Review: Michelle Hazen’s A Cruel Kind of Beautiful

Review: Michelle Hazen’s A Cruel Kind of Beautiful

Jera McKnight loves music, swoons for hot guys, but sucks at sex. Jacob Tate is her perfect storm: a pun-loving nude model with a heart as big as his record collection. 

When a newspaper-delivery accident lands him in her living room, he’s almost tempting enough to make her forget she’s never been able to please a man—in bed or out of it. Sure, he laughs at her obscure jokes, and he’ll even accept a PG-rating if it means he gets time with her, but he’s also hiding something. And it has everything to do with the off-limits room in his apartment. 

Jera pours all her confusion and longing into her drum kit, which pays off when her band lands the record deal of their dreams. Except just like Jacob, it might be too good to come without a catch. 

She doesn’t know if her music is good enough to attract a better contract, or if she’s enough to tempt a man like Jacob to give up his secrets—even if they could fix her problems between the sheets. But if this rocker girl is too afraid to bet on herself, she might just end up playing to an empty house. 



I’m always on the lookout for a good rock & roll romance. When I read a rock & roll romance I expect the music to be a character, not a prop. Don’t just give me a character that happens to be a musician. I want to feel the music through the characters, know why they play, see how, without the music, they only half exist. With A Cruel Kind of Beautiful, Michelle Hazen does that and more.

A Cruel Kind of Beautiful is book one in Hazen’s Sex, Love, & Rock & Roll trilogy featuring the band members of The Red Letters, a post-grunge rock band out of Portland. I loved that she chose to start this promising trilogy with a female drummer, because how often does that happen? Jera McKnight is at the center of A Cruel Kind of Beautiful, her quirky nature and lyric-filled soul driving the story from beginning to end. She’s that friend that you can hang out with while listening to music and eating your weight in ice cream. But, Jera has some issues (who doesn’t) and even as her music career looks like it’s taking off, her personal life looks grim. Enter Jacob Tate.

Jacob Tate is that guy. We all either know him or want to know him. He’s handsome, funny, he blushes, he’s caring and patient and sexy as hell. He meets Jera and almost from the start knows she’s the one. Only problem is Jera has sworn off relationships and friend-zones him. Did I mention that Jacob is patient? Watching Jacob wear Jera down is not only fun, but it’s sweet and feels real. There’s no over the top drama, just a guy who likes a girl (who secretly likes the guy). Hazen writes the scenes of them together and falling in love as if she looked into the minds of her readers.

Here’s why I loved Jera: she is easily anyone of us. She had a crappy boyfriend in high school that left her with enough insecurities to fill a book. Each relationship since then has just reinforced her belief that she isn’t good enough. It affects her entire life from her relationship with her parents to her inability to have an orgasm. Sound familiar? Except for her best friend, Danny (who just happens to be The Red Letters’ bass player) she doesn’t trust anyone enough to really be herself. Even when a major record label wants to sign The Red Letters, Jera can’t get past the thought that this is her only chance at success. At times I wanted to thump her on the head, but I always understood where she was coming from.

The secondary characters in A Cruel Kind of Beautiful are fantastic. Danny, Jera’s best friend, could almost be classified as the third side of a love triangle with Jera in the middle. Friends since 8th grade, Jera and Danny couldn’t be any closer, though their relationship isn’t remotely sexual. He’s her person, the one she trusts, the one she writes music with, the one she depends on. He’s quiet but always paying attention and you know that there’s something simmering below the surface. I admit, I fell in love with him. Jax, The Red Letters’ lead singer and guitarist isn’t as fleshed out, but Hazen does a great job of conveying his insecurities despite his talent and good looks.

All of these things make for a fantastic read, but it’s Jera’s belief that she’s frigid and her inability to have an orgasm that makes this book standout. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve read a romance that tackles this and I can’t understand why as statistics show that it’s an issue for women. While I wouldn’t say A Cruel Kind of Beautiful is a textbook for orgasm, I will say that Hazen hits on key elements of getting there: trusting your partner and getting out of your head. Kudos to her for bypassing the “orgasm for everyone” that we typically get in our romance books which, as much as I enjoy that fantasy, can leave readers feeling like they just don’t measure up.

5 stars for A Cruel Kind of Beautiful. Heat level: 3

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for honest feedback.

A Cruel Kind of Beautiful was published in December 2017 by the author.

A Cruel Kind of Beautiful (Sex, Love, and Rock & Roll Series, #1)


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Michelle Hazen is a nomad with a writing problem. Years ago, she and her husband ducked out of the 9 to 5 world and moved into their truck. She wrote most of her books with solar power in odd places, including a bus in Thailand, a golf cart in a sandstorm, and a beach in Honduras. She’s currently addicted to The Walking Dead, hiking, and Tillamook cheese.

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