Against the Ropes
Author: Sarah Castille
Rating: A-, 4 Stars
What I’m Talking About:
I admit, this is not the most well-written book out there—we’ll get to my issues in a minute, but I must also confess that I just really liked it. Why? Because it made me laugh aloud. Because it was sexy. Because it had a happy ending and the characters experienced significant growth. Now, perhaps I was just tired and punchy, but I got into bed expecting to read a chapter, meet the characters and doze off. At 12:30 AM I thought, “I should stop reading and go to sleep.” At 1:00 AM I was trying very hard not to wake my husband with my laughter. At 2:00 AM I finally forced myself to put the book down with only a hundred pages to go. The last hundred pages, not quite so funny, but with a building intensity that I finished the next day.
My sense of humor is very dry, very sarcastic. So is main character Makayla. Against the Ropes is told from her POV so we get to hear the running dialog and commentary in her head that should never come out her mouth. “I down my amuse-bouche like a shot of tequila. Bitter, fishy, and frothy. My mouth is not amused.” And another gem, “Oh, God. Someone please put me out of my misery, or at least cover my mouth with surgical tape.” Makayla and I got along just fine.
As a pre-med college graduate, Makayla is not really sure she wants to become a doctor so she’s put off applying to medical school. She barely pays the bills by working in admitting for a hospital and volunteers as a certified EMT. She also has a lot of school loans and a debt collector who gives her extensions when she tells him jokes rather than hanging up or swearing at him. Still, she needs money. To close the gap between her debts and her income, she takes a job doing first aid at an unsanctioned, underground mixed martial arts (MMA) fight club. What’s funny about that? She hates violence. In fact, because of experiences in her past, it makes her literally vomit. This is where she meets Torment—that’s his fight name. “Courtesy of Torment, I have a protein shake, a protein bar, an energy drink, a bucket, and a wet cloth. He sure knows how to treat a girl.”
Torment was confusing to me. The cover was seriously hot and I enjoyed picturing him in a rough, sweaty MMA fight, but he straddles two worlds thanks to an expensive and elite staff, which makes it hard to understand his motives. He lets almost no one close to him, but when he chooses to focus in on Makayla, he demands her surrender, intimacy, and trust. Especially her trust. There is one scene in particular which I will not spoil, that went over the top for me. Makayla was at her very most vulnerable and rather than comfort her properly, he made it all about himself. We do eventually learn Torment’s motives, the pains and failures that he’s built his whole adult life around to become a major success. Those pains get unraveled at the conclusion of the story in a way that was too abrupt for me. I didn’t think he (nor the reader) got the time he deserved to process it when you consider how much his previous perspectives have shaped him. He deserves a happy ending, but he has to get there the right way.
Against the Ropes is set in San Francisco. I’m a sucker for anything based in my hometown. For the same reason, I was distracted by the characters ease in moving back and forth across the bay from the peninsula to the east bay and back. At times it seems like the author was making Oakland references while still in San Francisco. There is just too much congestion and it can take hours to traverse those bridges at the wrong time of the day. There’s no traffic like California traffic. I’ve lived it, driven it, and like the main characters, even been necking up in the Oakland hills. Dancing too, but this isn’t my story… People unfamiliar with the bay area will be fine with it, it was just an annoyance for me as a native.
Speaking of necking in the hills, there was a lot of sex in this book and in multiple locations. An excessive amount it seemed to me, even for an erotica title. Castille actually uses the dominate sex as a method to work out some of the characters issues and initiate revelation and growth. I wonder if she couldn’t have done it with a little more plot. Control and trust is the main theme. I did not read Fifty Shades of Grey, but others who have said those who enjoyed it would enjoy Against the Ropes. I will say it’s compelling. For good or for bad, I wanted to keep reading.
4 stars: Enjoyed – strongly recommend (A-)
About the Book:
He scared me. He thrilled me. And after one touch, all I could think about was getting more…
Makayla never thought she’d set foot in an elite mixed martial arts club. But if anyone needs a medic on hand, it’s these guys. Then again, at her first sight of the club’s owner, she’s the one feeling breathless.
The man they call Torment is all sleek muscle and restrained power. Whether it’s in the ring or in the bedroom, he knows exactly when a soft touch is required and when to launch a full-on assault. He always knows just how far he can push. And he’s about to tempt Makayla in ways she never imagined..
Release Date: September 3, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Erotic Romance, BDSM, Contemporary Romance
Format(s): Paperback (368 pgs), e-book
Book Source: Publisher/NetGalley
Against the Ropes