Visceral. Vivid. Compelling.
I felt my way through this entire book. Gritty and deeply emotional, I was consumed by the words and wholly gripped by this journey into the dark, lurid, sinful world of addiction, sex, love and lies.
Some say love can be an addiction. Others say it’s the thing that makes life worth living. Let me tell you everything I know about love…Love isn’t patient, love isn’t kind. Love is a game, a chase. A thrill. Love is wild and war-like, and every man and woman must fight for themselves. At least that’s how it was for me. A high-priced virgin call girl by the time I started college, I was addicted to love and to sex. Even though I’ve never had either. I controlled love, played it, and held the world in the palm of my hands. Then I fell down from those highs, and I’m being blackmailed for all my mistakes, forced to keep secrets from everyone, except the only guy I don’t regret.
With all the other women, I knew what they were. They were temporary. They were pills, they were bottles, they took away all the pain, and numbed the awful memories that wore down my ragged, wasted heart. Until I met Harley. She’s the only girl I ever missed when she walked away. But now she’s back in my life, every day, and there are no guarantees for us, especially since I don’t know how to tell her my secrets. What happened to my family. All I know is she’s the closest I’ve ever come to something real, and I want to feel every second of it.
How can you love with no regrets when regret is all you know?
“Love isn’t a quilt. Love isn’t patient, love isn’t kind. Love is a game, a chase, a thrill. Love is wild and war-like, and every man and woman must fight for themselves.
I can play the game.
I can control love.”
Every now and then I come across a book that owns me. This one completely consumed me from the first page. I sat up a little straighter, inched a little closer to my Kindle and focused a little more intently on the words that pulsed across the screen. Visceral. That was the immediate word that came to mind. Lauren Blakely’s word choices, her syntax, her structure and flow took a gripping story even further, to where I felt and experienced every moment in the book. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I can assure you it won’t be the last. The story of Trey and Harley is dark and gritty. It’s not pretty. It’s not clean. It’s real and rough around the edges. It’s brimming with emotion and full of temptation. It’s angst and addiction, it’s love and redemption. It’s two sex addicts trying to find themselves as they unexpectedly find the very thing that eluded them for so long in each other… real love. The kind of love that suddenly and beautifully arises from the ugliness of a past tarnished by irreversible mistakes, profound disappointment and ruthless addiction.
“Sometimes when I say the words silently, in my head, at a whisper, I can still feel a fierce red blush covering my cheeks. I was a call girl… I loved it. I loved the crazy burn, the rush, the thrill of power. Because I needed it, I wanted it, I craved it. I still do.”
At nineteen years old, Harley Coleman is addicted to sex and love. She’s drugged on the high the control gives her, on the rush of power she has over men. She’s a high-end call girl who’s never had sex, but who constantly craves the thrill of controlling and being in control. She is able to deflect her own feelings and bury the irrefutable fact that she doesn’t really know who she is. For so long, she’s been defined by sex… the allure of it, her client’s desire for it, her own mother’s all-too-real obsession to it. And now she’s being blackmailed for it too.
“I also just want to be me. But I don’t know who she is. I don’t know who I am. I am two people. Torn and tattered in split halves.”
Her mother’s first lesson in seduction came at the age of thirteen. She learned how to attune herself to give men exactly what they wanted. And even before then, her mother always taught her that being pretty, being admired… desired, was what’s most important. Over the years Harley became Layla… a highly sought-after expert at fulfilling men’s deepest, darkest and most lurid desires.
The night before it’s all supposed to change, before she attends a group for sex and love addicts, when she decides to tattoo her skin with a reminder of where she came from, she meets Trey. Sparks ignite surreptitiously with her inked tattoo artist. He didn’t know who she was or what she was. She was caught up in her desire for this man, allowing herself to feel with this one guy before it all would change. She would never see him again anyway.
Until the next morning.
When Trey shows up to her group meeting, she can’t believe that he too, is addicted to sex and love, but as she would find out, for an entirely different reason. Trey has experienced profound tragedy and disappointment in his life that has left him numb, with the only way to feel something being through sex with older, married women. He fulfills the desires that their husbands cannot. He rides the thrill of the feeling, the thrill of the escape from a world inside himself that is all too painful to face.
“I knew I had a problem, and the cut on my face was my rock bottom. I didn’t need someone else to find the bottom of my addiction for me. I f*&#ing found it, and I decided to get my shit together after I spent the better part of my teenage years screwing married women in my building… I am also reminded that it was hollow. That I was so disconnected from all of them. I was ghosting through life, taking what I wanted, stealing what others had. But that one night with Harley was the closest I’ve ever felt to right.”
Dictated that no relationships and no sex occur for at least a year while they are in group, a friendship ensues where they can both be themselves. Free of expectation. Free of the addiction that grips them. They are able to be open and honest with each other and a need for the other intensifies the more time they spend together. Before long, so much emotion is ready to explode beneath the surface. A need to care for the other, a sexual desire, a friendship… feelings that are both intrinsically foreign to them. This seems too real and the only feelings they’ve had have been empty outcomes of the addiction they share.
“We are magnets and I can’t resist the pull. There is no distance between us and I don’t want any more distance. I want closeness, I want connection, I want it with her.”
There is a powerful duality… a push and pull constantly between them. The duality of who they are. The pull of their undeniable feelings. The push of the fears that haunt them. The pull of hope and redemption. The push of their addiction. It’s a captivating story to see unfurl as you wait with bated breath who and what will overcome in the end. I loved who they were together. I loved the authenticity of them and the way they cared deeply for each other. I was rooting for them both as you felt and almost saw the vises of their addiction try and try again to grab them and rip them apart. They deserved to be happy. Harley had to try and reach the real Trey and understand his secrets before they progressed any further and Trey had to be sure that he was more than just “part of her fix.” Other elements in the story weave in and out, influencing their future, but I don’t want to spoil any of it. The story ends in a mild cliffhanger. Although the core of this story ends in a place I was happy with, a plot twist gives us a glimpse into a complication that threatens their future. I desperately wish I had the next book in my hands because I loved these characters so much!
All in all, I highly recommend this book. I loved it… writing, story, characters. We will see two more installments as part of the series. The next is The Start of Us, which will be out in about a week and is actually a prequel, giving us the story of how they first met. Next, Every Second With You will be the full-length sequel being released in early 2014. The Thrill of It is out late tonight/early tomorrow, so go pre-order right now!