Nov 21 2013 9:45am

First Look: Lauren Blakely’s The Thrill of It (November 21, 2013)

Lauren Blakely
The Thrill of It
Lauren Blakely / $2.99 digital / November 21, 2013

Some say love can be an addiction. Others say it's the thing that makes life worth living. Let me tell you everything I know about love...Love isn't patient, love isn't kind. Love is a game, a chase. A thrill. Love is wild and war-like, and every man and woman must fight for themselves. At least that's how it was for me. A high-priced virgin call girl by the time I started college, I was addicted to love and to sex. Even though I've never had either. I controlled love, played it, and held the world in the palm of my hands. Then I fell down from those highs, and I'm being blackmailed for all my mistakes, forced to keep secrets from everyone, except the only guy I don't regret.

With all the other women, I knew what they were. They were temporary. They were pills, they were bottles, they took away all the pain, and numbed the awful memories that wore down my ragged, wasted heart. Until I met Harley. She's the only girl I ever missed when she walked away. But now she's back in my life, every day, and there are no guarantees for us, especially since I don't know how to tell her my secrets. What happened to my family. All I know is she's the closest I've ever come to something real, and I want to feel every second of it.

How can you love with no regrets when regret is all you know?

Lauren Blakely's The Thrill of It is a stark, brutal look at two young sex addicts, Harley and Trey, and the underbelly of New Adult. The two meet as strangers in New York City and for one night open up to each other completely before walking away from their former lives for good. Trey’s drug of choice is hunting cougars in the Upper East Side building where he grew up, landing him in hot water when husbands began to catch on. But Harley’s fix is more complicated; she’s a call girl, but there’s a catch, and this is where we’re transfixed.

I’m a sex addict and a virgin.

I know everything about sex and I’ve never done it, though I came close last night.

I know nothing about love.

I know men.

The next day both Harley and Trey stumble into the same Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous group and into each other, stunned to meet again. Powerfully attracted to each other, now there’s a deeper bond they share, and they immediately latch onto it.

Harley. She’s the only girl I’ve ever been with who’s not older than me. She’s the only girl where it didn’t feel like a fix.

And, evidently, she’s a lot like me.

No wonder the clock was ticking last night. We both took one last hit before going on the wagon.

I grab an empty chair and try not to think about her during the meeting. But it’s impossible. Because the night with her is the last I’ll have like that for a long time. Even this Joanne lady running the show issues the reminder—some sort of rule we should follow. A guideline so we can stop being fucked up from sex.

“And it’s recommended that you abstain from sexual, romantic or any type of love relationships in your first year of recovery,” Joanne says, while her knitting needles click faster and faster.

But I’ve never been one to heed warnings.

At the end of the meeting, I walk up to Harley, who calls herself Layla. “What were the chances?”

She seems nervous, worried. She looks down, away, then at me and whispers, “Everything I said last night was true.”

My heart thumps faster.

“Good,” I say, and wish her words didn’t turn me on so much. I know I need to stay away from her. But I don’t want to. I want something with her.

Harley and Trey form an indomitable friendship, one in which they reveal all their truths—almost, come to know each other to the core, and allow themselves hand-holding only, though their heated connection continues to grow. The story unfolds slowly, as Harley is blackmailed over her past as a high-priced call girl and Trey undergoes therapy to work out deep-seated issues that, as they’re revealed, carefully show how they have each come to be where they are.

For Harley, her occupation as an escort is all about control, while Trey needs the rush from his encounters to block out a devastating piece of his past. The fact that she is a virgin call girl, addicted to the promise and allure of sex but unwilling to compromise herself entirely, makes her mysterious and multi-faceted. She’s different from what one might presume given her background, and this is such a magnetic aspect of the story. Trey’s unconditional support when Harley’s never had anyone who’s seen her or believed in her is what she needs to begin pulling herself back from the depths. They’re dealing with some pretty high stakes, but in the midst of it all they are still a guy and a girl, each falling in love and hoping the other feels the same.

Fuck everything else in the world right now.

I step toward him, cup his cheeks. “I’m tired of waiting for you,” I say, shedding all my walls. He knows all my secrets and lies. He can know my truth. “I’m so sick of it,” I say softly, then I hold his gaze and trail my fingers along his jawline, from his earlobe, across his scar to his chin, watching the expression in his eyes shift from surprise to desire. To desperate want. I run my index finger across his top lip, and he closes his eyes briefly, his chest rising and falling, his breath catching. He opens his eyes again, watches me. I touch his bottom lip, and he nips on my finger, then flashes a quick grin that fades as he whispers, “I’m tired too.”

That’s it. That’s all. I can’t wait. I don’t want to. I’m sick of it. I need this contact with him. I need this moment. I need to know what it’s like again to have this kind of connection.

I kiss him.

Slow. Soft. But full of need. Full of hope. Full of my wish for this, us, him and me, to become more than just friends. I want him so badly, I want to return to our night, I want him to take away the pain again. I want his touch to remind me that there is good in the world, that two people can care and be close, and it doesn’t have to be a game, or someone using the other.

That there can be something real and true.

With alternating points of view that allow an essential look into both of their psyches, The Thrill of It is emotional and dark, with heavy issues tempered by deeply romantic scenes between Harley and Trey, especially as they finally begin to explore their sexuality in a healthy way, and these are worth waiting for. Despite rough beginnings, these are two people who naturally get each other in a way they never would if they hadn’t met under these circumstances, positing that even painful histories can have a purpose, that good really can come out of the bad. They come to see that they are strong enough to rise above it all, and they will stick together through it all.

Learn more or order a copy of The Thrill of It by Lauren Blakely, out now:

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Tiffany Tyer is a writer and editor who loves reading and analyzing all things romance. She also works as a vocalist, a tutor, and a non-profit ministry assistant, and she loves it that way. Her book reviews can be found at Happy Endings Reviews, a blog she co-founded.

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