Riff and Sidra’s Ultimate Playlist for Softer Than Steel by Jessica Topper + Review, Excerpt & Giveaway!


In celebration of Softer Than Steel’s release day, Riff and Sidra have curated their ultimate playlist! Who better to choose a soundtrack for their story than the characters themselves? Especially when the hero is a renowned rocker, and the heroine motivates and inspires her yoga students with music every day.


Riff: I’m a sucker for a lady with pretty pipes, so let’s get this party started with Metric, shall we?  I can’t resist Emily Haines’ voice. Especially when she asks, “Who would you rather be – the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?” I’ve always been a Jagger fan, myself. How about you, luv?

Sidra: (groans) Don’t make me choose, please! It is a great song, though. I especially love this softer, mellower version you’ve chosen of “Gimme Sympathy.” Her voice just melts!

Riff: Even us hard rockers can soften up sometimes…(winks)

Sidra: Yeah, well – yoga isn’t all birds and waterfalls! Anyway, here’s a song you might hear blasting from the PA when you enter my cousin Mikey’s record store: Dropkick Murphys!

Riff: Pirate-inspired Celtic punk, nice. Funny, I was “Shipping Up To Boston” myself with my band soon after I met you.

Sidra: Lucky for me, you came back. And were brave enough to attempt your very first yoga class. Remember that?

Riff: I remember grinning like a “Fool in the Rain” after class when you gave me your number. (cues up Led Zeppelin)

Sidra: Ha, very funny. I gave you my business card. For business. I wasn’t trying to pick you up. By the way, this next song makes me think of you.

Riff: Ah, “Downward Facing Dog” by moe. – because of my mad skills at the pose?

Sidra: Nah, more because you went down, like the lyrics say, “shaking like a maple tree.”

Riff: Erm…moving on! I don’t know this next band you picked. Who are they?

Sidra: The Town Pants are this amazing Irish party band from Vancouver. They’re kind of like my ex-boyfriend Charlie’s band, although a thousand times better. “The Weight of Words” is one of my favorites by them.

Riff:Words on a page can weigh a ton…when the past is not undone.” Bloody great line!

Sidra: Told you they were good! But you know I am super proud of my Indian-Irish heritage, so…I have to mix things up and throw in a Delhi 2 Dublin song next.

Riff: “Dil Nachde” – any idea what that title translates to, luv?

Sidra: I think it means “Dancing Hearts” in Hindi. Or maybe it’s “Disco Hearts”? I’d have to ask around! But this band – like me – is the perfect “Indrish” blend!

Riff: You are pretty perfect, period. Except for one thing. You’re hogging the DJ booth, woman!

Sidra: Whoops! I got carried away, sorry. Your turn.

Riff: This is how I felt, until I met you. And yoga. “I Wanna Be Sedated”.

Sidra: Ramones, a quintessential New York band. Nice! My turn. (cues up Duran Duran) I think you know all the words to this one.

Riff: Hey! “Hungry Like The Wolf”? What happened at Sergeant Pepperoni’s Karaoke Night was supposed to stay at Sergeant Pepperoni’s Karaoke Night. You weren’t even there!

Sidra: I have my spies.

Riff: Liz. That ginger-headed trader! Tell her this is what Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is supposed to sound like.

Sidra: (laughs) Hey, not everyone is a rock star, with a full backing band, you know. Still, I wish I had a recording of your karaoke debuts for blackmail! What should we play next?

Riff: How about some Jeff Buckley?

Sidra: I love this song…it reminds me of the first time you invited me to watch the sunrise with you.

Riff: You have no idea how long I had been dying to suggest, “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over.”

Sidra: Oooh, that line “Too young to hold on, and too old to just break free and run” gets me, every time. Took you long enough!

Riff: Yeah, well. I started to think “my life is passing me by”, as the great Sam Roberts would say. His song “Brother Down” could’ve summed up my sad state in 4.24 minutes.

Sidra: (squeezes his arm) I think we were both spinning aimlessly, biding time and waiting for something – someone – to set us both free.

Riff: Speaking of “Spinning”…

Sidra: Oh, Rick! This was the song that was playing the first time you kissed me.

Riff: (kisses her temple) Yep. Zero 7. One of my favorites now, too. (moves to kiss her earlobe.) I think the playlist can play itself now…

Sidra: Wait! We have to go out with a bang.

Riff: That’s what I was implying, luv.

Sidra: (giggles) Just one more song. What would Abbey choose?

Riff: “Bohemian Rhapsody,” for sure. But let’s play an…unexpected version. A metal opera version.

Sidra: Good lord. Is there such a thing?

Riff: Montserrat Caballé, a Spanish operatic soprano, and Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden share verses in this Queen cover. It’s a little strange, mixing the two. But it works. And I think it’s a fitting finale to our SOFTER THAN STEEL ultimate playlist.

Sidra: I’ve got goosebumps.

Riff: From me kissing you? Or from the song?

Sidra: Both!

Riff: (grinning) My work here is done.




From the author of Deeper than Dreams and the Much "I Do" About Nothing novels, a story that proves that you have to find yourself before you can find love...

As rock star "Riff Rotten", Rick Rottenberg has enjoyed all the perks that fame can offer, especially now that he's reunited with his former band mate, Adrian "Digger" Graves. But despite his success, Rick is a mess. Still reeling from the death of his wife years ago and terrified his demons will end his career, he agrees to seek help for his anxiety.

Burned by a musician in the past, Sidra Sullivan has closed her heart to love. So when Rick walks into her yoga studio, she wants nothing to do with him--until the bad boy shows an unexpected soft side.

As Sidra and Rick work through their painful pasts, they realize just how strongly opposites can attract. But when a crisis threatens the delicate balance they've forged, they'll discover if their love is strong enough to weather another storm or just too broken to survive...




Uncorrected proof excerpt courtesy of the author & Berkley/Intermix.

Sidra could feel Rick’s presence still taking up energy within her yoga studio. She had been about to roll up her mat, but thought better of it. Calmly, she closed her eyes and stood in mountain pose, her back to him. Maybe he would get the hint and leave.
“Are we going to talk about last week?”
Rick’s words produced an effervescence that radiated through her core, and heat rushed to all the places he had lingered upon Friday night. She took a deep breath.Stillness. Stillness leads to clarity.
“Because it wasn’t just some whim, some cheap thrill. And I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think you wanted to just as much.”
Stillness, strength, power. Sidra took the pose as active as she could, aiming for the immovable stability of mountains that the pose was named for. She heard a gusty sigh rake from his throat; he was in front of her now. If she opened her eyes, if she saw the tangle of curls that always fell over one temple, the squint and furrow of that dark, defined brow as it focused his intense gaze upon her, she knew she would crumble and dissolve on the spot. She sensed how close he was; close enough for her to effortlessly raise a hand and trace the contour of his cheekbone down to his stubborn jaw line, and over to those full, fierce lips and down the scratchy-soft stripe of scruff on his chin.
“How can you just stand there, doing nothing? Saying nothing?”
Sidra’s eyes flew open, her face instantly matching the look of defiance he wore on his. “I am doing everything right now. Tadasana is not just standing,” she pointed out. “Skin to muscle to bone. It’s a very active pose.”
And it took all of her concentration; she was doing everything to keep herself from thinking about kissing him.
His stance now mirrored hers, and she felt the energy radiating out from him. “The crown of your head is reaching to the sky while your feet are pressing firmly in the earth. You may think you’re still, but you are moving,” she said softly. “Do you feel it?”
He was as rigid as any mountain, until he tilted his chin to catch her gaze. “Is there a fancy yoga name for what I’m feeling?”
It was as if his mere glance released her from one spell, yet trapped her in another. She stepped into his orbit. “It’s called dynamic tension,” she breathed, her lips resting on the hollow of his throat. A sigh escaped from him as he leaned into her touch, but his feet remained rooted, arms outstretched from his sides with his palms up and fingers wide, as if offering himself wholly up to her.
She gave him a shove, surprising him as much as herself.
“Bloody hell, what was that for?” he swore, stumbling back a foot.
“If you were truly in Tadasana, you wouldn’t move when I pushed you. Like a mountain.” She could feel her pulse hammering in her neck, her face heating up.
“What’s your problem with me, Sidra?”
“I don’t date musicians.”
He folded his arms across his chest and cocked a brow. “And I don’t date yoga instructors. So why don’t you stop teaching yoga?”
“That’s like,” she sputtered, “That’s like asking me not to breathe!”
Rick bit back a smile. “Exactly.”

He ducked down and caught her bottom lip between both of his. “The mountain’s not going anywhere this time,” he chided, grabbing her wrists to keep her from shoving him again. “In fact, the mountain will wait for you. It’s got all the time in the world.”

© by Jessica Topper


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The book begins four years after the end of the novella DEEPER THAN DREAMS. Yes, I was surprised too! I questioned the author on the time jump and she said she was following the original time line. LOUDER THAN LOVE was set in 2004 and SOFTER THAN STEEL will continue on that timeline four years later in 2008.

Riff’s book was absolutely amazing. I loved him, imperfections and all. Sidra was a brilliant character and paired beautifully with Riff. And as always, the supporting cast was brilliant! Many things happened in the book and I’m really biting my tongue in this review because I was so excited to experience them all and couldn’t wait to share my thoughts with the author.

I’d rather not go into too much detail because I want the reader to be surprised. I finished the book a couple weeks ago and am just now getting around to writing the review. I was so emotionally drained reading about Riff’s struggles as well as Sidra’s strength.

I did have one VERY big concern about reading Riff’s book though. Some of Riff’s history is mentioned in the first book, LOUDER THAN LOVE that disturbed me and I wasn’t excited to learn about it. He had two major vices, women and alcohol. I didn’t want to have Riff rehashing all the terrible things he’s done. Thankfully my fears were misplaced. I really liked the way the author addressed the issues. I thought the author handled his past demons well.

I am so happy that the author decided to expand the first book and give us more stories from the characters I’ve fallen head over heels for. I highly recommend the Love & Steel books to anyone! Jessica Topper has created beautiful stories of love that defies definition.

I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own.





Jessica Topper is an ex-librarian turned rock n’ roll number cruncher.

She can trace her love for the written word back to age three, when she memorized Maurice Sendak’s Chicken Soup with Rice in its entirety. By day, she does bookkeeping for touring rock bands. By night, she creates books of her own.


She is the author of three novels from Berkley: LOUDER THAN LOVE (September 2013), DICTATORSHIP OF THE DRESS (January 2015) and COURTSHIP OF THE CAKE, the second in her “Much ‘I Do’ About Nothing” series (June 2015). Watch for DEEPER THAN DREAMS, an e-book novella coming in August, and SOFTER THAN STEEL, the second full-length novel in her Love & Steel series, releasing in September.

Connect with Jessica




To celebrate the release of SOFTER THAN STEEL, I'm gifting away two (2) eBook copies, winner's choice of Kindle or Nook copy!

This giveaway is open to all international readers who can accept gifts through Amazon or Barnes & Noble!

The author is also throwing in some sweet rocker swag to the winners also!
International entries welcome!  

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