Against the Ropes - Sarah Castille
Although the story isn't completely original, it is a fun ride being in Makayla's head. She's a strong-headed, compassionate woman with quick wit and a sharp tongue, and her humor is refreshing. Author Sarah Castille has a way with words, I will tell you that. Not only is it well-written, but the humor will leave you in a laughing fit even in the most inappropriate times. That's what the characters is all about -- inappropriate. All thanks to our minx and her fighter, along with their friends. She knows exactly when and where it's appropriate to be detailed, and when it's time to let them have their privacy. This will keep you on the balls of your feet while dancing around, trying to uncover the tension and mysteries.

Makayla and Torment's dynamic is really light and fluffy fun at the start of the story. With the exception of the heavy lust they have for each other, of course. Torment makes her blush like a virgin, and Makayla makes Torment act like a teenager hitting second base for the first time. I kid you not, it was cute and at times sensual. The first aid room scene where Makayla checks out Torment's shoulder was so thick with sexual tension, I'm surprised they were able to breathe and form somewhat coherent words. It's easy to tell that Torment is in a state of flux between wanting to throw Makayla on the bed and have his way with her, and stunned beyond knowledge of his own name. I love that they have the ability to challenge each others limits like no other could before. Their first kiss is a long time coming, and to say that it's overdue is an understatement. When the time came, their first kiss was disappointing. I expected it to be as explosive as their touches and the burning desire in their eyes when they look at each other. It was short and Max/Torment left without so much as a word.

Things shift after Makayla finds out Torment's true (or other) identity. Not only is he the top underground fighter Torment, but he's Max Huntington the successful high society businessman. I found his character was less appealing. I mean don't get me wrong, I love a guy in a suit attached to a successful business he built as much as any other woman, but that side of Torment did not do that for me. That side didn't suit the real him. It took some adjusting to refer to Torment as Max for the remainder of the story.

They both are hiding things from each other, and it all derives from their dark pasts. It's what gets in their way in the present. Vague thoughts from Makayla when it comes to violence, hints at having been abused in her past which is why she's so adamant about Torment and the underground fighting. It's also the reason behind her need to heal people as an EMT. Then Makayla gets flashbacks of that fateful night that changed her life. She's not the only one hiding a dark past, and Makayla and Torment struggle to let each other in.

Torment/Max's dominant side can be a bit cringe-worthy. Not only the "dirty talk" but the sex as well. Angry/punishment sex, when done well, can be steamy and delicious, however a lot of their sex scenes were more frightening than hot. He takes it above and beyond the comfort zone who are unfamiliar and uncomfortable with bondage and BDSM play, but he knows when enough is enough even when the safe word hasn't been used. When Makayla plays off the flashbacks of her dark past, Max stops and asks her what's wrong and doesn't push any further. That, along with her past, is the reason for her lack of trust in him. After diving into the depths of his heart, Makayla realized that he would never hurt her.

Their friends at the club took a while to warm up, but when they did during their after parties and strip poker games, they are fun as they are tough and they grow to care about Makayla. Rampage, Obsidian, Hurricane, and Jake kind of grow on you after a while. They will go out of their way to protect their friends girl. They also help keep them, as well as the underground circuit, grounded.

The scene where Max ties Makayla atop of his desk and he's licking her favorite ice cream off of her body is erotic. Something about licking dessert off of her body agonizingly slow is a turn-on. I guess it's the sensuality in the act. For some reason I imagined that there was one spotlight focused on them in their own little show while listening to FU by Miley Cyrus ft. French Montana. Which is incidentally what played on my iPod whilst reading that scene. Weird, I know. It was more of the music, not the lyrics. It had a cirque soleil feel to it. Or it could be how fitting it would be to say "F U" to Max for tormenting (pun intended) her past her limit of arousal. The song 4x4 by Miley and Nelly works too.

In the end, Torment is a southern boy at heart with a heart of gold laid thick with sexuality. As Makayla, his demons still haunt him. Still believing that his family blames him for his mothers death, and his father's hurtful words branded into his brain which is the root of his overbearing protectiveness toward Makayla. He doesn't want to fail or lose her just as he lost his mom. After reuniting with his family, he knew then that he hadn't failed his mom, and he hasn't lost Makayla either. Makayla may not have a tolerance for violence, but she's a fighter when it comes to those she loves. They fit together like puzzle pieces, as cliche as that sounds. Makayla is the EMT that heals the wounded fighters injuries as well as his heart.