Love isn’t supposed to be this hard.
Now that he’s finally won Jill, the girl who’s always rocked his world, you’d think life would be heaven on earth for Shinta Mori. In a way, it is. But maybe he’s underestimated the fact that he’s a hunky movie star in Japan while his girl is ruling the indie music scene all the way in Manila.
When he spends a long-awaited vacation with her–through impromptu performances, frenzied flyer distribution, and unhinged radio guestings–he realizes how imperfect his seemingly perfect life is. And he begins to wonder if what they have is strong enough to survive years of being apart.
Can Shinta prove he’s worthy of the spotlight the universe shines on him? And more importantly, deserving of the devotion of a young girl in love?
Happily-ever-afters make the romance novel, among other swoon elements — but let’s admit, we read them because we know there’s a happy ending for the main character and love interest. And we’re happy to stay there, knowing they got what they wanted and deserved, and while sometimes we wish for something more, the happy ending is enough. That’s why it’s kind of tricky to write books after the HEA, because if we’re going to be realistic about it, we know that relationships take work, and the HEAs may not really stretch to the “ever after” that we want.
So sometimes I’m a little wary when I hear/read about continuations of some romance things I liked. Case in point: I wasn’t a huge fan of You Changed My Life, the sequel to A Very Special Love with John Lloyd Cruz and Sarah Geronimo (for the unfamiliar: it’s a Filipino rom-com movie series). I understand why it’s essential to the entire arc, but I thought it wasn’t as interesting as the first or the last movie, because it was a little heavy and maybe a little boring at some point. But I’ve learned to appreciate it, even if it’s not my favorite, you know?
The point of this intro is that’s what I felt what Jay’s latest book, the latest installment to the Playlist series, was about. Songs to Make You Stay is the continuation of Jill and Shinta’s story from Songs of Our Breakup, after their HEA. Told in Shinta’s point of view, the story is all about the complications of their kind of relationship: Jill being based in Manila and part of an up and coming band, and Shinta being a hot and popular Japanese actor with (too) many projects coming up — all in Japan, away from Jill. What seemed like a perfect start to their relationship at the end of the first book proved to be full of things that Shinta wasn’t sure if he could deal with or live up to, and the book explores this journey of what he will do to make things work — if he will be able to.
I’ve always have a lot of feelings with Jay’s book, and this one is no different. The familiarity of the characters were there, and I loved being back in this indie rock world, except that there’s the Japanese actor element here. I think this is the book that had less of the other Trainman characters because it focused more on Jill and Shinta, and I kind of missed them here. I even really missed Miki here, even if it made sense that he wouldn’t be here as much as the story happened in the same timeline of Songs to Get Over You. He didn’t hover so much, which kind of showed how Jill felt for him there. Jay handled the complications of their relationship wonderfully, factoring in the pressing issues with care and realism that I didn’t have to choose any side or feel that there was an unreasonable demand from either of them. I liked how even seemingly perfect Shinta was human here, and how none of the recent past things were disregarded in crafting this story.
While Songs to Get Over You is probably my favorite in this series so far (because of the relate factor, haha), Songs to Make You Stay is a really great follow-up to Jill and Shinta’s romance. It showed the reality that relationships don’t stop at happily-ever-afters, and really, the MC and LI can have more than one HEA, as long as they work hard for it, together.
Great stuff by Jay, as usual. Don’t miss this. 🙂
“It shouldn’t be this hard,” he muttered. “Love shouldn’t take so much work.”
“Of course it takes work. Otherwise every fool in the world will be doing it right. And there would be a lot less songs and books and poetry written.”