Design a site like this with
Get started

Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman

Hi All!

I hope everyone’s week has been great!

A couple “fun facts” about me:

  • When I was in high school, I played guitar and sang in an all-girl band called Forbidden Fruit,
  • I was a college radio DJ, and
  • I’m definitely one of those people who argue that some albums need to be listened to on vinyl to get the full experience.

With all of that said, this past week I read Charm City Rocks by Matthew Norman. As a lover of music (obviously) and romance, this seemed like it would be perfect for me!

How did this one play out for me? Did it hit the right note or was it a bit off-key? Let’s find out?

Genre:  Romance

Publication Date: June 6, 2023

NetGalley Blurb:

When a single dad meets the former rock star crush of his youth, everything they thought they knew about happiness and love is thrown into chaos in this hopeful, heartwarming romantic comedy.

Billy Perkins is happy. No, for real. It’s kind of his thing, actually. And why wouldn’t he be? He loves his job as an independent music teacher and his apartment in Baltimore above a record shop called Charm City Rocks. Most of all, he loves his brainy teenage son, Caleb. Although not the world’s most traditional parent, Billy has plenty to teach his son about art and manhood before Caleb goes off to college.

Margot Hammer, on the other hand, is far from happy. The former drummer of the once-famous rock band Burnt Flowers, she’s now a rock and roll recluse living alone in New York City. When a new music documentary suddenly puts Margot back in the spotlight, she begins to realize how much she misses her old band and the music that gave her life meaning.  

Billy has always had a crush on Margot. But she’s a legitimate rock star—or at least, she was—so he never thought he’d meet her. Until Caleb, worried that his easygoing dad might actually be lonely, cooks up a scheme to get Margot to perform at Charm City Rocks.

It’s the longest of long shots, but Margot’s label has made it clear that any publicity is an opportunity she can’t afford to miss. When their paths collide, Billy realizes that he maybe wasn’t as happy as he thought—and Margot learns that sometimes the sweetest music is a duet.

What I liked about the book:

1. I loved that this was a later in life romance (Is that what we call it when they’re in their forties???…That decade is creeping up real fast for me so let’s hope not!). I especially loved the scene where they were laying in bed pointing out their own flaws to one another, not in a “make me feel better about my flaws” way, but in the way you could tell these people were totally content with one another and comfortable with their flaws being on display in front of the other. And the fact that this turned into them making love was *chef’s kiss*.

2. I loved the characters and that we got to see the story from so many different perspectives. From the perspectives of both MCs, their two kids, their ex-lovers, and even a really cool co-dad, we got to see all sides of the story, which was nice. It made it so you didn’t hate the exes of the MCs (well, except maybe Lawson) and really showed that people recall and experience the same situation very differently.

For me, this also served as a real wake up call. If Buzzfeed created one of those quizzes where you find out which character in the book you are, I would undoubtedly wish to be a Poppy and end up being a Robyn. Robyn was fine, but I definitely saw a lot of Ghost of Christmas Future in her and I didn’t love it…

3. This very much seemed to serve as a love letter to Baltimore and I loved it! With the neighborhoods portrayed, the overall ambiance of music everywhere, and the food(!), I was intrigued if this is truly what Baltimore is like. I have never been to Baltimore, but with this story I have a new destination in mind!

What could have been better:

1. Overall, I was not a big fan of the writing style. It was a very direct, sometimes too sharp style. I tend to prefer more descriptive and flowy wording for romance books.

Also, this was written from the third POV so some of the more emotional or charged moments Could have been better suited to a first person POV. For a romance book, I feel third POV is a tricky feat because it takes a lot more work to invoke the butterflies in readers, or at least it does for me. Because of that, the giddiness I typically look for when reading a romance book was mostly missing.

2. There was a lot of downtime in the book. There were definitely major plot points, but overall, there were a lot of gaps where nothing really happened. I think this is typically where the romance is supposed to make you feel giddy but see item 1 above.  

3. I’m not a fan of fade to black scenes in romance books. We were told so much about how often the couple had sex, but there was nothing on page besides kissing. With Billy being a total cinnamon-roll, Margot being insecure and emotionally stunted, and them specifically pointing out their own flaws, I was looking for them to worship one another at least once.   

Final Thoughts:

Cute later in life romance, perfect for anyone who likes romance novels with little to no spice.

Final Rating: 3 stars

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, and Matthew Norman for the advanced copy of this book. The review above is reflective of my honest opinions.