Posted in: Karen's romance novel observations, reviews
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.
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.