24 March 2015

Falling (Fall or Break #1) by Barbara Elsborg

 Falling is easy. Landing without breaking your heart? Impossible.

Harper is no longer behind bars, but it doesn’t feel like it. Ten years serving time for a crime he didn’t commit have left him shut down, numb, and a frozen wreck over the simplest of choices.

He’s acutely aware of the dark-haired young man checking him out in the supermarket, but he’s too deep in panic mode to even meet the guy’s gaze. Afraid the slightest move will trigger a fall that will never stop.

Fresh off a long-term relationship with a controlling man, Malachi is stuck living with relatives who think he’s a waste of oxygen. The tall guy in the long, gray coat is the first bright spot he’s glimpsed in a long time…though the man’s unblinking stare at a bottle of shower gel is a touch alarming.

Hard experience tells both of them to turn away before lust turns to hopeless attraction, and inevitably to disaster. But once their sparks connect, the arc of electricity is too strong to deny. Even if the cost is too much to bear.

Warning: Contains an ex-con with disaster written all over him, a boy toy who’s trouble with a capital T, a damp old British house, compulsive meddling, and enough hot sex to cure the severe case of nervous babbling.
Falling is a very compelling tale of two men trying to find their way in lift now that they’ve each been released from the prisons they lived in. Harper’s prison was literal, while Malachi’s was symbolic and yet their experiences had many things in common. Before I get any farther I need to note that this book is set in the UK and the author uses terminology that is used within the British justice system; however, I will be using the American terminology (e.g., probation officer instead of offender manager) so that I don’t muck it up and use the wrong term.

Harper spent ten years in prison after being wrongly convicted of the sexual assault of two minors. Even though he’s no longer in prison, he is on probation for two years and will be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life. Knowing that Harper was innocent, my heart wept for him every time he had to interact with the police and his probation officer. Dealing with the police is stressful enough, but knowing that you’re innocent and there’s nothing you can do about it had to be torturous for Harper. The hopelessness of his situation is made worse by the fact that his charges don’t specify that the supposed sexual assault was of two 16 year-olds, only that they were minors. So he not only has to deal with the stigma of being a sex offender, he also has the deal with having the word pedophile hurled at him. Because I felt so badly for the situation Harper was in, I was so very, very happy when he and Malachi began to interact.

I won’t go into Malachi’s symbolic prison because it influences too much of the way in which their story unfolds. But Malachi was exactly what Harper needed as his quirkiness forced Harper to open up and let someone in. It was also Malachi’s unfailing belief in Harper that gave Harper hope for the future and the courage to move forward. I adored Malachi because despite the raw hand he had been dealt in life (which was not as bad as Harper’s), he maintained a relatively optimistic outlook on life. I loved that he was able to make Harper smile and laugh, even during sex. Even after the desperation of their first time together – because Harper hadn’t been with anyone in ten years so he had a lot to make up for – the sex between them was hot and quite often playful despite the intensity. The author does a wonderful job of conveying the depth of emotion between the men, both in and out of bed. The added romantic suspense elements merely enriched an already brilliant book. Falling is one of those books that I might or might not read again, but is so moving that I can’t not give it five stars. Ms. Elsborg has set the bar pretty high with Falling, so I am already looking forward to the next book in her Fall or Break Down series.


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