March 13, 2015

Review - Leaving Amarillo by Caisey Quinn

Dixie Lark hasn’t had it easy. She lost her parents in an accident when she was young and grew up in a ramshackle house on a dirt road in Amarillo with her ailing grandparents and overprotective older brother. Thanks to her grandfather, Dixie learned to play a mean fiddle, inspired by the sounds of the greats—Johnny and June, Waylon, and Hank. Her grandfather’s fiddle changed Dixie’s life forever, giving her an outlet for the turmoil of her broken heart and inspiring a daring dream.

Ten years later, Dixie and her brother, Dallas, are creating the music they love and chasing fame with their hot band, Leaving Amarillo. But Dixie isn’t enjoying the ride. All she can think about is Gavin, the band’s tattooed, tortured drummer who she’s loved since they were kids. She knows he feels the connection between them, but he refuses see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.

Convinced that one night with Gavin will get him out of her system, Dixie devises a plan. She doesn’t know that her brother has forbidden Gavin from making a move on her-a promise he swore he’d always keep . . . a promise that once broken will unexpectedly change the future for Dixie, Gavin and the band.

The Evolution of Dixie and Dallas Lark 

Dixie and Dallas Lark are the brother and sister duo who make up the band Leaving Amarillo along with their mutual best friend, Gavin Garrison. These characters have been some of the most interesting and three-dimensional that I’ve written in my career and I found it particularly interesting that they didn’t end up how I originally pictured them. Sneaky characters went and evolved a bit on me!

My first Dixie and Dallas were quite tame and actually kind of blurry in my mind. He was a sexy, rugged guitar playing, protective big brother and she was a fiddle player caught between life in the orchestra pit and freedom on the open road. As their story progressed, though, I began to see them more clearly. They were that band you get lucky enough to catch playing a late night gig at The Stage or Crossroads in Nashville. That one that you decide to stay and have one more drink just so you can listen to them a little longer—the one you know you will see hitting it big in the very near future because you can’t bring yourself to leave until they finish their set!

I initially pictured Dallas as a slightly more muscular Jensen Ackles type but that evolved a bit due to the ways in which Dixie evolved. She became edgier and grittier than I originally imagined due to her backstory and so Dallas had to toughen up a bit, too. This happens sometimes—I picture a character or story one way before writing and then that changes as I get deeper into it. It’s such an amazing experience—that moment when my characters become “real” and show me who they are versus who I’d originally imagined or expected.

Caisey Quinn’s Inspiration for the Neon Dreams series  

Not too long ago (barely over a year), I took a trip to Nashville with some friends. It was one of those last minute “oh my gosh, we have to see this super big artist doing a concert in a tiny venue because they just Tweeted that they’ll be there” type road trips. Unplanned, beef jerky, big gulps, and random road mix cd style adventure. My favorite kind.

However, by the time we arrived at the venue it was packed. Literally. Wall to wall crammed, people spilling out onto the sidewalk, full to maximum capacity packed. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who caught word that a big name artist was going to be there.


We decided to just check out a few local spots instead. In a bar called Crossroads we got comfy, ordered drinks, and started chatting about how bummed we were that we didn’t get to see the original artist we intended to. I can’t even remember now who it was. Here’s why.

As we’re ordering a second—okay, maybe a third—round and deciding if we’re going to just call it a night and get a hotel room or head home (Birmingham is only about three hours away), this glorious sound fills the air. No, it pierces the air, rips through it and grabs everyone in hearing range by the eardrums.

Our conversation—along with many others—ceased instantly. Chill bumps ran up my arms even though it was quite warm and I was wearing a jacket.

Most of the patrons gaped in awe as this young woman played the fiddle as if she’d been born to do that and only that. It was the solo from “Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels band and she was rocking it beyond comprehension. Pretty sure even the bartenders stopped what they were doing. The rest of the night was a little blurry, but I know we didn’t leave until that band had played their entire set.

We ended up getting a hotel room but none of us slept. All we could talk about was that band and how amazing they were and how we were kicking ourselves that we didn’t get their name so we could check them out online and hear more. I still look for them when I’m in Nashville and one day I fully expect to hear them on the radio. Whoever they are, they will forever be the band that inspired the Neon Dreams series.

This isn’t the exact band but they’re pretty close! The search continues!

Top 5 Most Played Songs on Dixie Lark’s Playlist 

1.     I Want You to Want Me – Cheap Trick
2.     One Night – Christina Perri
3.     Dream – Priscilla Ahn
4.     Love Runs Out – One Republic
5.     Bluebird – Christina Perri



About the author: 

Caisey Quinn lives in a suburb outside of Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, daughter, and other assorted animals. She wears cowgirl boots most of the time, even to church. She is the bestselling author of the Kylie Ryans series and writes New and Young Adult books about country girls finding love in unexpected places. 

Connect with the author:
My 3.5 Star Review

Leaving Amarillo is the story of Dallas, Dixie and Gavin. Dallas and Dixie are brother and sister, and were raised by their grandparents after their parents died. Gavin is their childhood friend whose mother neglected him. From the moment Dixie saw the poor, hungry boy he has been in her heart. Now the trio is the band Leaving Amarillo.

'Gavin Garrison, our drummer and my brother’s best friend, was the first boy I’d ever had a crush on.’

The is told from Dixie’s POV and we immediately see that despite Dixie’s young age she is the heart of the band. She is compassionate towards both Gavin and Dallas. She is protective of them and wants the best for them both, but her feelings for Gavin run a little deeper. She has been in love with Gavin for as long as she can remember.

Gavin is brooding, independent and self deprecating. He doesn’t feel like he deserves good things, he just wants to be a good friend to Dallas and help watch out for Dixie. He is attracted to her and would love the chance to be with her, but he also thinks she deserves so much more than him so he will never pursue her. That is until Dixie asks him for just one night.

Gavin is used to be on his own, taking care of himself, but Dixie is definitely his weakness so how can he tell her no. Gavin really struggles with this decision since Dallas has reminded him multiple times he isn’t good enough for his baby sister. But Gavin has wanted Dixie for years and now she is offering herself to him, how is supposed to turn down the girl of his dreams.

"If ever touched you, ever let myself so much as lay a hand on you, I might not be able to stop."

The majority of the story is told over one week while they are at a music festival in Austin. Throughout the week we get to see the couple battle with their desires and feelings, and I loved this part of the story. Bother’s best friend books are my absolute favorite, I love all aspects of them! This book had plenty of the sneaking around, hot stolen moments and lots of feels.

I really loved Gavin, he is the damaged guy from the wrong side of the tracks, just my favorite type of hero. I love how he wanted to be what Dixie deserved and he wanted to preserve his friendship with Dallas. I didn’t love Dixie as much, she is young and I could definitely feel it. She is only nineteen and her maturity level was right there at nineteen, this isn't a bad thing just not my cuppa tea…I am getting old.

I also didn’t love the lack of dialogue in the story. A lot of the conversations were paraphrased in the beginning. I feel like reading dialogue allows me to know the characters more, especially when we are only getting one POV. The beginning felt slow to me in the beginning, whether it was my frustration with the build up or the paraphrased conversations I am not sure. After things got moving I really enjoyed the story and when it ended I definitely wanted more.

Their story is definitely not over and there is so much more to come for the band. The next book in the series is about Dallas and I can’t wait to see where things go for him.

"You set me on fire, Gavin.” I whisper. “I’m nothing but ashes now."

ARC kindly provided in exchange for an honest review.

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