hot chemistry with the unfortunately less interesting heroine. Tantaliser is nearly just that and more.

Rating: 83


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