Tattoo artist Geoff Gilchrest is convinced his life is some sort of cosmic joke. Why else would a hemophiliac also be a masochist? He’s given himself more than one elbow bleed since puberty just doing what guys do when alone and bored, so forget about whips and chains. How many partners would contemplate playing with someone even a mild flogging could kill?
Gallery owner Robin Brady knows he can deliver what Geoff needs: to be taken to the edge of danger but never beyond. But Robin came to Saugatuck to get away from the leather scene and heal from a betrayal by his former sub, so he’s not sure he should get involved with Geoff. His ambivalence isn’t helped by the fact that Geoff’s unwillingness to communicate about his well-being hits Robin in some very raw places.
Geoff’s hemophilia isn’t the obstacle he thinks it is. Instead, a lack of trust—on both their parts—is what could end them before they have a chance to begin.
R.A.C.K -- Risk Aware Consensual Kink. That's the term used for the riskier forms of BDSM, where both partners are aware of the risks involved and have consented to them. Not for everyone, including yours truly. But, just because it isn't my kink, doesn't mean it's not ok.
I love it when I read a book that prompts me to take to Google to learn more about a topic. I knew very little about hemophilia before reading Risk Aware, and so I spent a little while today reading up and I was surprised at the number of assumptions I had made. And I know that I've only scratched the surface. Hemophilia can be managed, though it is very expensive to do so. Shockingly expensive. And the number of sheer precautions that people with the disorder have to take is staggering. Things you and I take for granted. I bump my head on something, no big deal. Geoff does it and he can end up in the hospital with a brain bleed. Definitely a big deal. I do feel that the author treated the subject matter, and Geoff, with respect.
As soon as I saw who the characters in Risk Aware were, I had to have this book. I first encountered them in Saugatuck Summer, where they play a fairly sizable role. I remember being rather intrigued by them, so, I was very happy to see that they got a story of their own! The events in Risk Aware take place some period of time before Saugatuck Summer. It's been quite a while since I read that one, so I can't recall how long Geoff and Robin had been together, or if it was even mentioned.
Geoff was born hemophiliac and has had more than his fair share of being dismissed, or treated like glass, or even treated like he had the plague. He also is very much turned on by hard core BDSM - something he's never actually experienced, but dreams of. But he doesn't think he will ever be able to experience his desires because of his disorder. It would have to suck to be a masochist and have a clotting disorder. He and his friend Jace are vacationing in Saugatuck while the Mr Michigan Leather event is happening. Geoff is like a kid in a candy store. And he catches Robin's eye.
Robin is not without issues of his own, though. He's a Dom, through and through, but he was betrayed by his last boyfriend, who was also his sub, so he's got some trust issues, but not all of his issues are external. He's also lost a fair amount of trust and confidence in himself, and that is more difficult for him to deal with. He wants Geoff, there is no question, but his own wounds are still pretty fresh. I was pleasantly surprised that Geoff's disorder was never an obstacle for Robin. Instead, he took it in stride and decided to read up so he would know some of the things he could do with Geoff and things he couldn't. He also insisted knowing more about the prophylaxis that Geoff uses to help his clotting, which showed the lengths he would go through to keep his lover safe.
They say that communication is key to any relationship, but that is loads more true in a kink situation. It took them a while to hammer out their communication, fully, but I really saw, and appreciated the give and take of it. And there was only one major stumbling block in solidifying their relationship and once explained, it felt less like miscommunication and more like they were moving much too fast and needed to take a step back. They were both far more ready to move forward after some time and space.
Risk Aware is a very kinky book. From beginning to end. OMFSM, is it ever. And their dirty talk was super filthy. Robin had be quite inventive to satisfy Geoff's masochistic side without putting him in danger because of his disorder. And both of them run the risk of being misunderstood by everyone outside their relationship. Geoff, having hemophilia, bruises extremely easily, and without certain precautions, they can cause internal bleeds. Common, everyday events can make him look like an abuse victim, so imagine what rough sex can do. But Geoff needs Robin to trust that he knows his body and Robin needs to trust that Geoff isn't downplaying anything. And they get there. And when they do, it is beautiful.
ARC copy of Risk Aware was generously provided by the publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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