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Review – Hard Way (Vegas Top Guns #4) by Katie Porter

***Trigger Warning: Violent consensual sex**
Hard Way cover image
Publisher: Samhain
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the author

Throughout their eight-year marriage, U.S. Air Force Captain Liam “Dash” Christiansen and his wife, Sunita, stayed strong through long separations. However Sunny’s new job as a high-profile legal advisor puts a severe strain on their enduring bond.

Her abrupt announcement that she wants a divorce is like a missile to Dash’s gut—but her confession that she’s met another man is what unleashes his shocking passion. Sunny is surprised and nearly repulsed by her body’s reaction to Dash’s animalistic attempt at complete possession. That doesn’t stop her from craving more.

With Sunny’s whispered approval, their sex life explodes. Not only does Dash’s aggression tap into dark fantasies, she’s hopeful that now, at last, she’ll get what she’s always wanted from her devil-may-care, don’t-give-a-damn husband. Something honest and candid. Something real.

Yet fiery, carnal encounters won’t heal two long-broken hearts. Their bodies are finally speaking the same forbidden language, but it will take more than taboo desires to learn each other for the first time—and to save a marriage that’s only just begun.

Warning: Time to put the kidding aside. Although 100% consensual between a husband and wife, this book contains violent sex that, in some scenes, will appear forced. Readers sensitive to rape scenarios should proceed with caution.
This blurb came from the author’s website.

What happens when your married life falls into a rut, you no longer talk about anything with meaning, the person you married has been buried under a mask, you are buried under a mask, and you make a move to exit the situation? Porter explores the answers to those questions in their latest Vegas Top Guns installment. The answers to those questions emerge at various moments throughout Hard Way starting with the very first actual discussion that quickly turned physical between Dash and Sunny. That encounter initially made me uncomfortable but as I continued to read through the scene, I picked up the nuances between them and saw that while not planned there was an element of brutal honesty and a willingness to participate. This was the first time in years that the two of them communicated without shields. The journey that Dash and Sunny took through this story made me sad, uncomfortable, happy, in awe, relieved, exhausted, tense and touched.

Dash grew up trying to meet the expectations of his father, career Air Force officer, and never quite succeeding. That turned into a lifetime of trying to do or be what he thought others expected while hiding what he really thought or felt. Over time and physical distance from Sunny, the same mask he showed to others he showed to her. The strain of holding everything in while trying to meet perceived expectations took the joy out of life, so only when alone did Dash relax and be himself for a few moments. During their marriage Dash was physically separated from Sunny on different occasions because of combat deployments. Now that Dash is a member of the 64th Aggressor Squadron and not really deploying, it is his turn to stay home as Sunny started a different branch of her career.

Sunny was a lawyer and highly trained in martial arts. As a result she was accustomed to distancing herself using words in a confrontation but allowing her body to speak through violence. Her new job working for the local federal representative required a significant amount of time working in DC. She felt that she was not receiving the same level of emotional support from Dash during her time away as she provided during his deployments. She also knew that the Dash was missing or hiding an integral part of himself from her. In frustration from their growing emotional distance, she developed what could be called an office-husband. They decided to pursue a relationship after Sunny initiated divorce proceedings. To me her reluctance to both start a physical relationship and to move out immediately following their “discussion” told me that she was hoping deep down that they could save their marriage.

Neither Sunny nor Dash said exactly what they were thinking out of fear. Fear that they would irrevocably hurt the other person and fear that the other person’s response would permanently end all chance of reconciliation. This meant they did not trust each other with tenderness or gentle touches because that left openings for rejection and more pain. Yet the very intensity and physicality of their sexual encounters demonstrated an immense amount of trust. I thought this was spotlighted in one scene perfectly when Sunny used her safe word and Dash immediately stopped. After Sunny fixed the issue she went back to a very similar position giving her permission for them to continue. To me that right there said that at a very basic/elemental level Dash and Sunny trusted each other.

The way Dash and Sunny worked through their anger and mistrust was certainly not something that would work for everyone but at the core was communication. Sunny learned just how much Dash had paid attention to her and things she found important. She also learned that Dash had other dreams besides what he was doing. Dash learned that Sunny was never comfortable with how she was treated as a military spouse. He also learned that she needed obvious proof that he was paying attention to her. Each also had to admit things about themselves and how to share their faults with the other.

Porter really put me through an emotional wringer and made me think a lot after I finished reading Hard Way. Once again they have tackled a kink that isn’t widely accepted and paired it with an emotionally difficult situation to take the reader on quite a journey. While a work of fiction, Porter ensured that the reader could see that the encounters throughout Dash and Sunny’s relationship were consensual which was key to my enjoyment. With each installment of Vegas Top Guns Porter seems to be increasing the level of emotional commitment and depth between their characters.

I give Hard Way an B

By E_booklover

E is addicted to books. She discovered at an early age that not only were they her transport to far off worlds, adventures, and exotic cultures, but that she ran into far fewer objects if she walked while reading then if she wasn't reading. She reads across several genres, such as: romance, western,mystery, SF/F and its derivatives. She isn't too picky except for good characterization, settings she can imagine, and a story that flows logically... umm so ok -- she wants a good story. Have any to recommend?

6 replies on “Review – Hard Way (Vegas Top Guns #4) by Katie Porter”

I have just finished reading Hard Way, and your review is spot on. I couldn’t but my ereader down.

I need to know–and if it’s a spoiler, please delete this comment, and I can email with you instead–is there blood play/torture involved? How extreme–for lack of a better word right now–is the BDSM aspect? Thank you.

@azteclady:
No blood play or torture. It is forceable sex but with obvious consent and a safe word. The one instance the safe word was used, it was immediately honored. The only other aspect that might be a trigger is some violence from both the hero and heroine. If you want more detail please feel free to send me an email.

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