Geoff Gilchrest wants nothing more than some kinky sex with beatings, whips, and blood. But in a cruel twist, in addition to being a masochist, Geoff is also a hemophiliac. His blood disorder means that this kind of impact play can be not only dangerous, but life threatening. Geoff is caught between his fantasies of hard core play, and the reality that he will have to settle for much less.
While on vacation in Saugatuck, Michigan, Geoff meets Robin Brady. After some complications in his past, Robin has decided to stay away from kink for a while, but meeting Geoff brings out the inner Dom in him. Especially because Robin knows that he can give Geoff exactly what he needs. When the guys get together, Geoff realizes that what he wants may not be out of reach. It takes a lot of planning and care, but Robin is able to give Geoff the pain and the edge that he has so long been desperate for. The experience opens Geoff’s mind to the idea that he can have so much more than he originally thought. And what started out as a vacation fling, suddenly seems to have the potential to turn into more for both of them.
The biggest problem between the guys is trust, however. Geoff is frustrated by the limitations his hemophilia puts on him, and so he tends to lean toward denial at times. He wants to keep that part of him separate from sex, but Robin knows that the only way they can safely play is if Geoff is completely honest with him about his hemophilia and how that affects him on a given day. But Geoff still has a hard time opening up when it means that his health may dictate how he lives his life. Robin’s past has left him him wary, and if the guys can’t be totally open with one another, he knows he can’t continue with the relationship. Now both men have to decide if they can fully trust one another and be brave enough to be open with their true selves so that they can build the future together they both want.
This book was fabulous and kept me engaged from the very beginning. I love a story that takes things in a new direction, and the conflict here is so well done. Geoff has grown up sheltered and protected by his fearful mother, always forced to let his condition control him. Now as an adult, he is resentful of the role his hemophilia plays in his life, especially as it seems to prevent him from having what he really wants in terms of his sex life. Geoff’s instinct is often to hide problems that come up, or not share his condition with people because he so desperately wants it to be a non-issue. I think some may see this as immaturity on Geoff’s part, but for me it made sense. He has been so sheltered and is finally breaking free from his mother’s control and now he just wants to live how he wants. Geoff is inexperienced in relationships and especially BDSM play, and at first he really doesn’t understand just how important communication is. I don’t think he disregards the risks to Robin, I just don’t think he understands that his hemophilia affects both of them if they are going to play together.
I loved watching Geoff just open up and blossom with Robin as he realizes he can have what he wants, or at least pretty darn close. Robin takes time and effort to create scenes that give Geoff the thrills and the edge he needs, but also take into account his health condition. The story is sexy and kinky and there is a lot of page time devoted to their sexual relationship (which was great by me). I loved seeing the different ways the guys explored their sexual connection within the limits of Geoff’s health. Gormley does a great job, both with the sex scenes and throughout the story as a whole, of really capturing the details of Geoff’s life as a hemophiliac. It feels well researched and realistic, but it also doesn’t come across as too much info dump. The story really nicely balances showing Geoff can have more than he thought, with the realism that his condition still means limitations no matter how much he wants otherwise.
The issues of trust are the key theme though the story, and again I think this plays out so well. At first Geoff is really lost in terms of what this all means and it takes some serious discussions with Robin before he begins to understand the implications for his partner. Robin must know that Geoff is telling the truth about how he is feeling and what his limits are, and Geoff then in turn must trust Robin to take care of him during a scene and keep him safe. It takes balance for both of these guys; Geoff needs to trust enough to open up, and Robin needs to trust that Geoff is telling him everything. Things are also complicated by Robin’s past relationship where he was falsely accused of abuse. With Geoff so easily injured, Robin knows it is especially important that these guys are always on the same page.
Overall I found this one totally engaging and a really fascinating story. I loved the conflict here and think Gormley develops things so well. I loved watching Geoff’s thrill as he realizes his life may not be as limiting as he thought. There is a sweetness between these guys that shines through, even with all the sex and kink, and I really loved the two of them together. If you enjoy BDSM, and in particular heroes with unique challenges, then I think Risk Aware is a wonderful choice. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend it.