Published by Century (7th March 2022)
My rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Annielee is running from her past, and headlong into her future – if she has her way. Arriving in Nashville with nothing but the clothes on her back and a backpack with some meagre supplies, she begins her journey towards stardom. Starting with the first rundown bar she finds with an open mic night. Using her angelic voice, her way with words and her go get em attitude, she finds herself on the fast track to making it big. However, you can’t run from the past forever, and it’s beginning to catch up with her, putting her in danger as she tries to keep her secrets from the friends that she’s made and who believe in her. She’s worried that their opinion of her will change once they find out the truth she’s so desperately trying to hide, but maybe all she needs is to have a little bit of faith, maybe they can help her finally put her demons to rest.
I was tempted to pick this one up purely because it had Dolly’s name on it. I’m a metal head at heart, but you can’t go past a little Dolly Parton every now and again. When I was younger, I bought a whole bunch of James Patterson books after reading Roses Are Red, which I could not put down and ended up staying all night to read. My opinion of his work sort of changed a bit once I discovered more genres and authors and I just stopped reading his stuff (also because of the whole using ghostwriters thing becoming public knowledge and for some reason it just put me off his books a bit, I’ll admit, it’s a silly reason, but it is what it is). So yeah, I was a little reluctant to pick this one up, but ended up borrowing a copy off a friend.
This story read more like an up and coming country star story, and less like a thriller. Which did disappoint me a little bit, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. We had the mystery of Annielee’s past hanging over the whole story, so I was super intrigued to find out what exactly she was running from, and what had her so terrified that she wouldn’t tell anyone what was going on. Especially after that opening chapter, man, it draws you in and then you just have no choice but to keep reading. I’ll admit, I kind of wanted the mystery/thriller part of the story to play a bigger role, and I feel like it was kind of lumped in at the end and felt like an afterthought of sorts. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the story, because I did, and I’ll be the first to admit, it was a bloody page turner. The story line of an underdog who just wants to make something of herself and share her talent, voice and story with the world, who is so determined and has a never quit attitude really did grab me. Plus, teeming that with the short chapters that I remember from the Patterson books I read many, many moons ago, it makes for an easily riveting story. I had trouble putting it down because I just wanted to see what would happen next and where Annielee would go. Though I’ll also admit that at times, the story did feel a little dry.
I could really see Dolly in this book, the mannerisms, wardrobe and dialogue of Ms. Ruthanne were Dolly to a tee, and I absolutely loved that. I could hear her speaking the words, and I’ve heard that she does actually do the voice acting for a character in the audiobook, so that’s kind of exciting and very cool. I’m super tempted to pick the audiobook up just to hear how the story sounds, as I feel that it would really add a layer of realism to the story that you wouldn’t get just from reading it. I liked the character of Annielee, but I just wish that she’d just talk to someone. I understand why she tried to just put her past behind her and keep running, but after getting to know those around her in Nashville, I was super annoyed that she couldn’t just trust someone and tell them the truth about what was going on. I really enjoyed the characters of the love interest (who’s name I cannot remember) and the dude who owned the first bar that she sang in. The characters were well written, if a little cardboard cut out, and at times Annielee’s luck did come across as a bit unrealistic. In the end, it’s a story though, so I guess I can look past it a little bit.
I feel like this story gave a bit of a look into the life of a musician and some of the hard stuff they have to deal with, especially when they’re just trying to get a foot in the door. Sleazy execs that will try and get a woman to use her sex appeal, even to entice her to bribe them with her body, the dangers of obsessed fans, and the tiring schedules that need to be kept just to keep going and please their fans. While I can’t speak from personal experience, as I am not a famous musician, no where near it, I feel like it did tap into some realities that Dolly has most likely experienced in her lustrous career.
All in all, this was an entertaining enough read with short chapters that make for easy reading. A page turning story that has you really rooting for the unknown singer who has a talent and you just want her to make it in the end. Something else cool about this is that Dolly wrote a soundtrack to go with it, which you can listen to on Spotify. There’s a track listing and also all of the song lyrics in the back of the copy that I read. There were some pretty sweet songs in this book, and I must remember to check them out. If you want something with an overarching mystery that isn’t really the focal point, and a feel good story about the little guy, give it a go.
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