Play by Heart (Harmony of Hearts, #1), Ariella Zoelle
Rating: 3.25 ‘Sugary Sweet’ Stars
Publisher: Sarayashi Publishing
Genre: Gay Romance
Tags: Contemporary, First Time, GFY, MAJOR Insta-Love, Rock Star/Celebrity, Romance, Series
Length: 336 Pages
Purchase At: Amazon
Leave all reality at the door if you go to read this book. There’s not one thing in this book that’s even remotely realistic.
Iason’s known worldwide for his romantic lyrics, but he never thought he’d fall in love. Will his luck change when the stars align to bring Orion into his life?
My love songs may have made me famous, but they were beautifully written lies that hid the fact I’ve never loved anyone. I had almost given up hope of finding true love, but then I meet him. Orion is all my wishes on stars who can make my dreams come true. He’s my perfect partner in every way except one: he’s straight. Why, universe? Why?
But the cosmic force that brought us together apparently knows what it’s doing based on the sweet way Orion blushes every time we’re together. Can I convince him that we could make beautiful music together that will be worthy of my most romantic ballad yet?
I’ve been a fan of Iason and his beautiful voice and lyrics for years. I never expected him to know I even exist, let alone fall in love with me. But regardless of that impossibility, he looks at me like I’m the sun, the moon, and all the stars in his universe. As a straight man, I probably shouldn’t be interested, much less tempted by his flirtations. But despite that, everything in me wants a chance to be his magical muse for the songs I love so much.
Meeting him makes me realize that I’m not quite as straight as I thought. The most unbelievable thing of all is that someone as amazingly famous as him could ever want a shy nobody like me. But I don’t want to doubt his sincerity. I want to be brave enough to believe he’s interested in me for real.
Maybe I don’t have to settle for being a fan who adores him from afar. What if I dare to dream that I could be his boyfriend who loves him with all my heart instead?
Play By Heart is the first book in the Harmony of Hearts series and part of the Sunnyside universe. This novel features a bi awakening, insta love, rock star, shy/flirt, gay romance. If you love cute sweetness, sexy fun, and no angst stories that will make you laugh and swoon, you’ll enjoy this satisfying HEA without cliffhangers. Each book can be read as a standalone or as part of the series in order.
The first thing I’m going to say is that I’ve not read the books where Iason and some of the others mentioned were introduced, so I went in blind. But I do know that apparently Iason was against love and was vocal about it in those books? If so, there was zero evidence of that in Play By Heart.
There’s insta-love and there’s Iason and Orion insta-love. We’re talking immediate, before they ever even spoke to each other, insta-love. The ‘I saw you across the room’ and fell in love instantly insta-love.
I need to stress that I have no problem with insta-love books. Some of my favorite books have it. What I did have a problem with in Play By Heart was that one of the main characters (Orion) wasn’t into guys at all until he met Iason. I mention this further down in my review, but I wanted to throw it out now. Had he shown any interest whatsoever in men before, I’d likely have thought nothing of it. But he didn’t.
Now to the rest of my review…
Iason is a huge rock star. 99.9% of the time I don’t like books with any types of celebrities, though two of my all-time favorite books have rock stars in them. Go figure. Even so, that’s two out of dozens I’ve read that worked for me.
Iason, 35, is back in his hometown of Sunnyside, California, taking a week off from his tour. He’s doing an open mic night with his band at a local bar that’s owned by a close friend. In the middle of his set, his eyes meet those of a man in the audience. In that split moment, Iason’s life changes.
Orion, 30, is a big fan of Iason Leyland. His fifteen-year-old sister Lyra, a HUGE Iason fan, is part of Iason’s street team. They both go to the small venue to watch the intimate concert. Orion notices Iason giving him looks throughout the set, but he doesn’t really think anything of it. That changes when there are technical issues on the stage and Lyra
insists asks Orion to run downstairs to the basement of the bar to grab CDs. He’s never been there before, and he damn sure doesn’t want to get caught where he’s not supposed to be, but he does as his sister asks. Once downstairs, he meets none other than Iason Leyland who, it came out later, followed him into the basement.
This begins the MAJOR insta-love that I mention above and in my tags. They’re two seconds from kissing when Lyra yells down the stairs for her brother to hurry up already. They meet again after, and then again when Iason shows up at Orion’s workplace. He’s an assistant curator at Sunnyside University Art Museum.
All this is good. Iason and Orion leave together, have dinner, and end up back in Orion’s apartment. Things are getting hot and heavy but then they’re interrupted by Nyla, Orion’s ex-girlfriend, who used a key instead of knocking on the apartment door. There’s a big misunderstanding and Iason bolts.
“He told me the song about someone being made out of wishes on stars was about me.”
Nyla made an impressed noise. “Damn, that’s smooth. I wonder how many times he’s used that line before?”
I need to stress big time that Orion is straight. He’s never thought about other guys, never fantasized about other guys, or really ever even noticed other guys in any intimate or sexual way.
They come back together again the next day and resolve things, thanks to some planning on Iason’s part, Lyra, and Lyra and Orion’s mother, Estelle. Estelle invites Iason to dinner, Orion offers to pick him up, he shows up hours early at Iason’s hotel, and they have sex. This is exactly what Iason had hoped for.
Orion has never been with a guy in any way, shape, or form. Yet he jumped right into bed with Iason like he’d been hooking up with men for years. Not just that, but geez, almost zero prep by Iason before it happened. After that one time, they can’t get enough of each other and the entire book (literally the ENTIRE book) is them professing their love and having sex, usually at the same time.
And let me tell you something… these two guys have recovery power unlike anything I’ve ever heard of before. Seriously. They finish and then they’re ready to go again in seconds. I know it’s common for some women to have multiple orgasms in a short amount of time, and even some guys can go again relatively quickly, but men doing it four or five times in a matter of minutes? Yeah, no.
I have no problem whatsoever with love-at-first-sight, as I’ve already mentioned. I’ve read some really good books where the two guys meet and fall in love instantly. The difference between the others and Play By Heart is that there’s usually some kind of drama, or something else is going on in the background during their working toward their HEA. This book? Nada. They spend time together, they have sex, they profess their love. Iason meets Orion’s family pretty much right off. I loved Orion’s mother.
And, again, Orion is straight, has always been straight, yet he immediately fell head over heels in love with a man who catches his eye across a crowded room.
Orion meets a few of Iason’s friends, though he already knew most of them through the restaurants/bars they owned. He’s a frequent customer. The one he hadn’t met was Duke. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to like Duke. While I basically understood his issues, he was an ass about them to Orion and anybody else who would listen. He has his own book with his husband, Early, I think? So maybe had I read that first I’d have a better opinion of Duke. I adored Early.
Back to Lyra, Orion’s fifteen-year-old sister. Lyra is, again, a HUGE Iason fan with a major crush. So much so that she has his posters all over her bedroom wall. Knowing her feelings will likely be hurt when she finds out that her brother is dating her fantasy man, Orion decides to keep it to himself. I got that to an extent, but the reader knows it has to come out at some point. At first I thought Lyra would be like Becca in The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest, and act silly when the truth came out. Let’s just say that Lyra was a lot more mature than anybody gave her credit for.
While I found the book to be okay enough – and I absolutely adored Orion’s astronomer southern belle mother – a few other things bugged me.
!!!! overload. I don’t mind a few here and there. Too many of them get distracting and take away from the story.
While I understood where the author was coming from, I believe the final 5% to 10% of the book would’ve been better spent showing Iason and Orion down the road than being an art history lesson of sorts. Sure, there was a short epilogue, but that told the reader nothing about what happened when the famous Iason Leyland came out to his fans when he’d always kept his love life private. He doesn’t even use pronouns in his songs. I also would’ve liked to see Orion as he came to terms with being the boyfriend of a very famous, very public, singer/songwriter.
As much as I didn’t want the book bogged down with Orion having an internal battle about his sexuality – he went from straight to gay pretty quick – there should’ve been something. I don’t know, maybe a few more pages of him thinking about and wondering how he could care so much for a man – emotionally and physically – when he never did before. There was no discomfort during sex, no pain. Everything was just perfect right off and every time after.
There were also a couple of things that came across as more silly than not, the constant use of the nicknames for one, but I can overlook those for the most part.
Books can have too much sex, especially when the sex takes place instead of conversations. The sex scenes were written very well, and I assure you that I’m not a prude, but you can have too much of a good thing.
Overall, I liked the book. Literally every single page is sugary sweet and sex. If you want any type of drama or angst, Play By Heart won’t work for you. If you want to read 336 pages of nothing but lovey-dovey and sexual stuff, this is most definitely for you.
The next one is Make Music Together. It’s another long one at almost 300 pages. I’m sure I’ll read it at some point.