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Twisted Wishes front man Ray Van Zeller is in one hell of a tight spot. After a heated confrontation with his bandmate goes viral, Ray is hit with a PR nightmare the fledgling band so doesn’t need. But his problems only multiply when they snag a talented new drummer—insufferably sexy Zavier Demos, the high school crush Ray barely survived.

Zavier’s kept a casual eye on Twisted Wishes for years, and lately, he likes what he sees. What he doesn’t like is how out of control Ray seems—something Zavier’s aching to correct after their first pulse-pounding encounter. If Ray’s up for the challenge.

Despite the prospect of a glorious sexual encore, Ray is reluctant to trust Zavier with his band—or his heart. And Zavier has always had big dreams; this gig was supposed to be temporary. But touring together has opened their eyes to new passions and new possibilities, making them rethink their commitments, both to the band and to each other.

310 pages, Kindle Edition

First published April 9, 2018

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About the author

Anna Zabo

24 books627 followers
Anna Zabo (they/them) writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow. They live and work in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.

Anna is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns and prefers Mx. Zabo as an honorific.

Anna grew up in the wilds of suburban Philadelphia before returning to their ancestral homelands in Western Pennsylvania. They can be easily plied with coffee.

Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 253 reviews
Profile Image for ~Mindy Lynn~.
1,399 reviews593 followers
May 20, 2018
4 Stars!

I love a good rock-star book and although I struggled with this in the beginning, I ended up really liking it by the end.

Ray is the lead singer of Twisted Wishes (loved this band name) along with his best friend Dominic, and the statuesque goddess that is Mish. Ray has worked very hard for years to get his band off the ground. They are on the rise even though things haven't been so smooth and it only gets worse when photo's of him and his drummer Kevin having an altercation are floating around on the web. Their drummer ends up quitting and the label wants Ray to take the fall. So now not only does he look out of control with anger issues, he also has to take the fall for Kevin's drunken ways. Ray is starting to crumble with all the overwhelming pressure he's feeling and the guilt of letting his band members down. He thinks things can't possibly get worse until he see's a man from his past walk in to audition for their drummer position. Zavier's Demos. Ray is completely stunned to see the man he had crushed on in high school. The man he asked to join his band. The man who laughed and turned him down because he was meant for Julliard. Ray says no on the spot. But when Zavier takes a seat behind those drums and plays their song better than their previous drummer ever could he knows that this man is their best fit and there's no denying he's extremely talented. Ray knows he is gonna have to get over his anger from the past and the hard on he still gets for the guy.
Zavier has kept a finger on the pulse of the band Twisted Wishes and more specifically on the lead singer, Ray. He's extremely excited to be Twisted Wishes new drummer. He's making quite the leap though going from classical music to rock. But it's necessary since his last job ended in disaster and has kept him from finding other work in his field.
Zavier and Ray aren't quite friends and aren't quite enemies. Zav wants to be friends and works at trying to get there with Ray but the man is still holding on to some resentment towards him. Eventually Ray see's he's being a bit foolish and just making things more stressful with his behavior for his band. He knows Zav is good for them and slowly starts letting his walls down for Zav. All Zav wants to do is help Ray recognize how wonderfully talented he is and does it often by stepping in when their manager Carl tries to tear him down. Carl is a complete douche nozzle and the main reason Ray has so many insecurities about his role in the band. He constantly is finding ways to get Ray alone so he can spew his hate. I wanted Ray to stand up for himself but he's just not built that way. He feels everything. So he takes what Carl says to heart and does everything he can to improve with every show. Zav sees Ray coming apart and craves to put him back together. After a conversation with Carl leaves Ray reeling that pull to take care of Ray and to help him let go becomes too strong for Zav and he and Ray give in to the attraction they've both been feeling.
D/s relationships use to be a type I didn't think I would ever get use to in my romance books. Boy has that changed. I have learned so much about this relationship type that I've become very comfortable with it and the understanding of it that I now enjoy reading books with this dynamic. Zav and Ray thrived when they were together in this capacity. Ray needed someone to take control and allow him to let go of everything that was troubling him. Zav needed Ray to let go for him. He needed Ray to allow him to take him there and to take care of him. It wasn't over the top nor was it dark. It was pretty light compared to some of the other books that I have read with this dynamic.
Zavier is an aromantic. I have never heard of the word nor knew what it meant. I was pretty happy learning about it though but even after reading the book I can't say I really know much about an aromantic. The way it's described here and the way Zavier is portrayed is that he doesn't fall in love. He doesn't believe in buying roses and chocolate to express how he feels for another person and nor does he believe words are needed to express himself. I think some might think this makes Zavier incapable of having a relationship since he can't fall in love. I disagree. The relationship between him and Ray is very much full of caring. Zavier shows it through actions instead of words dripping with love. The way he takes care of Ray; the way he touches him proves it. I didn't feel like Zavier being aromantic took away from the book or how he and Ray were with each other. I felt their connection, their chemistry, and how much they cared for each other. It was a different kind of relationship but not one I found to be lacking in any way.

It was a great story with a slow build up that I ended up enjoying. That slow burn gave us a chance to learn more about these characters, their relationships with each other, and in the end, the sweet relationship that was built between Ray and Zavier.

I am extremely excited to read Dom's book. Loved him in this one and can't wait to learn more about the shy guy.

Happy reading dolls! xx

**I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley and the Publisher.**
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
852 reviews3,882 followers
April 8, 2018

rep : aromantic & pansexual mc, gay mc, m/m

"Life was chaos, and Ray knew that for a fact. He'd always lived in the whirlwind.
- Oh, Ray. To say I've wanted to hug him at every turn would be an understatement.

4.5 stars. Oh god, I loved this. Syncopation was my first read by Anna Zabo, but I'll be sure to read more of their books in the future. I swear, I'll be writing a full review at some point, but you should know that Syncopation :

▨ features an aromantic main character as well as on-page discussions about aromisia, which pleased me a lot (note that I'm not aromantic, even though I recognize myself in many parts of this identity. God, I saw so much of myself in Zavier, it's... both enthralling and unsettling. But as it is, I can't say for sure if the representation was well-handled. I'll be sure to check reviews from ownvoices readers, and you should, too)

▨ centers the story around Ray, Mish, Dom and Zavier's friendships dynamics and complicity, and that was glorious and endearing and GAH, I loved them all OKAY?

▨ focuses on consent a lot and it gave me life - who said consent couldn't be sexy, because I need to throw this book into their hands, like, YESTERDAY.

▨ pictures such a gradual growth for Ray & Zavier's relationship, from sort of enemies to reluctant allies to friends to best friends with benefits - slowburn at its best, really (they're so precious) (MY HEART)

▨ gives central place to trust, first because the MCs engage in BDSM sex, of course, but dismissing the other ways they learn to rely on trust would be a shame ; perhaps I'm wrong, but what I got from Syncopation is both an ode to - rightfully earned - trust, and the recognition of the utter difficulty - but ultimately so rewarding - journey that one must take to let it go. As someone who doesn't give her trust easily (understatement of the year), it meant everything.

Some readers complained about the pacing, and yes, that's true, Syncopation is slow - but that's actually something I loved very much about it - I savored it, from start to finish. The only reason I ever stopped reading is, you know, to sleep. So.

TW -

*arc kindly provided by Carina Press through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,478 reviews1,895 followers
November 27, 2018
I'm not going to do a great job reviewing this book but I really loved SYNCOPATION. This is more than just your standard m/m contemporary or sexy rockstar story. This is so character driven, so raw, and full of representation (this was my first read with an aromantic character) and.. trust. Friendships and relationships and honesty and heart and just gah. Feels. Feels spilling out all over the place.

There were only two things I didn't totally enjoy. We had a very present and sliiiightly OTT (at times) villain and I might've liked something a bit more subtle, and sinister, in his place but that's just me. And I'm kind of mixed about the epilogue. I won't tell you why but yeah, a tiny bit mixed.

Otherwise? I loved this. I'm so glad there's more to come in this little musical rockstar universe. And if not for the fact that I've binged so much m/m in the last few days I would probably dive right in. But you can bet I'll be back, and queue'ing up the second Twisted Wishes, before long.
Profile Image for *J* Too Many Books Too Little Time.
1,921 reviews3,458 followers
February 19, 2018
This one didn't work for me. And I think it's more my fault than the book.

I was a bit impulsive requesting this one on NetGalley. I saw rockstar and Anna Zabo and hit request. Not quite realizing there were going to BDSM elements, and a bit heavier ones at that. On top of that, one of the MCs is aromantic....and well, I read for the romance.

I also found this one to be really wordy, and not dialogue wordy. It made the pace feel slow.

No doubt most will probably really like this one. And despite my misgivings about this one, I will consider reading Dom's book. I'm really intrigued by him.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Ky.
527 reviews65 followers
April 23, 2018
3.5 stars

This is a tough book to label. It's a friends-to-lovers story, but not really. It's an enemies-to-lovers story. No. Not really. It's a second chance romance. Nope. It's not that either. It's the story of a rock band. Yes, that's it! It's the story of a rock band's first steps toward stardom...

Ray and Zavier knew each other in highschool - hence the second chance - but they were neither friends nor they interracted much. Their only conversation was Zavier turning down Ray's invitation to join his band. The next time they meet Ray has formed his band, has released a few albums and is in need of a drummer while Zavier is in need of a job. It worked out great since each had what the other needed.

They start a tentative friendship after Ray decides to put the past behind him and slowly they settle into a friends with benefits arrangement. While the beginning of their relationship was slow and took the necessary time for their connection to grow and strengthen, from that point onward everything happened very fast. I would have liked a slower pace but it didn't affect my opinion of the book much.

I liked both MCs as well as the other two members of the band. I don't know if this is supposed to be the first book in a series but if it is I'm very interested to know more about Dom. Plus, it would be nice to see Ray and Zavier again! (I read an ARC for this more than a month ago so I didn't know it at the time but it turns out there will be more books and the next one is Dom's story!)

What made this particular book stand out in the midst of all the other rock band books is the fact that one of our MCs identifies as aromantic. It was my first read with a character of this particular romantic identity and I found it very interesting and very informative. I don't know if the author handled it well or realistically - I'll leave that to the people who have more knowledge on the subject than me to judge it - but no matter what, it made me think about the compexities of a relationship between a romantic and an aromantic person. I believed in their HEA and a huge part in that played the fact that they talked about Zavier's aromanticism and Ray was open to it and understanding from the start. Zavier was honest from the start that there would be no romance between them, even if he held off on putting a name to the reason behind his declaration until things started to get more serious.

To tell you the truth, at some point I got a bit confused as to how their relationship was going to work with only one of them having romantic feelings for the other. But then I thought that every relationship is different anyway. Every connection has something unique that is only for the people involved to understand. The important thing is that they found a balance that worked for them and they were happy with it. The rest don't matter and neither does whether I understand the workings of their relationship or not.

And in the middle of all those positives I have got to mention Carl... What a frustrating character! No, more than that, what a frustrating situation! I can't believe that nobody interfered effectively before things got so much out of hand. What we had in this story is a case of pure psychological abuse. The fact that the people involved didn't have any kind of relationsip except a working one, doesn't make what Carl was doing any less abusive. He hit Ray with his words, making him doubt himself and his self-worth. He twisted the reality and made Ray believe his words. He had a strange kind of power over Ray that evolved through time and constant degradation. He had managed to make Ray stop believing in himself, not have any confidence. He had conditioned him so well that Ray was physically and mentally srinking every time he had to deal with Carl. I got angry that nothing was changing and that Carl managed to get in Ray's head and affect him so negativelly and so much.

Carl was the evil character that I could have done without. I would have prefered for him to be just mean and a troublemaker for the band than this over the top character who stopped at nothing and nobody.

Other than that I liked the story. It was interesting, had a bit of agony about what would happen with Carl, a bit of mystery about why he was doing all those things (though the answer wasn't a very satisfying one) and a lot of likeable characters.

This review has been cross-posted on The Novel Approach Reviews.

*An ARC of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. *
Profile Image for Claudie Arseneault.
Author 19 books408 followers
July 25, 2018
All right, this got long, so full commentary is on my Patreon.

A disclaimer: I am not usually a contemporary romance reader, especially when it is heavy in sex scenes. I picked it up as an aromantic reader because I knew Zavier was a pansexual aro and had heard good comments. This is mostly a review of the representation.

Overrall, I enjoyed both the story and the representation. Up until the end, anyway, and I'd actually recommend reading it without the epilogue. More on that later.

I loved the way Zavier and Ray built their relationship on trust and how the D/s was woven into that, and I really appreciated that Ray already knew what aromanticism was and unwilling to push Zavier into a romantic relationship. Zavier's aromanticism is clearly established, and what romantic behaviour he dislikes and cannot understand also spelled out. We also get mentions of greyromanticis, demiromanticism, and asexuality. It's nice because it overall gives the feeling that some thoughts were put into exactly what kind of aromantic person Zavier was, rather than trying to fit a wide range of experiences into a single character.

Through most of the story, Zavier's and Ray's relationship evolves according to their respective uniqueness. Mutual trust, exploration of kink, Zav's aromanticism... all of it is woven through with respect, and repeatedly validated as just as powerful and important as a romantic relationship. It was a joy to have a deeply caring aromantic character be treated this way.

Unfortunately, the end of the novel undoes all that good work by presenting the future of Zavier's and Ray's relationship as one that has several new romantic trappings, none of which we've seen Zavier negotiate or discuss as okay, and overall it strongly reinforced the idea that if you waited long enough, the aros would come around to "normal" relationships, and that this was the goal to shoot for. It was, to me, immensely disappointed and rather upsetting. Plus, it honestly didn't feel like it fit what we'd seen of Ray and Zavier so far, or the dynamics of the novel. [EDIT: To be clear, Zavier had never expressed any kind of desire to be in a relationship that looked even remotely romantic, so my issue here is that it feels like a betrayal of his aromanticism, not that aromantic people in general should never want that. And it's never explored why his stance on what he desires would change, so it feels written for Ray's and alloromantic people's sakes.]

I feel strongly like the epilogue undermines most of what the novel had accomplished, which is a real shame because this had so far been one of the best contemp aro rep out there.
Profile Image for River .
441 reviews71 followers
April 20, 2018
I had a hard time getting into this story, I felt like it started slow and didn't really pick up.

I really liked reading about an aromantic character, it was my first. I can't really judge the execution of it because I just don't know much about the theme but I'm always down for representation.

I particularly didn't like the pace of the relationship, I did like the fact that these guys got to know each other as friends first but the whole we are fucking to we are committing to each other long-term happened from one minute to the next.

The villain of the story was a bit OTT for my taste.

I know it feels like I'm just pointing out things that I didn't like and I don't wanna make this book sounds like a bad story because it isn't. It just wasn't my cup of tea.
I am definitely open to read the second installment in the series, Domino seemed like a very interesting character and I think I would like to more about him.
Profile Image for Debra.
2,030 reviews234 followers
April 9, 2018
Release day review posted at Sinfully.

Twisted Wishes is a band on the rise. Singer and band leader Ray is overwhelmed with trying to make sure the band is doing well and that he’s not letting down his friends/bandmates. He is doing what he can to shelter them from the demands of their gods-awful manager while still focusing on the music. Things go from bad to worse when their drummer leaves and Ray’s forced into putting a spin on it that makes him look bad. As if that’s not enough, into their auditions walks the man he crushed on and idolized in high school, the man who turned down an invitation to join the band back then, a slight (and a crush) that Ray has never forgotten, classical drummer Zavier Demos. There’s no denying that Zav is just what the band needs and what Ray wants even though he won’t show it. The question is whether it could ever work?

Zavier’s admiration of Ray goes back a long way. He doesn’t realize the history Ray has carried about them since high school, but he is thrilled to be the drummer for Twisted Wishes. Things ended badly with his last orchestra job and the change was necessary. He sees how Ray works, how he takes care of the band and how the music and words sing within him and he wants to be a part of that. He also sees that Ray has some insecurities and that he needs to be able to let go of that control and worry before it destroys him, and while Zav would love nothing more than to give that to Ray, he’s learned his lesson.

This is absolutely a slow build. I loved watching Ray and Zav getting over their initial friction to work together as bandmates and watch them grow as friends. The tension between them is palpable both to their friends and to the reader. As they move into a friends-with-benefits relationship, Zav is very clear about being aromantic and what it means. This communication between Zav and Ray is a hallmark of their relationship and obviously quite necessary for their D/s dynamic, but it also allowed for the story to proceed without unnecessary angst and really focus on the characters.

Aromantic doesn’t mean Zav is incapable of maintaining a relationship and having long-term happiness, it’s just a matter of finding someone who understands. Zav and Ray find that they work in almost every way; they are friends, lovers, bandmates, Dom and sub, and most of all they respect and care for one another. I would say they have one of the healthiest relationships I've read in a long time.

Both characters have incredible growth. Zav comes to a better understanding of himself. Finding the right partner in Ray opens up a future he never thought about. In submitting to Zav, Ray finds what he needs to let go of frustrations and clear his head in order to work towards real solutions for his fears about the band's future. The kink includes denial, spanking and bondage. Zav has a bit of a sadistic side and Ray finds such comfort in submitting, it was a thing of beauty to read.

As their bassist, Mish tells them “there are all kinds of love” and while Zav may not feel or understand things about "romantic love" it’s very clear that the intense feelings of respect, want and caring fuel both of them and allows them to have a relationship on their own terms. And shouldn't every relationship be built on mutual care and respect and the desire to see your partner happy, successful and fulfilled?

The secondary characters of bandmates Mish and Dom are also very well-written and integral to the story. They have been Ray's family and they all look out for each other. Mish is still a bit mysterious at the end, but she is a strong female character who takes care of the boys when it’s needed, but doesn’t take any crap. Dom is a bit more fleshed out and there is quite the awesome contradiction between his public persona, Domino, and the real Dominic. I’m thrilled that the next book, Counterpoint, will be his story. Anna Zabo also captured the music side of the story just as well as the relationship side. From creating the music and lyrics and performing, to the down and dirty of the business side of things. I got a good dose of the life of a rock and roll band.

I adored the ending and where Ray and Zav were. Their relationship works so well and they are both honest to who they are and what they need and neither individual is lost within what they have, rather they just grow so much stronger and happier together. I highly recommend this story and will be going to check out Anna Zabo's other books as I wait for the next one in this series.

My first Anna Zabo book will NOT be my last. Really good!

See all my reviews for Sinfully here.
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,053 reviews215 followers
April 7, 2019
After reading the ARC of Reverb and meeting all the rockstars of Twisted Wishes again, I finally decided to pick up this first installment of the series. I really wanted to know the beginnings of Ray and Zav’s story despite already knowing about their HEA and this was such a wonderful book to read.

Ray is a very talented singer/songwriter and his passion for his art and love for his band really reflects off the page. But he is also a product of the class divide and seeing him question his talent and abilities and taking all the blame for any issues made me so sad. When Zav joins the band, it was a delight to watch him become a part of this family. He has such a cool head on his shoulders and the calm that he brings to the chaos of touring felt like a breath of fresh air. The immense trust and friendship that builds between them slowly is a joy to read about and I really loved every scene that they were in together.

The band itself is another major plus point for this book. They may all be popular rockstars but first and foremost, they are family and their dynamic is beautiful. Ray, Dom and Mish always have each other backs and I felt like I was getting to be a part of this wonderful group of friends along with Zav. Mish is always ready to fight for their group whereas Dom has a very shy personality. But their trust in each other is complete and I liked that there were no professional issues between them at all.

There is just something about the writing in this book that made me feel very good. As someone who loves the emphasis on friendships in books, the story and characters in this book felt like catnip to me. The author also treats Zav’s aromanticism in a way where he is just who he is and he doesn’t have to justify or explain his feelings. And Ray completely understands it. This was probably my first book with an aromantic character, so I can’t really comment on the authenticity of the rep but I think it was done respectfully. The book also has some bdsm elements, but the overall feel is very sweet and I guess I wasn’t expecting that. My only issue really was the slightly caricaturish villain who really had no proper reasons for being so awful (even downright evil at times).

I’m usually not someone who reads books out of order and I still don’t know why I did that with this series, but I would definitely recommend anyone to start from the beginning. If you like rockstar romances, but not on the darker side, then this is the series for you. This series is full of friendships and love, sweet and adorable with some kinky stuff mixed in and completely queer af. While I totally enjoyed Twisted Wishes on the whole and would love everyone to read these books, Counterpoint is still my favorite 😊😊
Profile Image for Xan.
619 reviews274 followers
June 19, 2018
Note: I suggest that arospec readers avoid reading the epilogue.

For the most part, I loved this book. And I had a lot of trouble with the epilogue, especially with regard to the aromantic representation. I want to explore these aspects of my reading experience in detail, so this is going to be a longer review. 

Read my full review on my blog.

Content Warnings
Profile Image for Natasha.
477 reviews382 followers
July 22, 2018
Review also on my blogTwitterBookstagram

Rep: aromantic pansexual mc, gay mc, m/m romance 

Content warnings: explicit sexual content, BDSM, drug use, alcohol consumption

I received an arc from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I'm not sure how to start this review but I want to start with stating this: I LOVED this book. Upon reading the summery, I was a little confused how the author would conceive a romance book where one of the characters were aromantic, but they were able to execute it perfectly. 

Zavier and Ray have a history, they knew each other in high school but were two years apart. Now as adults, Zavier joins Ray's famous band, Twisted Wishes that he fronts, to replace the former drummer. Right off the bat, there's something between them, which puts you through a slow burn romance. 

I personally got a sense of joy from the band aspect reading this because it reminded me of how I felt about bands when I was a teen. I love especially how Twisted Wishes was a four piece queer band. I know that if a band like that was around that stage of my life it would mean as much to me as it does to their fans. 

As for the relationship between Zavier and Ray, a little into the tour they're on they start a friends-with-benefits sort of relationship, Zavier making it clear he's not a 'relationship person' but not explaining, yet, that he's aromantic and would not fall in love with Ray. 

Despite Zavier not falling in love with Ray, they do form a companionship that is like a romantic one. And the book never treats it as anything less. Ray does fall in love with Zavier, and he never shows to feel unfulfilled by the relationship they do have. Even more so, it's shown how deeply they overall care for each other. The relationship was overall executed really well and I loved the relationship between them. This has definitely made its way into one of my favourite books. 
Profile Image for Silvia .
642 reviews1,430 followers
April 21, 2018
I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

4.5 stars

Syncopation is a book that I expected to love, and while I did love a lot of it, I also can’t give it the full five stars I was expecting to give it when I started reading. I did enjoy it a lot though and I can’t wait for the sequels.

First off, I had never read a book about a band even though I know there’s a lot of them. This was my first. I loved the music/band element so much! I also loved that Zav came from a classical background, it was kinda cool to see that a musician can do both genres. There was also talk about socio-economical privilege (why Zav could afford a musical school) and I’m glad it was there.

Also, I loved the fact that everyone in the band is queer. Ray and Dom are gay, Mish is queer (not otherwise specified in this book but I really hope she gets her own sequel), and Zav is aromantic pansexual.

I can’t really comment on the aromantic aspect myself but ownvoices aro reviewers have found it great and the representation meant a lot to them. Here's two reviews you can check out ➝ review by Acquareview by Min

I need to say that while in the middle of the book I was struck with a bad case of “oh god I’m so not in the mood for an adult contemporary book”, so a lot of my enjoyment was influenced by this mood. The sex scenes (well, all the bdsm stuff tbh) were also not really for me, but that’s something I was prepared for before starting the book, and once I read the first couple of those I skimmed the other ones because the point they made was clear: this book and Ray and Zav’s relationship is all about the trust between them.

A few other things bothered me and those had nothing to do with my mood. Mainly I found a few plot points predictable and Carl to be a little bit too much of a stereotype of a bad guy for my tastes. I also thought that sometimes the double POV was a bit repetitive; what I mean is that sometimes one character would wonder about something that we already knew from the other’s POV and that was a little annoying to read. But it’s minor flaws in an otherwise great book, and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Antisocial Recluse.
2,712 reviews
April 9, 2018
I do have a soft spot for rock star romance, so finding one written by Anna Zabo thrilled me! They captivated me with the “Takeover” series and Anna brought their skills, as well as their style of kink, to this literary music fest. Zavier is making the leap from symphony orchestra to rock band; an easy musical change but not so much a personal one. Ray’s lingering resentment of Zavier for his Juilliard background, plus guilt from losing the first drummer is added to the pressure he’s under from the band’s hostile manager, and his temper frays badly. Ray and Zavier do slowly find balance and develop a friendship but sexual tension builds too, both initially holding back for the sake of professionalism. Ultimately, Zander can’t resist helping Ray find an outlet for his tension.

The pacing of this novel is phenomenal, the feel of the slow burn and UST visceral, the payoff outstanding. Character building is some of the best I’ve read, with band members and friends, Dom and Mish, equally vested in the narrative without distracting from either the plot or the romance. And it is a romance, in spite of the fact that Zavier is aromantic. Being aro is different for everyone, but doesn’t prevent someone from having a strong relationship. I’m aro but enjoy reading romances, and this representation was marvelous. Depictions of performances, writing and composing, and fans, the record label executives, all made strong impressions and rounded out the plot nicely.

The penultimate scenes, for my smutty little heart, were the kinks! Anna writes some of the best BDSM imo; intense without becoming too esoteric. There’s no formal club or special furniture, just a few toys, a bed and an Amazon order. The emotional satisfaction that both Ray and Zavier get from the exchange is shown and expressed beautifully. It’s not a TPE and I considered the BDSM fairly moderate but if it’s completely new to someone, it might be uncomfortable. This is going on my best of 2018 list for sure. If you love rock star romance, a little angst, oodles of lust and a helping of kink, this is the book you want!

*An ARC was provided via NetGalley and I have chosen to publish a fair and honest review for Jessie G Books Reviews blog*

Profile Image for Anna.
Author 24 books627 followers
December 21, 2017
This is an m/m rockstar romance. It's got some bondage, domination, and a little sadism. There's angst. It's not quite as angsty as Just Business.

Ray is gay. Zavier is pansexual, kinky, and aromantic.

Trigger warnings that I can think of behind the spoiler tag.

Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 76 books2,539 followers
April 5, 2022
The writing really pulled me into this story of Ray, a rising rock singer, and Zavier, the drummer who just might be the answer to his band's problems.

The band's original drummer had issues with alcohol, but the night that Ray confronted him and he left the band was videoed in a way that made Ray look like the one with the temper and the bottle. Now Ray has a bad reputation, and a band without percussion. Then Zavier shows up to audition - gorgeous Julliard-trained, past-high-school-crush Zavier. And he's the only one good enough to keep the band's music on the level it needs to be.

Zavier left classical music after a sexual relationship with a conductor who subsequently made him unemployable. But Zavier's a fan of rock and roll, and is excited to try something new. He also admires Ray's singing and the music of this band. He signs on as a session player for their next tour, in the band but not of it. And coming fresh into the situation, he realizes that the band's manager is subtly undermining them, and emotionally abusive to Ray, manipulating the publicity to look bad and making Ray doubt their skills.

Zavier is a Dom and aromantic - a man who loves sex and who revels in topping men and providing them what they need via submission, but who doesn't connect with hearts and flowers. And he's both attracted to Ray, and has the caretaker in him awoken by Ray's situation.

I had two minor issues with this story, even as I really got caught up in Ray's self-doubt and Zavier's slow progress at figuring out what Ray needs and what he wants. One was that the antagonism of the manager ended up under-motivated (but he made a delicious antagonist to hate, and to hope he gets his comeuppance.)

The other was the epilogue. (I've seen a couple of aromatic-spectrum reviewers suggest skipping the epilogue.) Other than that, they in general felt like the book was a welcome portrayal of a character who was aromantic but not asexual. The epilogue tips that portrayal a bit, and felt out of character (to me, as someone who is alloromantic and not aromantic). So while I loved reading about an aromantic character figuring out what a relationship should look like, I also thought that aspect worked better before the epilogue (but if you are a romantic reader, and want the warm wrap-up, then the epilogue provides a solid one.)

Beyond that, I really loved these two characters. I'm a sucker for service tops (or caretaker Doms) where the focus really is on the sub and their needs. And Ray's isolation with the responsibility he put on himself and the way he almost crumpled under emotional abuse made me want to hug him.

So if you like musician MCs, light BDSM, emotional angst, and are interested in an aro main character, check this one out.
Profile Image for Briar.
835 reviews
April 21, 2020
Thank you very much to Harlequin - Carina Press for providing a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.

Oh gosh, Syncopation by Anna Zabo was just incredible. I don't think I can fault the book in any way.

But first, a definition.

Syncopation: the quality that music has when the weak beats in a bar are stressed instead of the strong ones.

When you read the book, you'll understand. All I'll say is, Ray and Zavier.

I read this novel in two days because I became invested within the first few pages. Queer rock romances are fast becoming my favourite sub-genre. I love the concerts, the bandmates' camaraderie, and I especially loved the romance.

Ray is a musical prodigy, but he's had to work for it his entire life. He started late, couldn't get into Juilliard so attended a community college where he majored in accounting, and after many years, landed a record deal. When the drummer in his band is forced to quit because of his alcoholism, Zavier Demos, Juilliard graduate and a classically trained drummer, joins the band amidst his own scandal. Zavier and Ray went to high school together, and Ray has had a crush on Zavier for years, but Ray despises (so he says) Zavier because the man refused to join his band in high school.

I loved the relationship between Ray and Zavier, and how, once they become friends, their friendship never fades even when they begin sleeping with one another. Zavier is aromantic, so romantic relationships have never interested him. He and Ray develop a version of a dominant and submissive relationship while on tour together, and their relationship is put to the test due to their manager and label.

What I loved most about this novel is the constant reaffirmations of consent, and the clear way Zavier lays out their relationship. That's something more romance novels need! As Zavier says, 'consent is sexy.'

I blew through Syncopation and you will too. The novel is slow, more focussing on Ray and Zavier, but I love slow books where you really get to know the characters. The secondary characters, Mish and Dom, were amazing too, and I really can't wait to see if the other books in the series will cover either of them (please be Dom's story next!).

All in all, I highly recommend Syncopation! Get a copy ASAP!

Profile Image for Anniek.
1,875 reviews695 followers
May 17, 2020
This book wasn't entirely for me, but that's okay. I'm just really picky with romance novels (one of the MCs is aromantic, but this does read like a romance), because I'm aroace, and some books work well for me and others unfortunately don't.

This one didn't work particularly well for me, but I did love both of the main characters and I did mostly enjoy the book.

I picked this up because of the aro rep - it's still Arospec Week, after all - and I mostly loved that too! Mostly, because I did feel a little uncomfortable upon reading the epilogue. Throughout the book, Zav is really unapologetic in his aromanticism, and I really loved that about the book. This was, I think, my first book reading about a main character who was aromantic but not asexual as well, and I definitely gained more understanding.

I thought this book did a great job of conveying that people can determine the terms of their own relationships and there are many, many ways to have a relationship. But then the epilogue happened, and it made me feel like Zav was trying to become more romantic to please Ray, the other MC. For example: throughout the book, Zav uses buying someone flowers as the type of romance he just doesn't do. This is a clear boundary. Then in the epilogue, Zav has suddenly bought Ray flowers and is asking for his approval. Overall, I did love the rep, but this just disappointed me a little.

Rep: gay MC, aromantic pansexual MC

CWs: abuse, drugging, near-fatal allergic reaction, hospital, sex, BDSM/kink, (internalized) aphobia
Profile Image for Madigan Likes to Read.
898 reviews82 followers
October 26, 2022
This is a book. This is a book that I read. It had chapters and many words.

I could write a rant, but I don’t think this book is worth the effort.

This book features an aromantic character. And it was written by an author who either doesn’t understand what it means to be aromantic or does not possess the skill required to put the experience into words. That this book ended with a typical allo HEA makes me believe it’s the former.

And that’s fine. I am aromantic and we are not a monolith. I know an aromantic person who felt seen by this book, so I won’t discount anyone’s experience. But for me, what’s presented here, is not really how it works.

Additionally, the major subplot with the band manager is entirely nonsensical. That so much of the book was dedicated to it was a severe annoyance.

Can I say anything positive? Yeah. The BDSM was pretty good.

One star for the story, but I’m willing to bump it up to two stars because even though this is not a good portrayal of an aromantic person, I did keep turning the pages.
Profile Image for BevS.
2,750 reviews2 followers
April 10, 2018
4.25 stars from me. Good start to a new series from the author. Rock stars, a little BDSM, conniving band managers and great band members. Happy for Ray and Zavier [strange spelling...].
Profile Image for The Novel Approach.
3,082 reviews136 followers
April 11, 2018
~ 3.5 Stars ~

Syncopation is a tough book to label. It’s a friends-to-lovers story but not really. It’s an enemies-to-lovers story. No. Not really. It’s a second chance romance. Nope. It’s not that either. It’s the story of a rock band. Yes, that’s it! It’s the story of a rock band’s first steps toward stardom…

Ray and Zavier knew each other in high school—hence the second chance—but they were neither friends nor did they interact much. Their only conversation was Zavier turning down Ray’s invitation to join his band. The next time they meet, Ray has formed his band, has released a few albums, and is in need of a drummer while Zavier is in need of a job. It worked out great since each had what the other needed.

They start a tentative friendship after Ray decides to put the past behind him, and they settle into a friends-with-benefits arrangement. While the beginning of their relationship was slow and took the necessary time for their connection to grow and strengthen, from that point onward everything happened very fast. I would have liked a slower pace, but it didn’t affect my opinion of the book much.

I liked both MCs as well as the other two members of the band. I don’t know if this is supposed to be the first book in a series, but if it is, I’m very interested to know more about Dom. Plus, it would be nice to see Ray and Zavier again!

What made this particular book stand out in the midst of all the other rock band books is the fact that one of our MC identifies as aromantic. It was my first read with a character of this particular identity, and I found it very interesting and very informative. I don’t know if the author handled it well or realistically—I’ll leave that to the people who have more knowledge on the subject than me to judge it—but no matter what, it made me think about the complexities of a relationship between a romantic and an aromantic person. I believed in their HEA, and a huge part in that played to the fact that they talked about Zavier’s aromanticism and Ray was open to it and understanding from the start. Zavier was honest from the start that there would be no romance between them, even if he held off on putting a name to the reason behind his declaration until things started to get more serious.

To tell you the truth, at some point I got a bit confused as to how their relationship was going to work with only one of them having romantic feelings for the other. But then I thought that every relationship is different anyway. Every connection has something unique that is only for the people involved to understand. The important thing is that they found a balance that worked for them and they were happy with it. The rest don’t matter and neither does whether I understand the workings of their relationship or not.

And in the middle of all those positives I have got to mention Carl… What a frustrating character! No, more than that. What a frustrating situation! I can’t believe that nobody interfered effectively before things got so out of hand. What we had in this story is a case of pure psychological abuse. The fact that the people involved didn’t have any kind of relationship except a working one doesn’t make what Carl was doing any less abusive. He hit Ray with his words, making him doubt himself and his self-worth. He twisted the reality and made Ray believe his words. He had a strange kind of power over Ray that evolved through time and constant degradation. He had managed to make Ray stop believing in himself, not have any confidence. He had conditioned him so well that Ray was physically and mentally shrinking every time he had to deal with Carl. I got angry that nothing was changing and that Carl managed to get in Ray’s head and affect him so negatively and so much. Carl was the evil character that I could have done without. I would have preferred for him to be just mean and a troublemaker for the band rather than this over the top character who stopped at nothing and nobody.

Other than that, I liked the story. It was interesting, had a bit of agony about what would happen with Carl, a bit of mystery about why he was doing all those things (though the answer wasn’t a very satisfying one), and a lot of likeable characters.

Reviewed by Ky for The Novel Approach
Profile Image for  Rosebud.
1,052 reviews196 followers
August 6, 2018
Syncopation : The quality of a rhythm being somehow unexpected, in that it deviates from the strict succession of regularly spaced strong and weak beats in a meter

Frontman Ray Van Zeller of the up and coming band Twisted Wishes might have just put the proverbial nail in the band's coffin when he confronts Kevin, the band's drummer, especially after their confrontation and parting of ways goes viral. The fall out is that Ray is now being labeled as diva drunk with anger issues, but more importantly, if he can't find a replacement drummer, the band's future in the music industry is dead.

Zavier Demos future was assured when he graduated high school and was promptly accepted into Julliard's percussion department, graduating, and gaining a timpanist chair with a prominent Orchestra. A personality conflict with the orchestra's Maestro, when Zavier refused the Maestro's flowers and chocolates romance commitment, resulted in Zavier resigning. Finding a new position is proving to be difficult as said Maestro has black balled him in the industry.

Seeing an open audition call for a up and coming band, Zavier decides to show up as the band's front man Ray Van Zeller and Zavier have history attending the same high school though they each went into a different musical direction after.

Zavier's drumming skills suitably impress the band and band manager earning a spot for the upcoming tour though the record label executives make it clear he's a temporary session musician and not really part of the band.

What follows are the fictional real life adventures of an up and coming band that includes all the behind the 'Boy's Gone Wild' activities that happen while on the road and subject to prolonged close quarter living. All while the paparazzi attempt to expose those same behind the scene news.

* * * * *

New to me author and series. I had actually met this author at a recent book convention and, while I hadn't heard of A. Zabo, I was intrigued enough to seek out and read one of Mx. Zabo's works.

This was a story that was so down to earth and real that I really felt I was reading a story about real people and real circumstances. Totally made it real for me feeling that the characters were consistent and relevant with how rock bands and touring could be. More than that was the fact that the cross country road tour never disappointed me as the author added different variables and differing circumstances that kept me engaged and riveted to knowing how things would work out. Didn't hurt that the BDSM man on man erotica scenes were totally wicked. I'm gonna have long term fantasies regarding Rockers for all time wondering .......

The cast of secondary characters was so spot on in providing depth and layers to the world building and overall reading experience. The band's other members, Domino & Mish, were totally a breath of fresh air coming across as in this together (being a band) and following a 'live and let live' mantra that changed when any outsider attacked any of them. Then they banded together in a united front. Of course the band's manager Carl had a difficult task dealing with the differing situations while keeping things together. It further provides insight into how much a band trusts their manager putting their complete faith in them knowing people such as Carl always have their best interests at heart. Throw in the paparazzi who are as devious and low down dirty as they come though and who knows as 'someone' has an ulterior motive that is in direct conflict with seeing the band prosper - who that is I won't share but whoever it is should be seeing the seven levels of Hell when Karma catches up with them.

I really enjoyed this story as it was the full package deal. Engaging Rock-Star Musicans story line. BDSM m/m erotica with toe curling scenes galore. A mystery of sorts. Educating readers on a viable fictional unconventional romance scenario that totally makes sense and explains the "Syncopation" title.

Can't wait for the September 24, 2018 release of Counterpoint (Twisted Wishes #2): Anna Zabo when guitarist Dominic “Domino” Bradley meets HIS Dom.
Profile Image for The_Book_Queen.
1,531 reviews250 followers
April 12, 2018
Oh man, this was one sexy, kinky ride! While also being super sweet, watching these two together?!

There's so much positive kink and consent here and I fucking LOVED it. That's how it should be! It's a bit of a slower burn, but once these two start playing . . . oh, yes, things get hot and heavy (and kinky -- did I mention kinky?) By kink, I mean: D/s, bondage, spanking/flogging, some toys . . . and, while not on page, mention of a cock cage.

I will say the only reason this is only 4 stars is due to the first 1/3 of the book or so. It was a bit slow to get started, to hit a grove if you will. And no, I don't mean the sex/relationship, just the story itself. After that, things picked up and mostly held steady to the very end. But I definitely took longer to read the first part of the book than the last.

My only other complaint is in regards to their manipulative, dipshit of a band "manager". Carl, buddy, fuck off and die. Oh he was horrible and I hated how much he fucked with Ray (especially the last thing he did!!!).

Otherwise, this was a great read and watching Zavier and Ray together was hot and sweet, all in one. I loved it.

Also, I now need the rest of the bandmates to get their story ASAP. Dom . . . oh Dom, my mysterious, quiet man. Come to me!

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

If you wish to look at some quotes/thoughts I highlighted, please check out my Twitter feed
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,387 reviews319 followers
March 20, 2018
This is my first read of Anna Zabo and is a rockstar romance. Twisted Wishes is an up and coming band that is taking over music industry by storm. We have the lead singer-songwriter, Ray who is a total mess. Actually he is a very nice guy, responsible, hardworking and he is very passionate about his music. All his problem stem from their asshole manager, Carl. All the drama in the book basically caused by one person - Carl. I feel that the author gave too much credit to this villain. I don't understand why is it so hard for Ray to stand up for himself and ask Carl to fuck off. Ray seems a bit naive and vulnerable despite the rockstar status, which bring us to the BDSM theme.

BDSM is not for everyone and I feel that this should be highlighted. Lucky for me, I'm a big fan, thus the D/s relationship between Ray and his new drummer/old high school crush - Zavier, works out for me. Their sexual relationship didn't start until the middle of the book, which actually gives time for Ray and Zavier to build their friendship. I really like Zaview, he is a rock, so dependable and level headed and whenever he is around, I know Ray is going to be okay. The BDSM element is not too over the top, just bondage, spanking and whipping.

There is a mentioned of Zavier being aromantic. Honestly, I don't know much about this label, but from what Zavier insinuate, it doesn't sound all that dramatic. He don't fall in love (often times they are in denial) and he don't like the flower and roses (I thought those are just waste of money) and he don't like big confession (some prefer action than words). If this is what aro means, I guess I'm an aro too. Overall, the whole aromantic angle doesn't really make this any different from any other m/m romance I've read. I thought Zavier is a very lovable character, he cares very much for Ray (although he don't call it love) and there is definitely a HEA. I'm was a little disappointed that the epilogue didn't really update me on the status of their band. I guess I will have to wait for Book 2 to know about it.
Profile Image for namericanwordcat.
2,442 reviews416 followers
April 14, 2018
This romance has a lot going on. The characters are layers, complex, imperfect, and very much themselves.

Zabo does a great job as usual of creating such human heroes with glory and darkness, self awareness and struggle.

Ray shines with talent and caring and grit. Zav's fierce fairness and observation are a lovely match.

The dynamic between Ray and Zav is grand. The equality in their relationship mixing in with a past crush, difference in where they are on the romantic scale, love of music, and kink make for a stellar romance and great exploration of love and intimacy.

The other members of the band are wonderful.

External conflict that starts the book with the loss of a band member and Ray's feelings about it and fame and the pressures of the record label, fame, being the leader, and touring are good.

However, we get a villain in Carl the PR man who doesn't make sense until he does and even then his presence in the book took away so of the pleasure. I am glad he will be gone from the rest of the series.

There is a great emotionial scene where Zav works out what he wants and who Ray is to him on his own terms that makes this love story for me. The rest of the book is that perfect joy you get when you believe in the love between the couple and the HEA matches would they need.

Worth the read.

I was given this book for my honest review. So, there you have it!
Profile Image for Rafa Brewster.
257 reviews21 followers
April 5, 2018
Stopping at 25%. I'm interested to see how it plays out with the two heroes but I am so not a fan of the manipulative/bullyish manager as a plot element. I might pick it up another time, we'll see.
Profile Image for Elke.
443 reviews87 followers
May 31, 2018
This was pretty fucking great. Coincidentally (or nor) it also had some pretty great fucking.

It has Ray, the gay lead singer MC with synesthesia and his enemies to friends to partners relationship with Zav, the aromantic pansexual drummer. Both other band members are also queer.
I loved the aro rep and how the relationship Ray and Zav formed was never treated as lesser than romantic relationships and everything was very clear about that Ray ended up falling in love and it was okay that Zav never would. They were both invested and dedicated and passionate and cared deeply for each other. However, i'm not aro and highly encourage you to look for ownvoices reviews like this one from Acqua.
I loved the friendships and band and banter between them and also fuck Carl.

Content warning for explicit (kinky) sex, dom/sub, bondage, alcohol, invasion of privacy, a drink being spiked with sleeping drugs.
Profile Image for Kaity B.
1,430 reviews13 followers
November 2, 2021
3.5-4 stars

This book went longer than it probably needed to, but having Greg Boudreaux narrate and the addictive writing had me not caring how long this book lasted for.

Zavier is aromatic and that still is something I need to wrap my head around but reading books with different sexuality’s and how they deal with being in a relationship I find fascinating. It really helps open your eyes to see that there are more levels to a person’s sexuality than what we were told growing up.

I really enjoyed the concert side of the book too, seeing tour life and the concerts were great.

Carl was a douche canoe, honestly I would have found a way to get ride of him sooner than deal with the crap Ray had to deal with.

Overall way better than I initially though and would definitely read this again. Also you best believe I am excited to read about Dom!
Profile Image for Apolishedreader.
335 reviews42 followers
April 12, 2018
Updated with link to nail art related to book:
Syncopation nail art

I requested this book before I really knew what it was about. Then I was a little unsure over the aromantic aspect because let's face it, I read romance for the "I love you" at the end. That being said, I was so satisfied with this book and how it ends, where they are in their lives and relationship that I didn't feel like anything was missing.

The reasons why I picked up the book in the first place held up as well.
Rockstar romance - check
Enemies to friends to lovers - check
Kinky - check
Somewhat slow burn - check
And that cover. Love the cover.

Zavier and Ray's chemistry is off the charts. How Zav cares for Ray is all the things. It was the center for how I felt about the book as a whole. It comes across as true and careful and as drama free as it could be. Which, as far as low angst, is exactly the kind of attention and caring Ray really needs.
Zav is also sincere with Ray with how he feels about Ray's talent and the band as a whole.

One of the only things that didn't work for me and this was a biggie because it takes up so much space and is a driving force in how Zav and Ray end up exploring any type of relations, was the manipulative manager. Ugh. He was making me so anxious. Every time his name showed up I was sick to my stomach. I wanted to punch him in the face and hide under the covers at the same time.
Ray's instinctive reaction to the manager made me cringe and want to yell at him to snap out of it. I did not like the person Ray was around him...and I know Ray didn't like it either.

That whole managerial manipulation was a lot for me, but I still enjoyed the book as a whole. I loved the ending and I can't wait for Dom's book.
Profile Image for rin.
411 reviews483 followers
Shelved as 'maybe'
April 10, 2018
i kiiiiiiind of what to read this

but i reeeeeeeaaaally dislike the cover hfdjhjdfhjfdf
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