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So after giving up on the steaming pile of shit that was Laura Kinsale’s Lessons In French, the postman did me a favour and delivered Laura Leone’s Fallen From Grace through my door a few weeks ago. It was very timely indeed.

I first heard about this book via Keishon’s (Avidbookreader) blog quite a few years ago, and I’ve been looking for it ever since. They had a copy at Amazon a while back, but I wasn’t prepared to pay £50 for it at the time.

The last book that I read and loved that featured a prostitute hero was Shelby Reed’s The Fifth Favor, and in fact I felt that there were quite a few similarities in terms of tone and overall feel of the book. As with TFF, the hero was the shining beacon in the book, ably assisted by a fine heroine.

Blurb:

While trying to save her spiralling career, writer Sara Diamond befriends her new next-door neighbour, Ryan Kinsmore. A soft-spoken younger man with charm and good looks, Ryan leads a mysterious double life which becomes increasingly hard for him to conceal from Sara as their intimacy grows.

Even after Ryan falls in love with her and stops pretending to himself that this isn’t wrong, that Sara wont be hurt by their relationship, he can’t give her up or walk away.

As Sara learns the truth about him, trapped in a world of lies, danger and sex-for-hire, Ryan becomes determined to find a way out of the life he was drawn into as a runaway minor, and equally determined to rescue a street kid whom he finds falling into the same traps which once caught him. But Ryan’s secret life is lived in a ruthless world which wont easily let him go. Having fallen so far from grace, can he find his way back?

Ryan has been turning tricks since he was a sixteen year old boy, for a rather cold and calculating pimpess called Catherine. Catherine rescued him when he was just fourteen year old, and ever since has had a hold on him that he’s found difficult to escape from. Catherine is a control freak who’s manipulations have kept Ryan from seeking a new, healthier life.

The opening scene features Ryan (under his working boy alias of “Kevin”), in the midst of making love to a shy client. Kevin is one of the most sought after escorts in Catherine’s agency and the reason why is fairly obvious within the first few pages of the book. Kevin is a sensitive lover who has had to cater to hundreds of women, all with different insecurities about their bodies and their desirability.

Sara is an out-of-contract author who moves into the apartment next door to Ryan. She’s a 35 year old single woman who’s had her publishing contract recently cancelled, and finds herself at a crossroad in her life.

The two first meet on the day that Sara and her pleasantly dysfunctional family (her father, and her sister, Miriam) are begrudgingly helping her to move into her new apartment.

They bump into each other whilst Sara and her sister are exploring the communal balcony and Sara is instantly attracted to this rather beautiful looking young man, but dismisses her interest in him, because of the difference in their ages.

After Ryan and her family depart, Sara succumbs to the deep loneliness and feelings of failure that motivated her to make this move in the first place. Whilst she’s trying to keep the tears at bay, Ryan comes home after a night’s ‘work’, and finds her on their shared balcony. They talk for a while, and Ryan’s comforting presence allows Sara to truly let go, and she cries in his arms. It was actually this scene that clued me in on what I was in for.

There was a slight scuffle of shoes and paws, then a box of tissues appeared in front of Sara.
“Thanks” she sobbed, yanking several tissues in a row and then holding them up to her wet, puffy, grimacing face.
“I’m putting the box right next to you”, Ryan said. “On the table here.”
She nodded, eyes closed, and sat with the tissues pressed to her face. Then the chair creaked under Ryan’s weight as he rested his butt on its arm. Sara suddenly felt his body next to her, warm and solid. She shifted nervously when he put his hand on her back.
“It’s okay” he said, his voice like melting butter. “Sometimes a good cry is what it takes.” That slight drawl in his voice made him sound so soothing.
So Sara wept. Just cried like a kid whose favourite toy had been broken. The hand on her back stroked her, sure and gentle, an undemanding human contact silently telling her that her tears were all right. Needy and shameless, she shifted and leaned against him. He slid his arm around her and squeezed settling his weight comfortably against her, then continued those slow, sympathetic caresses, along her back and shoulder.

Ryan’s gentleness and caring nature, is in sharp contrast to the life that he secretly leads, and he was the perfect foil for Sara’s vulnerable state.

After this unusual beginning, Ryan and Sara’s friendship grows.
She thinks that he’s a model who has to go away quite often for his work, and so volunteers to look after his menagerie of pets, including his very lazy, overgrown dog, Macy.

Laura Leone’s portrayal of their growing friendship was touching and beautiful, and it left me as a reader wanting more. The chemistry between the two of them was a wonderful thing to be privy to, and I was surprised by how much sexual tension Ms Leone managed to convey between them, even in non-sexual situations.

Ryan is a kind, but fractured individual, who although has experienced sex in all its forms, has never known what it is to be truly loved by another human being, and so to have somebody show him his worth for the first time in his life is staggering to him, and he is desperate not to lose this precious gift he seems to have found.

He is eventually forced to tell Sara about his other life, one night, and the way that they work through it, is one of the things that I love the most about this book. Of course there was angst, and heart-break throughout, but the premise of the story was based on the very romantic notion of redemption, and love conquering all.

Sara’s faith and understanding helps propel Ryan to reach for those things that he had always yearned for, but had felt was unattainable for such as he, and it was wonderful to see his confidence grow, and for him to embrace the possibility of a life lived in the sun, rather than in the darkness that had shrouded the first twenty-six years of his life.

Fallen From Grace really was a terrific book, and it reminded me that this genre that we love so much, is more than capable of producing something so splendid that it stays with you for a long time.

This book has been out of print for years, and The Book Depository doesn’t carry it, however you can get hold of a copy here at Abe Books.

11 Comments »

  • I just reread this book for the 5th-6th(?) time in April and adored it just as much this past read as I did the first time I read it.
    Ryan makes for a wonderful hero, kind, gentle, thoughtful and sexy as all get out. I love his awkwardness the first time they make love considering what he does for a living. I also loved the side story of how he tries to help the young boy from living the same kind of life he did.
    And Grace is an equally wonderful heroine. After her initial shock at Ryan’s ‘real’ occupation, I love how she supported him and didn’t judge him. And I love the rather poignant relationship she has with her sister. And their father is a hoot.
    It’s nice seeing you do a full fledged review *g* and you couldn’t have picked a better book to do one for.

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  • I have this book… and I think I’ve had it for ages, but I’ve never read it. Now I’m wondering why… O_O

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  • DS
    May 4
    12:22 pm

    I loved this book. I still do not understand why a major publisher (other than Five Star, which puts out over-priced hard covers for direct sale to libraries usually) would not take a chance on it– especially considering some of the stuff that does get published.

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  • She’s been writing fantasy lately under her real name, Laura Resnick.

    I don’t think she’s done any more romance.

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  • DS
    May 4
    9:05 pm

    She has an urban fantasy/mystery series that looks interesting to me. Unfortunately the first one in the series (Disappearing Nightly) is out of print and the used copies are a bit pricy. Sounds familiar.

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  • Maili
    May 5
    12:49 pm

    I remember how much I loved this one. Last time I pimped it was at SaveContemporaryRomance.com (?), I think.

    It does have a WTF? moment on Ryan’s part, but the overall story (and her writing) made me not mind this moment.

    @Shiloh
    Read it. Just read it. I’m betting it’s the sort you enjoy.

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  • Keishon
    May 7
    1:03 am

    Well, you know, I love this book. So I’m happy you enjoyed it as well. There are a lot of great romance books OOP. This is one of them. Take care, Karen.

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  • Erin
    May 8
    5:59 pm

    I’ve read this book about 4 or 5 times? I love it more with each re-read. I’ve tried one of her other books (written under the name Laura Resnick) and didn’t love it but I still look for her stuff written as Laura Leone in the used book stores 🙂

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  • Laura Resnick (a.k.a. Laura Leone) here. How nice to see someone discovering this book!

    It was the last romance novel I sold (my fourteenth), and it was VERY hard to find a market for it. The agent I had at the time castigated me for writing the proposal. Other agents whom I approached declined to handle it, telling me that “women aren’t interested in reading about this.” Eight or nine publishing houses turned it down, all of them saying it was “too left of center,” “too wild,” and “too dark,” etc. I believed they were wrong, but I set it aside for about a year while I tried to rethink how to break through that market barrier (and meanwhile kept writing fantasy, which–due to years of having precisely this kind of problem when marketing my romance novels–had by then become my full-time genre).

    Then one day a male science fiction and fantasy editor who happened to be temporarily acquiring romance for a small press was chatting with me, and he asked, out of idle curiosity, why I had left romance. And, having recently come off this experience, BOY, did I give him an earful! He was curious and asked to see the book. The upshot was that he loved it and was determined to acquire it; and although I had originally hoped to sell the book to a house capable of much wider distribution, I was by then just so glad to find an editor who was enthused and “got” the book that I was delighted.

    This book that EVERY major romance program assured me that romance readers WOULD NOT WANT to read… became a Rita Award finalist in comtemporary single title romance; was named a Desert Island Keeper by AllAboutRomance.com; and was recently listed on DearAuthor.com’s list of the Top 100 Romance Novels.

    However, my last two sales in the romance genre, which occurred years apart and only after the books had been rejected everywhere else, were BOTH sales I made to sf/f editors who temporarily happened to be acquiring romance novels for small programs that didn’t last. And I can’t build an audience or making a living that way.

    I also tried to sell these same two books (FALLEN FROM GRACE and FEVER DREAMS) to a mid-size romance reprint program about 18 months ago. Not only did the editor reject the books… she actually telephoned me to tell me (at excruciating length) just how bad she thought they were and how sure she was that romance readers would hate them, finding it too much of an “effort” to “wade through” my turgid prose.

    Meanwhile, I’m heavily contracted in fantasy, where the only thing editors want from me to that I write faster, because they want to release more of my books. (At the present rate of my fantasy publishers’ demands, I may be able to take a weekend off some time in 2014.) Personally, I think I’m a reasonably good romance writer… but in more than a decade of marketing my books, I never once found a romance editor who thought so. So I’ve been a full-time fantasy writer for quite some time now, and this seems likely to be a permanent situation. I’d -like- to write more romance… but barring a substantial change in how romance editors think of romance fiction, it doesn’t seem very likely to happen; and I am very fortunate to have a lot of commitments in fantasy, a genre I love writing.

    However, thanks to new technologies, the out-of-print situation with some of my old romances will soon change. As soon as there’s a let-up in my fantasy writing schedule (currently, I’m coming off one killer deadline and immdeiately entering another), I’ll get these books into affordable e-publishing and POD format. That’s vaguely on my To Do list for this year. Updated information about that will be on my website!

    Anyhow, thanks for reading and reviewing this book!

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  • “Women aren’t interested in reading about this.”…

    Laura Resnick a.k.a Laura Leone left a very interesting comment on my review of Fallen From Grace. It was such an interesting tale that I’m going to post it on here for you guys to read: Laura Resnick (a.k.a. Laura Leone) here. How nice to see so…


  • […] has also reissued a few of her backlist titles. They include Fallen From Grace which received a rave review from Karen Knows Best last year. (Thanks to Keishon for the heads up.) Share and […]


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