Book Blitz ~ Code Red by NR Walker (Reviews + Excerpt + Giveaway)

Code Red
N.R. Walker
Publication date: June 24th 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance

The brighter the spotlight, the darker the shadow.

Maddox Kershaw is the main vocalist of the world’s biggest boy band. He’s at the top of every music chart, every award show, every social media platform, and every sexiest-man-alive list. He’s the bad boy, the enigma, the man everyone on the planet wants a piece of.

He’s also burned out and exhausted, isolated and lonely. Not in a good headspace at the start of a tour.

Roscoe Hall is Maddox’s personal manager. His job is high-flying, high-demand, high-profile, and he loves it. Maddox has consumed his entire life for the past four years. Roscoe knows him. He sees the real Maddox no one else gets to see.

He’s also in love with him.

When the tour and stress become too much, when the world begins to close in, Roscoe becomes Maddox’s lifeline. But as Maddox knows already, and as Roscoe is about to learn, the brighter the spotlight, the darker the shadow.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

“Roscoe Hall,” I answered my phone, out of time and patience. It didn’t dawn on me that it was Ryan’s number until after I’d said my name. It was my twentieth call this morning already.

“Just confirming ETA for 9:00 am.”

I checked my watch. It was 7:30 now and I’d already been up for far too long. It was a big day, and I could take a moment to breathe once we were all together.

“Yeah, Ryan. Will be there, thanks.”

There was a brief pause. “Is Maddox with you?”

“On my way to get him now.”

“See you there.”

I pocketed my phone and did one last check. Phone, wallet, passport, tickets, keys. I grabbed my carry-on, locked my front door, and wheeled my suitcase down to the waiting car. I hadn’t even greeted the driver when my phone rang again, and it beeped again on my way to collect Maddox.

I was organized and efficient, aggressively so.

It’s what made me good at my job. Being the personal manager for one of the world’s biggest boy bands was every minute of my life.

These boys didn’t accept second best for anything, and neither did I.

And I should clarify that while they were classified as a boy band, they were men. They might have started out as boys—they were just kids in high school when they formed their first band. But they were twenty-three now. They’d done the small local gigs, needing their parents’ permission to play in bars and clubs around LA when they were underage.

The story of how the band called Atrous made it to the big time was well-known.

The five boys came from nothing. A garage band that crossed pop with rock and rap, playing small gigs wherever they could, when a well-known radio DJ saw them and uploaded footage to his social media. Platinum Entertainment, one of America’s biggest entertainment management companies, signed them, and they’d been on the top of the world music stage for the last four years.

To the outside world, these guys were the ultimate success story.

They had no idea what went on when the lights went out.

Saying I was the personal manager of the whole band wasn’t true either. Personal assistant, handler, manager. It was all the same. But it wasn’t just me. I was one of three. Ryan Morten, Amber Seratt, and I were the personal managers of Atrous, as a whole. While the three managers looked after the five band members, I was, however, the unstated personal manager of one of them in particular.

Lead vocalist and rapper, main dancer, bad boy, Maddox Kershaw.

Ryan and Amber took care of Jeremy, Wes, Luke, and Blake. But Maddox was mine.

Well, not mine. But mine.

God, how I wished he were mine . . .

Over the last four years, Maddox and I’d just gelled. He didn’t trust easily, and for some reason he’d put his trust in me. And the truth was, he needed his own personal manager more than the other four guys.

Maddox was the face of Atrous. Unwilling, but the face, nonetheless.

He carried the weight of their reputation, their brand. He was the one they hounded, the one they chased, the one they followed, the one that made headlines every other day.

He wore black, he had a full sleeve of tattoos, perfect skin, and he had attitude to spare. His motto was to burn down the institutions, to stand tall for those who had to kneel, and to speak for those who had been silenced.

He resonated with the youth around the world.

He was also incredibly good-looking.

When I say good-looking, I mean hot. Sexy, enigmatic, ethereal, even.

His heritage had been talked about a million times. So much of his life was public. His grandmother on his mother’s side was Japanese, and his grandparents on his father’s side were Dutch. He was a second generation American, a very talented musician, and he was incredibly smart.

He sang like an angel and danced like the devil.

And he answered the door looking like a mix of both. His hair was wet from the shower, he smelled warm and clean, he wore black cargo pants, a black T-shirt, and combat boots. It was his standard attire. Seeing him like that made my heart feel far too big for my chest. “Forget your key?” he asked. He even almost smiled.

It had been so long since I’d seen him smile . . .

Yes, I had a key to his house. But that was for emergencies only. I followed him inside. “You ready? The others are meeting us there.”

He grumbled something that sounded like assent. His house was still dark, open and vast, mind-bogglingly expensive, and it felt empty. It was in Beverly Hills, worth a reported twelve million with incredible views of the canyon and the city, but Maddox had the blinds drawn.

He plucked a black hoodie off the back of his sofa and pulled it on. I ignored how his T-shirt lifted a little, exposing a sliver of pale skin above his waistband. I’d seen him shirtless a thousand times. Hell, I’d even seen him in his underwear. It was nothing new, but it still managed to warm my blood.

I grabbed his two suitcases, wheeling them toward the door. He picked up his black backpack. “Got my passport?”

“Yep,” I replied. “We’re all good. Your mom’s got her key and security numbers?”

“Yeah,” he said with a shrug.

His mother was going to come look after his place while we were gone. We’d be gone for almost seven weeks. Seven long, grueling weeks.

“Come on, I have an iced coffee waiting for you in the car.”

He pulled up his hood, but I swear there was the beginning of a smile before the shadow stole it.

My phone buzzed again, and I pulled it out of my pocket and groaned at the screen. Another message that could wait until we were in the car. I pulled the door shut behind us, made sure it was locked, and wheeled the luggage to the waiting car. I opened the car door for him, I closed the door for him, I loaded the bags into the trunk—it was my job to do these things for him—and finally I got into the back of the car with Maddox.

My phone buzzed again, and I thumbed out a quick reply. We’d been driving for about ten minutes when I realized Maddox hadn’t said a word. He’d sipped his coffee but not much else. I looked at him then, really looked at him, and underneath the killer good looks was a tired man.

“You sleep okay?” I asked.

He scoffed as his answer, then glanced pointedly at my phone. “Did you? Has your phone stopped yet?”

I didn’t need to reply because we both knew the answer.

He nodded because he knew he was right and proving his point, I replied to some more emails and messages on the drive downtown. Yes, we all lived in LA, and yes, we were staying at a hotel in LA because when the tour began, the band and the whole crew would stay together. Mostly for logistical and security reasons, but also for bonding. We were one unit from day one, regardless of location.

As the car pulled into the hotel’s underground parking lot, Maddox’s eyes trained on the people rushing about. “The guys are already here?” he asked.

“Yep. Arrived five minutes ago.”

His shoulders relaxed a little, and for that I was glad. He and his bandmates were like brothers; they’d been through everything together. He was closer to Jeremy than the others, but the bond between the five of them was clear. I was relieved that he’d be with them again. I was pretty sure he’d spent the last few days by himself, holed up in his house. I’d spoken to him on the phone, even came to see him a few times, but getting ready for a tour was a busy time for me.

Before we came to a complete stop, he was quiet and chewed on his bottom lip. I wanted to ask him if he was okay, but there wasn’t time. I doubted he’d even answer that question, or answer it honestly, anyway.

“You excited?” I asked instead. “Sellout stadium tour, twenty-three concerts. You ready for that?”

He met my gaze and didn’t look away. His smile was as brief as it was beautiful. “Yeah. Of course.”

I didn’t believe him, and it was devastating how he could look right at me with those dark, dark eyes and speak so sincerely while he lied.

I spent almost every day with him. I knew him. I knew the real Maddox Kershaw, not the Maddox he showed the world. The private one, the quiet one, the intellectual one . . .

The miserable one.

The Maddox I’d been secretly in love with for years . . . the Maddox I could never have.

“Maddox,” I said, but his door opened from the outside, and people were getting luggage from our car and giving directions, and there was no time.

The commotion had begun. These seven weeks were going to be brutal.

He lowered his head, pulled up his hood to hide his face, and got out of the car.

5 Stars 
Another well-crafted treat by Ms. Walker. Her novels are totally encompassing, and have this way of making the reader feel a close connection to the characters. This book was no exception.
What a unique, and revealing story, centered around a world-famous boy band. They are truly enigmas, as none of the members do drugs, drink, or create bedlam. No one acts as entitled rock stars, and all the men have amazing work ethics. Starting out at age 16, and rocketing to intense fame has not caused the men to lose sight of their commitment to their music and each other, even years later. Maddox, who is their main vocalist, is a stunning and bewitching man. He is the glue that holds their group, Atrous, together. To say he puts his heart and soul into every song and performance is an understatement.
Ms. Walker takes us deeper than the singing. We see the intense and brutal toll, both physical and mental, that crushes the group’s spirit. Their most recent tour behind the scenes was shocking to read. The damage to their young bodies, and mental health was incomprehensible at times. Add to this a true, deep feeling of loneliness as they can’t enjoy a public life anymore.
Maddox is near the crushing point. He leans and depends heavily on his personal manager Roscoe, who has been by his side from the very beginning. He is such an endearing man and gives Maddox the support and strength that becomes the distraught singer’s lifeline. Together they make such an amazing couple; I adored how well Roscoe cared for Maddox and really saw the man, not the sexy image that the media portrays.
This book really delved into the heart of the chaotic world of these rock stars that wanted to crush these gifted performers and bleed them dry. I relished the dynamics between all the members, and how perfectly Roscoe blends in with the group. Please do yourself an immense favor, and dive right into this story laced with the perils of fame and the hope of love. Happy reading!

* * * Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn’t a requirement * * * 

5 Stars
Code Red is a standalone written by N.R Walker. Roscoe Hall is the personal manager to the frontman in one of the most popular boy bands at the moment, “Atrous”. Maddox Kershaw is said frontman. While he is only one of five members, he has most of the pressure, the paparazzi are on his back constantly, and everything is finally getting to him. He is lonely and suffering from a panic disorder. When he needs someone desperately, Roscoe holds his hand. It saves him. From that moment on they slowly start acting on feelings they have had for each other for years. Because they both work for the same record label, there is fear that Roscoe will lose his job but, after an incident that leaves someone with bruises, they can care less.
What made me love Maddox even before I read the book, was that he was modeled after Jungkook of BTS—and he happens to be my favorite in the group—so I came in a bit biased, but had he not I would have loved him anyways. His character really sheds light on what band members go through, especially after the breakout of K-Pop internationally, and how Atrous is treated, is very similar to how K-Pop groups are treated—both with fans and by the record label with multiple managers and many guidelines, Roscoe is the knight in shining armor Maddox needed. I am happy they only got together at this point due to the fact Maddox is a bit younger and him being any younger could have made this awkward. They fit together perfectly, however. I do wish we could have seen some scenes where they meet or when Roscoe starts working with him personally.
I absolutely loved this book and will probably be rereading this book again and again. Roscoe and Maddox are perfect together and all the characters interact well. There was no awkwardness and the whole book flowed smoothly. The beginning was a bit slow, but once it picked up, it didn’t stop. The epilogue was perfect. While I was left wanting more, I was very satisfied and ended the book smiling.
***Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure. A review wasn’t a requirement.***

~ * ~ Annies Review ~ * ~

4.5 Stars

One of the first romance tropes I read in large quantities was rock star/musician romances, so it’s safe to say I’ve read a good number of them as well as a large range of plotlines. Even so, Code Red surprised me a bit. The book and characters had this clever nuance to them that’s hard to pinpoint beyond that I found the book incredibly hard to set down at times and I really enjoyed the characters.

Code Red fabulously rode the middle ground in emotions for me. I think given the blurb and start, I expected something a bit heavier or angst-driven. There were plenty of intense moments, which included Maddox’s struggle with panic attacks, his questioning of the price of his band’s fame, and his overall demeanor. Yet, despite the sometimes weighty topics, the overall tone of Code Red never felt bogged down or overly dark. Some of that lightness is owed to the band itself being full of functional, supportive members who weren’t struggling with a myriad of issues. I really enjoyed the band as a whole, liked their comradery, and wouldn’t hesitate at reading more about this group. Another major component that set Code Red apart from some of the angstier rock star romances was that Maddox was very much sound and in control of his professional life. I liked how strong he was throughout the book and how that strength spread to his ability to handle the struggles that touring and fame were placing on him. As much as I enjoy stories about the power of love, I also appreciate when the characters “save themselves”. For me, Maddox’s command of his life and his ability to change things to ensure he was as happy as possible was just as poignant and worth celebrating as his and Roscoe’s journey to a happily-ever-after.

Of course, as much as I liked Maddox on his own, I also really liked his relationship with Roscoe. I loved the light Roscoe brought to Maddox’s life, and I really liked how the author captured those little moments where the reader can see just how much of a lifeline Roscoe offered to Maddox in his quiet but unwavering support. The tender strength in this relationship was beautifully offset by a good dose of heat, culminating in a romance I truly enjoyed from start to finish and a chemistry that cannot be denied. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Code Red to anyone looking for a good book with lots of emotion, well-developed characters, and a moderate amount of angst.

 *** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn’t a requirement. ***

Author Bio:

N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance. She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.

She is many things: a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.

She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things… but likes it even more when they fall in love.

She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.

She’s been writing ever since…

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