The Harder He Falls, The Deeper He Hurts

Prompt: Tell about a book you’re currently reading (or have recently finished). Give us a brief synopsis and your thoughts on it.

Ugh, this is not a good time for me to be answering this prompt. Talk about embarrassing!  I’m currently in the middle of a series that features m/m couples who are each involved (to different extents) in the BDSM world.

So, I just finished reading The Harder He Falls by Lynda Aicher. And I’ve started on the sequel, The Deeper He Hurts. These are both re-reads for me. But… (ooh, exciting!)… I’ve just seen that the third book in the series is out, and I haven’t read that one before! It’s called The Farther He Runs, and it starts Finn who plays a big part in the first book.

So, all three books are based around a company called Adrenaline Kick Adventures. Their speciality is white water rafting. The first book starts a little over a month after Grady joined the company. On his first time leading a group down a river for Kick, with two of the company’s partners in the boat with him, they hit a submerged log. One of the partners is killed, and the other (Finn) ends up in a coma. Grady, of course, is drowning (forgive the pun) in guilt.

At the hospital, visiting Finn, Grady meets Micah, who reads to coma patients. Micah reaches out to Grady and offers to talk to him, as he has experience of being in a coma. Micah has some permanent mental health issues resulting from his time in the coma – primarily, he gets ‘lost’ at random times, being suddenly unable to recognise his surroundings. This can mean he can be lost in his own house or in his workplace. Pretty scary.

Grady and Micah hit it off. Unlike most of the guys who work for Kick, Grady isn’t ex-military, nor is he a Dom. Micah isn’t either, but due to his coma-related issues, Micah has a need to be in control during sex. Grady struggles with that, as he’s had a bad experience with a Dom before. He sees submitting as weak, even though he craves it. His struggle to accept this aspect of the relationship is one of the key conflicts in the book.

Another issue is that most of the partners at Kick are Doms. Grady is sure if they found out that he likes to submit to Micah in the bedroom, they’ll see him as weak, and he’ll never be seen as an equal again.

Meanwhile, Micah doesn’t understand how an adventurer like Grady, who has travelled the globe, can be happy with someone who gets lost in his own bedroom. He also needs to learn to trust Grady to be there for him when he’s lost.

It does all eventually work itself out, of course. This is a romance novel after all.

The sequel, The Deeper He Hurts, features another river guide who is convinced by Grady to join the company. He’s what is termed a ‘pain slut’. If you don’t really understand what that means, don’t worry. Neither did I. The BDSM world is not something I’m familiar with! He agreed to leave his current job and join Kick because he’d heard rumours that one of the partners was a sadist, and he was curious if the guy would be a match for him. That sadist is Asher.

I was genuinely unsure if I could like a character who liked hurting other people. My knowledge of sadism is pretty limited, but it’s about getting off on hurting someone else, right? That’s where my thinking was at when I started the book. But it’s not like that, and in fact, there’s a lot of focus on Asher looking after Sawyer, both in and out of the bedroom. Like any other couple in a romance novel, they slowly fall in love, and it’s not one-sided. The pain exchange (or whatever the term is called) doesn’t mean the two don’t have gentle feelings for each other. It’s hard to explain.

The third novel is about Finn, who is the one in the coma in the first book. I’m looking forward to reading that. I have already gathered that Finn is a Dom, but not sure about anything else at this stage.

I haven’t read many BDSM books, and I think the reason I can deal with these ones is that the relationships remain very equal, especially outside the bedroom. Although they do ‘scenes’, there isn’t one person who wears the pants all the time. That’s important to me. I’m not sure I could read a book where one of the couple was constantly grovelling and begging for scraps of attention. No thanks.

I can’t say how accurate the books are in terms of the actual BDSM world, or any parts thereof. I have no idea. If you’re curious, read them yourself and let me know.

Books read in January

Stay With Me by Ann T Cee *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Smoky Mountain Dreams by Leta Blake *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Quinn by Lily Baldwin  *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

A Cowboy’s Home by R J Scott *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Snow In Montana by R J Scott *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Second Chances by Jerry Cole *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Switched by N R Walker *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Bloodline by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Speechless by Kim Fielding *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Stay With Me by Ann T Cee
There was no conflict in this story.  I was hoping for something…more.  It was sweet and…boring.

Switched by N R Walker
We’ve all heard stories of babies being switched at birth, but few of us can imagine what it must feel like to be in that situation.  N R Walker gives us a fascinating insight.

At first I felt like Israel’s parents were too evil.  No one is black and white.  But the author corrects this by giving us insight into their behaviour and showing other sides of their personalities making them more multi-dimensional.

Overall, I found the concept and story quite fascinating.

Bloodline by Barbara Elsborg
The characters in this were well fleshed out, which made them feel real and believable despite the paranormal aspect.  I loved the Princess Bride references and the general humour.

Books read in December

Downtime by Tamara Allen *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Fractured Hymns by A M Arthur *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

The Alpha’s Hunger by Renee Rose  *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

An Ordinary Girl by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Ricky by Ashley John *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

A Cowboy’s Christmas Promise Maggie McGinnis *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Talking Trouble by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Chosen by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Downtime by Tamara Allen
Morgan Nash is a 21st century FBI agent. He is somehow accidentally ‘summoned’ back to the 19th century by some scholars who were testing their Latin.

The book with the spell in it is stolen and as they hunt for the means to send Morgan back to his own time, he becomes embroiled in the legendary Jack the Ripper case (irresistible to an FBI agent!) and starts falling for Ezra, his housemate.

Sometimes when writing time travel novels, authors go to the ridiculous (or tedious) trying to convince us that they are familiar with the time period and to help us ‘see it’. In this case, the author focuses on the characters and the plot, and the time periods are secondary, to the point where they feel natural rather than forced. It’s well done.

I actually ended up researching ‘Prince Eddy’ online to find out more about the real man and what happened to it. It’s always great when an historical story prompts you to do real research.

Talking Trouble by Barbara Elsborg
The plot was good, but I would have enjoyed it more without all the gratuitous sex scenes.

Chosen by Barbara Elsborg
Kate is kidnapped by Jack.  He not only rapes her, but threatens every good Samaritan that Kate tries to seek help from, and kills the one man who does try and help her.  Then Jack kidnaps a child from a McDonalds and takes Kate and the child to live in a remote house in the woods where they are going to be happy families.  The raping and violence continues, and Jack threatens the child to help keep Kate in line.  She tries desperately to seek freedom for herself and the child, enduring increasingly more violent punishments each time she is caught.  Meanwhile, Jack’s half brother Nathan has been stalking and monitoring Jack ever since he came out of the mental hospital he went into after sleeping with Nathan’s fiance.  He doesn’t really have any better motive than revenge, but it does mean that he is the one that notices that Jack has disappeared right after buying flowers for a mystery woman.  He hunts Jack down and when Kate appeals to him for help, Jack draws Nathan into his sick and violent plot.  When Nathan and Kate finally manage to escape with the child, Jack goes straight to the police with a twisted sob story that is practically impossible to unravel.  Now Nathan and Kate are wanted for kidnapping and the police believe that Kate is not only mentally unbalanced, but involved in an S&M relationship with Jack and not only enjoys the pain but invites it.  There is little hope of ever being free of Jack’s machinations.

For me, this wasn’t a romance.  Kate and Nathan don’t even meet until 75% through the book, and by the time the book has finished, they’ve probably only known each other a week.  That week has been spent either in the hospital or on the run and filled with constant danger.  They really know nothing of each other.  On top of that, Kate has just endured rape as well as physical and mental torture by Nathan’s half brother.  There is no way she is in any state of mind (or body) for what is her first consensual relationship.  No way.  It was completely unbelievable.

The plot was incredibly convoluted.  I haven’t even gone into all the twists and turns the plot takes.  Not only is there the current events which are convoluted, there is Jack’s twisted interpretation of events which are exceptionally complicated, there are events from history which feed into the current events that we learn about in bits and pieces, and on top of all that, there are other people manipulating the main characters.  By the end of the book I was so confused.  It would have been a better story without all the drama from the past, and without the other people who were doing the manipulating.

It is an incredibly dark story.  There is a lot of violence, both sexual and not.  The violence escalates as the book progresses, and I simply can’t imagine that Kate could come through it without horrific mental scars to go with the physical scars she would bear.

The writing style itself was good, and easy to read.  It was the convoluted plot and the fact that the romance was not only far from the focus of the plot but also utterly unbelievable that led me to give it two stars.

Books read in November

It Was Always You by various authors *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

In The Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Crash by Nicole James  *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Drawn In by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*

Give Yourself Away by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*

Falling by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

With or Without Him by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Breaking by Barbara Elsborg *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Resurrection Heart by Wendy Lynn Clark *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Three Dirty Secrets by Nikki Sloane *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Falling by Barbara Elsborg
Harper has been released from prison after serving 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit. He runs into Malachi several times by chance, and the pair hit it off.

Malachi has his own issues, and the two lean on each other, learn from each other and grow close.

There are unresolved issues on both sides, and plenty who don’t want to see them happy. The obstacles seem insurmountable, and both men are struggling to find the inner strength required.

The book didn’t gloss over all the ways that Harper’s life had changed, now that he had a criminal record, nor the attitudes he received from people regarding the crime he’d been committed of. That felt realistic.

When we first meet Harper, he is paralysed with indecision after spending 10 years without having a say over even the smallest aspects of his own life. Choices simply overwhelm him. However, after that first meeting, this issue appears to vanish. He becomes decisive and even demanding, bargaining like a pro. It was this huge discrepancy (it felt like huge because I had been led to expect one thing and got another) that prevented me from giving the book five stars. It needed to be either toned down in the beginning so that it was more believable when he got over it so quickly, or he needed to take longer to get over it.

One other thing – Harper took a HUGE risk at one point, doing something he knew breached his parole restrictions. I couldn’t understand why he would. It was such an unimportant thing to do, yet could have such huge repercussions, and he just…did it. Like he didn’t care if he went back to prison or not, when we had been led to believe he did. It was out of character and it annoyed me.

It’s hard to say too much more without giving away spoilers. The book felt real, mixed sweet and gritty very well, and I enjoyed it.

Books read in October

A Gypsy’s Kiss by Susan Griscom *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Redeeming Hope by Shell Taylor *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Hell on Wheels by Z A Maxfield *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Alaska With Love by Sandrine Gasq-Dion *Star**Starw**Starw**Starw**Starw*

An Honorable Man by Sandrine Gasq-Dion *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

A Selfless Man by Sandrine Gasq-Dion *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Rented Heart by Garrett Leigh *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

All Chained Up by Sophie Jordan *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

The Arrangement by Felice Stevens *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

A Selfless Man by Sandrine Gasq-Dion
This was very easy to read, but there wasn’t much conflict. Michael was in love from very early in the book and never faltered in that. Also, although Michael claimed that he wasn’t perfect, the author never showed us any of his flaws.

All Chained Up by Sophie Jordan
The book was easy to read, but the relationship didn’t feel believable. The heroine was still nervous and wary, and all of a sudden she’s inviting him to her place for hot monkey sex? I don’t think so. And with a history of abusive men in her life, his violent outburst at a family gathering (which was NOT okay) was forgiven by both her and her sister? I don’t think so. And how come Martin never pressed charges? It would have been in character for him to do so.