Publisher: Samhain Publishing Ltd.
Publication Date: July 5, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Melanie Dixon’s body may have recovered from a horrific climbing accident, but her nerve is long gone. So is the natural enthusiasm for life she took for granted. Tired of being scared, beyond ready to conquer her fears, she pulls up stakes and moves to her brother’s new hometown to start over. Her first step is the most terrifying—to tackle the wall at the local climbing center.
Derrick James is mesmerized by Melanie’s dark beauty, and equally impressed with her climbing abilities and determination. Watching her retune rusty skills spurs a desire to partner with her—on and off the ropes. Melanie’s a compelling mix of wit, sensuality and vulnerability, and it’s his delicious task to convince her the scars on her body are no match for the heat rising between them.
Then a man from Melanie’s past shows up, pushing their relationship to the edge. Nathan King wants photographs for a “where are they now” series, but his side agenda is more personal in nature. A proposal that brings her out of her sensual shell and onto a precarious sexual ledge. Where trust is crucial…and too easily shattered.
One slip of a rope, one safety failure and Melanie Dixon’s life as she knew it was gone. Once a confident rock climber, she’s scarred physically and mentally – years later she’s still locked in a box of fear. Taking a class at Derrick James’ climbing center is going to be her first step back to scaling something bigger than a set of stairs and the longer she works with the gorgeous instructor, scaling him is starting to look pretty good too. Holding her back are those lingering scars that seem to get bigger the closer she gets to him.
While the view from under Melanie as she’s relearning to climb is pretty fine, Derrick much prefers the one he gets when they’re face to face. She moves him – her courage, her beauty and her passion and the scars on her body are less than nothing to him. With Derrick, Melanie finally feels beautiful.
Her calm, happy life with Derrick and acceptance of her scars is torn away from her with the arrival of her old friend Nathan. He’s a photojournalist working for a big magazine and has supposedly shown up to work with her. He’s also an old crush of Melanie’s – a crush that hasn’t gone away – and he’s making it clear the feeling’s mutual. Derrick knows. He’s making it clear that Melanie’s his, but he’s not discouraging Nathan either even when he asks for a kind of trust from her that she’s only given to Derrick.
Well. I suppose I can get a couple of things out of the way before I start trying to make some sense in my thoughts in the review. I love Vivian Arend’s books in so many ways I just keep losing count. I own them all, I reread them all. I love the guys, I love the storylines and I usually end up sniffling through parts of the stories. Secondly, after I read Falling, Freestyle, I’d pretty much decided that Kane was my favorite male character Arend had written. Kane can move to the back of the bus. Derrick’s sitting with me in the front, sorry. Okay, on to the review.
Just from what tiny bits I’ve gathered of the author’s own odd habit of spending time outdoors in cold places where insects and animals live, doing things that involve rocks, water and snow, I’m sure she’s done her research well on the subject of rock climbing and it shows. Without being technically showy, I love that the characters know what they’re doing and the writing is confident. I shudder to think I’ll ever have to know what to do when someone yells “belay,” at me, but it would be handy to know how to make one of those hanging sex harness things if I find myself in a climbing center with a gorgeous instructor (never).
I could easily imagine the story could happen to any climber who’d suffered a bad fall. I liked that Melanie was just allowed to be - the story was really driven by Derrick and the majority of it seemed to be told from his perspective. Her internal story was more about feeling inadequate but the external was seeing how beautiful she was and of finding ways to show her and make her see it.
I think the worst that can be said about Derrick is that he didn’t ever really get irritated with Melanie which probably puts him on the border of being too perfect. He knew most of what he felt about her soon enough that he started making decisions about how to help her. I really loved being in his head seeing Melanie – his possessiveness, deep concern for her and appreciation of every bit of her had me alternating between shivering and sniffling. He’s smoking hot in bed (and in that climbing center harness) with Melanie. Rather than devote an entire paragraph to the sizzle this time that I need to start up my fan, I’ll just promise you that it’s gulp-worthy.
I had some mixed feelings about Nathan. I didn’t like him that much when he first showed up since I thought he was messing with Derrick and Melanie’s relationship. As things progressed and Derrick’s feelings became clear, I felt better. By the end I was left feeling somewhat fondly of him, although I’m still not sure I like him.
In Falling, Freestyle there was a committed menage relationship and I had a couple of people ask me if there would be some sort of menage involved in this story because of the blurb. I don’t usually go into to much detail but I was asked about it and thought I’d just include some spoiler behind white text.
- Derrick asks Nathan to be the third once with Melanie but his participation is extremely limited, brief and he doesn’t get to, uh, fully enjoy himself with Derrick and Melanie in the flesh but as a voyeur. One final scene starts when he photographs Derrick and Melanie in a climbing encounter that turns sexual – his role is strictly limited to voyeurism.
I didn’t want to end this review without mentioning that Jack, Kane – who’s Melanie’s brother – and Dara from Falling, Freestyle, also make appearances here. It’s been about eight months since their story and there’s some fun and interesting perspective on how their relationship is going. It was a great addition and I loved it.
My Summary: While it would have been improbable that I wouldn’t have liked any Vivian Arend book anyway, I can easily say that this is wonderful and fully deserves the grade it gets on its own merit regardless of the author. The technical details were nice and it was a treat seeing the characters from the last book but what won me was that Derrick was big-hearted and wildly romantic, a hero worth the Kleenex pile in my lap and the happily ever after made me smile.
My Rating: A
*Both Falling, Freestyle and Rising, Freestyle are going to be published together in print, with an anticipated release next summer.
*There will be 2 more books in the Xtreme Adventures series, the next one will involve ocean kayaking (my note: shudder – fish and stuff)