“Thank you for seeing my flaws and wanting me anyway.”
Allie Winters initially appears to be your typical single mother. An employee at a local bakery, she is living paycheck to paycheck and resides in a seedy apartment in Chicago below her best friend and babysitter, Shelly. Once a month Allie dons her “fuck-me” clothes and heads out for her monthly date night to a local club in search of finding her fix of raw, rough, dirty sex. At this stage in her life, she believes this is the only purpose for a man so she targets the cold and detached males to sate her desire and keep her emotional demons at bay. One night she zeros in on Colin whose intimidating size and impersonal demeanor proves to fit the bill of what she is searching for so she propositions him. He accepts and while Allie is ready to get busy in the parking lot, Colin refuses and takes her to a hotel. After their first kiss, and intense make out session, Allie realizes that under the tough exterior, Colin is a tender man with intentions of bringing her body pleasure.
“I wanted him to have his nasty way with me, but every sweet caress destroyed the illusion. My fantasy was to let him do whatever he wanted with me, but not this.”
Colin is a man of few words or emotions. He is a caregiver and is immediately in tune to Allie and gives her what she needs as opposed to what she thinks she desires. He knows that she wants rough sex with no intimacy yet he is determined to be gentle and caring with the hope of more than a one- night stand. This newfound tenderness from a man rattles Allie and causes emotions and feelings to rise within her that she does not want to face. So when Colin tells her he would like to see her again, she refuses. He informs her that he owns the Oasis Grill in hopes that she will reconsider at a later date. When Allie visits the club again and encounters an aggressive man with the intentions of giving her brutal, forced sex, Colin intervenes and takes her back to her apartment to care for her. This time when he asks if he will see her again, against all of her fears she agrees.
“What was this thing that felt like trust but looked like lust?”
While Allie harbors many personal issues and is trying her best to live beyond the trauma that happened to her both physical and emotionally, Colin is not without his share of secrets. Colin owns a restaurant but also has a past of criminal activity and danger that he is not completely rid of as evidenced by the work he does on the side for his brother. What Allie must determine is if she is ready to not only face and share her agonizing past but also if she is willing fight for not only her daughter’s safety, but for Colin’s.
Giving it Up is Amber Lin’s debut novel and I believe she has a candid voice with a clear vision for flawed characters. The story had a cohesive flow with realistic danger, grit, and edge mirrored with a sense of hopefulness. Allie’s daughter, Bailey, provided an enjoyable amount of lighter, funny moments and I felt the author did a great job establishing her as a priority to both characters. What was lacking for me was the development of the main characters and in the end I felt that the personal issues for both Allie and Colin were never resolved. Ms. Lin formed a solid foundation of the heroine and why she chose an irresponsible act in seeking sexual release with one night encounters at the club. You immediately feel Allie’s demeaning self-worth and although she is a great mother to her young daughter, she does not invoke the same care and concern for herself. Her character does evolve throughout the story in focusing less on herself and more on Colin but we never see a healthy assertion of facing her issues of rape. As the reader, I longed for an authentic emotional healing for Allie and that important aspect of the story was lost. Furthermore, Colin was so emotionally detached throughout most of the book and shared little information about his past that I felt like in the end Allie still did not really know him at all. Their chemistry was sensual and hot but I didn’t feel a strong sense of intimacy or romance as a couple. Because both of their issues were not fully addressed, I was unconvinced that their relationship was on a solid foundation even after both had declared their love. The emotion I expected to feel after following the lives of this complex couple fell flat and left many questions unanswered.
For a debut release, Ms. Lin still provided an engaging story of extremely flawed characters that kept me engrossed in the book regardless of the final outcome. I look forward to Shelly’s story and trying more work from this author in the future.
“Led Zeppelin! I clapped my hand over my mouth. This big, strong man, wearing a muscle shirt and cargo pants, sang rock songs to a toddler in the middle of the night. I was so toast. Game over. And it was doubly terrifying, considering I had no idea how to make him stick around.”
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