Against the Ropes

Sarah Castille
Against the Ropes
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Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date
September 2013
Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance

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 underground mixed-martial arts club. But if anyone needs a medic on hand, it's these guys. Trouble is, at her first sight of the club's owner she's the one feeling breathless.

All sleek muscle and restrained power, the man they call Torment plays to win at any cost. Whether it's in the ring or in the bedroom, he knows exactly when to use a soft touch 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…

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Aug 14, 2013   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
153 people found the following review helpful
Edgy, raw and instantly addictive, Sarah Castille's latest is a challenging and fascinating book that will appeal to fans of both sports romances and emotional erotic dramas alike. Though I personally am not a fan of many of the tropes explored in this book, I think they were handled with expert insight and compassion, making this a stand-out story from beginning to end.

Makayla has been suffocating under the weight of her student debts and is prepared to do anything in order to make a little money—even offer her skills as a medic to an underground mixed-martial arts club, despite her utter aversion to violence. When she first sets eyes on Torment, however, the club's owner and one of the most dominant fighters on the underground circuit, Makayla suddenly discovers a reason to keep coming back for more. Torment is stunning and strong, and as soon as he and Makayla cross paths, he proves that he can also be incredibly seductive, as well.

But no sooner does she begin to fall for this gentle fighter than Makayla realizes that Torment is far more than meets the eye. He is also Max Huntington, the phenomenally wealthy and successful businessman, as dominating in the boardroom as he is in the ring. Their relationship is intense, but will Max and Makayla be able to navigate the sudden changes in their relationship, or the painful pasts that have held them captive for so long?

I'll be honest, the current BDSM, ultra-alpha, angsty billionaire trends don't do too much at all for me, but with Max, Sarah Castille turns many elements of these popular tropes on their ear, presenting us with a hero whose complexities run far deeper than expected. His scars are real and his need for power and control explained in such agonizing detail that it becomes impossible not to see the world from his point of view. Max isn't a man who is afraid to put his heart on his sleeve when he must, and those rare, striking moments make his character so much more than a stereotype.

Makayla is a sensational heroine, and for once, a perfect match for such a strong, complex hero like Max. She is open and honest, and never attempts to hide the fact that she hasn't been dealt an easy hand by life, from the memories of her abusive childhood to her current debt-ridden financial crisis. Despite all of it, she never, ever comes across as weak or as a victim, or as anything but the strong, competent survivor that she is. I loved her humor and her humanity, and thought the way she handled her fighter patients in Redemption was wonderfully endearing, and her own redemption in facing down her past was an enormously rewarding scene.

It isn't often that a romance that is told purely from the heroine's perspective works as well as this one does. This story is as much about Max's transformation as it is Makayla's, but thanks to her perception, and Sarah Castille's excellent insight into her characters, Max's journey is as emotional and fulfilling a part of this book as any other. I also really appreciated the fact that readers were allowed to see the moments where they clash, and where Max's domineering personality truly threatened their happiness. It allowed the characters, as well as the readers to come to terms with the issues in their relationship. Makayla and Max have a chemistry that is blistering, but the humor in their relationship provided a lovely balance, making me fall in love with them all over again.

Like many other parts of the book, the secondary characters run the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime, rounding out the heightened reality of this book. I would love to visit this world again and again, and spend more time not only with Makayla and Max, but with the other fighters at Redemption and especially with Makayla's best friend, Amanda and her on-again, off-again lover, Jake. There are a number of stories yet to be told that I would be delighted to read, and I cannot wait to see what Sarah Castille presents next!
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