The Driving Force of Music by R.L. Merrill

driving force of music


Thank you so much for joining me on the Dreamspinner Blog today! I’m Ro and I write contemporary and paranormal romance stories of love, hope and rock ‘n’ roll. I’m so grateful to Elizabeth and Lynn and the fantastic staff at Dreamspinner for bringing my stories to you. I’m a Bay Area girl, a mom, a teacher, a tattoo collector and a metal enthusiast who loves a happily ever after for everyone! I’m here to share my new release, Typhoon Toby, and the inspiration behind the book. Here’s the blurb:


On the surface, Toby Griffiths appears to have it all—talent, money, a brilliant mind, and model good looks. With his best friend, Reese, he’s built an empire as a singer/songwriter.

But beneath that glittering exterior, Toby suffers the lasting effects of abuse. To keep his tempestuous past where it belongs, he insists on anonymity with lovers—no names, no personal information. But a vacation fling in Bali changes all that, and he can’t get his recent playmate out of his mind.

Therapist Spencer Hart left Bali with a bad case of pneumonia and a broken heart. Although he’s recovering, he’s shocked to find his secretive partner on TV, and he’s determined to see him again. Spencer arranges to attend one of Toby’s fundraising galas, and their reunion is tense.

Toby tries to stick to his rules… until a New Year’s kiss with Spencer washes away the last of his resistance. But Toby is a man with secrets, and when the storm comes ashore, it could devastate not just his professional life but his fledgling love affair and his longtime partnership with his best friend.

Will Spencer stand by his side and help him weather the storm as Toby faces his worst fears?


Music. Music is the force that drives me and feeds my soul. I spent my teens beside my cassette recorder waiting for my favorites to come on the radio, my twenties following musician friends and lovers to gigs, and as I’ve aged, it’s still the best medicine. Throughout my seventeen years of dance, years of choreographing cheer, musicals, and show choir, and all of my experiences worshiping at the church of live music, I’ve accumulated an eclectic collection of musical favorites. When I write, it’s often the music that comes first, then the characters. Every book has a soundtrack, and Typhoon Toby’s was especially fun to put together.

I was fresh from mourning greats such as David Bowie, Prince and George Michael by the time I finished writing Hurricane Reese. I knew in my heart Toby was a guy who had a great appreciation of the classics, but his tastes and influences originated from a different place than Reese’s. Grandpa was responsible for Reese’s music education, but Toby discovered his love of music at the side of one of the several men his mother dated. John Fredericks was a soul sessions player, and he introduced Toby to the greats. Throughout the book you will hear him singing Prince, Barry White, and James Brown, and this music provides a very sexy vibe to his pursuit of sweet and innocent Spencer.

Here’s an excerpt that gives you Spencer’s reaction to seeing Toby perform for the first time at a fundraising gala. He’s invited by rock star Danny Black and his wife Jesse Martin-Black, who is choreographing the show and is a mutual friend. Spencer sees Toby on Ellen talking about the show he and Reese are writing and he decides to use his connection, Jesse, to see Toby one more time, despite the fact Toby was adamant they couldn’t have anything other than a vacation fling. Spencer figures he’ll say hello, write a check for the show, and leave, but then Toby takes the microphone…


“Thank you, everyone, for being here to support Reese on his musical journey.” Applause followed Tobias’s introduction. “I’m Toby Griffiths, Reese’s songwriting partner. This show started out as a way for him to pay tribute to his grandfather, the always-entertaining Thomas Matheson. Along the way Reese went through a life-changing experience—a few actually. The meaning behind the music and the message he needed to get out emerged. The Boy on the Corner is not only a tale of forbidden love. It’s a wake-up call that we, as a society, need to finally move away from hate toward acceptance, from fear to understanding. Love is love, my friends. I’m going to assume you all feel the same and that’s why you’re here supporting this groundbreaking project. As a thank-you for your patronage, Reese, myself, and our always-fabulous bass player, Dwayne Maxwell, are going to play a piece from the show.”

Applause filled the room. Spencer had to stay just long enough to hear Tobias’s voice. He had to know.

Reese began to play a soulful ballad, and Tobias and the other man added a gentle rhythm.

Spencer felt tears welling as the men sang their parts—one man desperate to be near the other, one man warning him away for fear the fire will destroy them. Is that what Tobias was trying to say before? But then everything changed when Spencer mentioned what he did. What secrets was his lover hiding? Could he ever gain his trust?

The three men finished the piece, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. The applause went on longer than Tobias and Reese were obviously comfortable with. It appeared Reese was a little misty-eyed, and Tobias gave him a hug and then returned to the microphone.

“Thank you so much. Thank you. We appreciate you all being here to support us. If you are able and willing to support our little love story and help us get it out into the world, please whip out those checkbooks. I think our trusty manager, Arthur Fry, also has a Square or a card with our PayPal on it. Whatever your poison. Now if you all don’t mind, we’d like to bring a little funk up in here.”

Spencer’s fever seemed to return as he watched Tobias adjust his drums a bit and pull out a different set of sticks.

“Your guy is pretty fucking amazing, Spencer,” Charlie said as he handed him a glass of champagne.

“Not my guy,” Spencer corrected. “Definitely not. Here.” He gave Charlie his check wrapped inside the paper he’d written the note on. “Please see that Jesse gets this to them. I need to go. I can’t stay here—”

Charlie tried to pull him aside to talk, but Tobias’s voice boomed out over the small crowd.

“I’d like to honor some of the loves we’ve lost this year,” he said into the microphone as he appeared to make eye contact with Reese and Dwayne. He counted off, and they played the opening bars to “Fame,” by David Bowie, and the house went wild. Guests scrambled to put their drinks down and find a place to dance. Jesse grabbed Danny and the two of them got cozy right up front. She had some incredible moves. Charlie bobbed his head along with the music and gestured for them to move closer, but Spencer held up a hand to say he was close enough.

From “Fame” they transitioned into “Sexy M.F.” by Prince, and the guests lost their minds. Tobias was amazing when he channeled David Bowie, but watching him master the drums and imitate Prince’s swagger on the vocals was too much. His falsetto brought on chills. Spencer was so hot he thought for sure he would end up back in the hospital. Either that or he’d combust from the build up of all the sexual energy.

Tobias’s bleached-blond hair pulled loose from his slicked back ’do and hung over his dark eyes. He enunciated each word carefully, and watching his lips sent Spencer into a spiral of lust as he remembered how sensual Tobias had been in their darkened hotel room. He’d spoken in such a commanding voice when he told Spencer exactly what he wanted from him. Spencer had been unafraid to try all the things Tobias asked for. He was thrilled by the experience, and even if he walked away tonight and never had a future with Tobias, he’d treasure the memories.

When that song ended, the men launched into a sultry version of “Too Funky” by George Michael, this time with Reese on the vocals. Spencer was awestruck by Tobias as he lost himself to the beat and smiled at the crowd and sent out flirtatious glances. For a very white boy, he was in the groove, and Spencer desperately needed some fresh air.

Danny joined them and brought out two guitars. Another blond guy took over on the drums, and Danny handed a guitar to Tobias. Tobias really got down then. “Play That Funky Music” got out of control, followed by some Earth Wind & Fire and more Prince until the whole house was grinding on each other like a drunken frat party. Spencer couldn’t help but chuckle as he watched the stuffy benefactors in their fancy clothes getting down in Danny Black’s horror-inspired living room. The whole thing was surreal.

“Spencer, come dance with us.” Jesse waved him over to where she and Charlie were dancing with a few other people. Spencer waved to them from a barstool against the back wall. There was no way he could join them. He’d done way too much today. He hadn’t been out of the house in a month except for doctor’s appointments, and this event was physically and emotionally trying.

And Toby… just thinking of the expression on his face when he’d walked away from Spencer made the panic attack start to flare up again, and he was desperate to have his freak-out alone.

The music continued, and he thought he should sneak out before he collapsed. He stood from his stool, and with some weaving and bobbing, he turned for the front door. A hand touched his back as he staggered into the wall of the entryway.

“I never took you for a sloppy drunk,” a deep voice said close to his ear. “About what I said earlier, I—”

Spencer turned in the darkened hall and looked into Tobias’s handsome face.

“I haven’t… I don’t… I’m leaving. I’m sorry….”

Tobias appeared to bank left, and then things went dark.


If that little tidbit enticed you, please check out Typhoon Toby, Book Two in the Forces of Nature series from Dreamspinner, and check out my playlist on Spotify. Thanks for joining me today and as always… Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance from R.L. Merrill.

Typhoon Toby on Spotify:

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Check out Typhoon Toby today!



Author Bio:

Once upon a time… a teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ’n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and started purging her demons. R.L. Merrill is still striving to find that perfect balance between real life and happily ever after, and she’ll keep writing love stories until she does. Both self-published and traditionally published with Dreamspinner Press, Ro writes romance in contemporary, paranormal, and horror settings inspired by love, hope, and rock ’n’ roll. She writes stories set in the places she loves most, such as Hollywood, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Northern California, Iowa and Spain. Ro also loves connecting with other authors online, at conventions, and chapter meetings for the Romance Writers of America, of which she’s been a member since 2014.

A sucker for underdogs, Ro has adopted a wide variety of pets including cats, dogs, rats, snakes, a chameleon, and some fish. Her love of horror is evident the moment you walk in her door and find yourself surrounded by decorative skulls and quirky artwork from around the world. You can find her lurking on social media where she loves connecting with readers, or else find her educating America’s youth, being a mom taxi to two busy kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or head-banging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Connect with Ro:
Twitter: @rlmerrillauthor
Stay Tuned for more Rock ’n’ Romance.

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