The unlikely hero to Suze's "good-girl" priest is "bad-boy" Rush Perez, keyboard player of the rock band Stentorian Hush. Usually based in LA, Rush has encouraged rumors that he's checked himself into a detox center to keep the real reason for his erratic on and off-stage behavior under wraps: he's been diagnosed with Meniere's disease, a condition which causes episodes of dizziness, vertigo, and ringing in the ears, and which can lead to deafness. He's in SF to work with a doctor who specializes in the condition, hoping a new trial drug will help him enough so he can go on the road with the band for their upcoming tour, only a few months away. In the meantime, he doesn't want anyone to know about his physical problems: not his mother, not his manager, and especially not his bandmates, who he fears will toss him aside, just as his mother has.
I loved how open Suze is about her sexual desires, and how willing she is to engage in a romance in which she knew the end goal was not marriage or even a long-term relationship. I also loved that despite that sex-positive attitude, her own past experiences with sex weren't always perfect. Orgasms during sex don't come easily to her, and in her perfectionism and her desire to please others (a key positive characteristic in her professional calling, but a problematic one when it comes to meeting one's own needs) she's faked orgasms in the past. After she does the same with Rush during their first time, Rush calls her on it, just the same as he called her on her "performance" during the liturgy. He's disappointed and angry, not because she lied, but because he doesn't like what such faking suggests about him: "Look, I'm not just in this to get off. I want to make you feel good" (1525). "You should have said, 'I'm not ready, slow down.' Or 'finish me off'," Rush insists. Suze acknowledges in her own head that he's right—"Perfectly reasonable words other women probably said all the time. But, it had been their first time, and she didn't want her lovers to feel like a failure for it. It was her fault, after all" (1525). Only after some honest talking, some physical experimenting, and some joking around do they reach a place where both Rush's need to please his partner and Suze's perfectionist ways can coexist in bed. And some recognizing how people sometimes get stuck in a limiting role, even (or perhaps especially when) they are engaged in something that's typically coded as "natural" behavior, like sex. Favorite line: "Did she think she was supposed to have a magic orgasm button, and come on demand when a man said so?" (1582).
It takes some more honest talk, a controversial betrayal, some rallying of the friends and family Rush has kept determinedly away, and a big rejection before Suze begins to realize just how much Rush has come to matter in her life. It also takes some negotiating over how best to fulfill our many different human hungers—for food, for art, for spiritual enlightenment, for tight-knit community—before Rush and Suze can imagine a life in which a devoted priest and a disabled rock musician can both be life partners and be true to their own selves.
Meniere's Disease cartoon: via Christopher Garbrecht
1934 Aeolian-Skinner organ at Grace Episcopal Cathedral, San Francisco, CA: Pipe Dreams
ARC via Netgalley
Not Another Rock Star
Hot Under Her Collar #3
Indie published, 2017