Monday, September 12, 2016

The Man on Top of the World by Vanessa Clark

An emotional rollercoaster of a celebrity soap opera, The Man on Top of the World is a wonderfully written bit of erotic romance that comes alive on the strength of its characters. Vanessa Clark throws a lot into the story - light BDSM and polyamory, explicit bisexuality, genderqueer glam, and more - and tops it all off with an emotional wallop.

This is a story unabashedly indulges in the true decadence of the 70s glam rock scene. In addition to the well-used groupies, there's a lot of drugs and alcohol being passed around here, and just about every sexual combination you can imagine in explored. You can't help but read it and wonder how these guys ever made it on stage some nights, much less put on a show.

Izzy and Jonathan were such incredible characters, deeply flawed, tragically tormented, and ridiculously in love with one another. The sex between them was incredible, and the more tender romantic moments were contrasted by the jealous bickering.

I loved the way Clark played with the whole culture of celebrity, exploring what it means to live in the spotlight, while still wanting to be a private person. On the one extreme, you have Izzy embracing his softer, feminine side as the lovely Holly, escaping the spotlight to be privately passionate with Jonathan. On the other extreme, you have Izzy languishing in his hardcore rock-star persona, publicly dating, marrying (and ultimately abusing) a talented young woman. I loved him for the former and hated him for the latter, and just wanted to shake him and make him realize what he had with Jonathan.

The sex here was surprisingly explicit, but still somehow tastefully done. The level of invention and excess rings true for the scene and the era, and really served to feed the emotional soap opera. The Man on Top of the World was far more intense in the final chapters than even all that excess led me to expect, but it all rings true, and the final scene is absolutely glorious.

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