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Giving It Up - Amber Lin In a nutshell, Giving it Up was a gripping and emotional romance that will stretch your comfort zone. If you like a dark mysterious hero as your Knight in Shining Armor, a damaged heroine who seems beyond repair, a heavy storyline with some dark moments (including the subject of rape), mixed together with some suspense and a bit of mystery, this might be for you.

This is an emotional romance story with a heavy tone and some dark graphic scenes, so I will say right now: it is not for the faint of heart or anyone looking for a light feel-good romance with a lot of gratuitous, hot steamy sex scenes.

GIU explores the troubled life of a young woman who was victimized by rape, now riddled with trust issues, and believes herself unworthy of any goodness life might offer. This is her journey from coping to healing, and introduces her to a man who will prove that not all men want to hurt women. It has a compelling heroine who you will route for, and a compassionate hero who will become her knight in shining armor.

Allie Winters is emotionally damaged, by her own admission, and uses rough sex with strangers as a coping mechanism. Once a month she ventures to a seedy bar with the singular purpose of picking up a man for rough, unapologetic sex. There is a strong self-deprecation motive involved, as she doesn’t feel worthy of better. Then one night she chooses a man who treats her with tenderness, not roughness, and it almost unhinges her. Colin very much wants to see her again, but she refuses knowing that she is too damaged for someone of his caliber.

Allie is also a struggling single mom of an adorable toddler girl named Bailey, she works a low paying job in a bakery making exquisite cakes and confections, and her best friend Shelly is prostitute who will do anything to help her friend and child find peace.

Her daughter was conceived the night she was raped by a close life-long friend, and she is now facing a possible custody battle with her rapist. Her options are limited, but accusing him of rape after all these years in order to keep her daughter appears to be her only option. In a bid for their safety, she reaches out to Colin for help – who is more than willing to be there for her.

Colin is a man of mystery. We learn he is a major player in the Chicago crime scene, and works along with his older brother Phillip. He can make all of Allie’s problems go away and provide her with a life of comfort, but the cost might be too high for her to accept. Cops have their eye on him, and if she’s not careful they will use her against him. She finds herself wanting to trust him, but he makes decisions without consulting her, and threatens people around her who he feels mean her harm, and at times she questions just who is he? Can she trust him?

So Colin is not the typical ‘good guy’ romance hero, but he does have a compassionate side that readers will connect with and love. He also wants to get out of the business, go legit, and settle down to start a family.

I only wish it didn’t take quite so much time to finally learn much about Colin and his motives with Allie. I loved how he was willing to help her, but every time he did I kept asking myself: why is he doing this?? Since this story is told from her POV only, we rely on her interaction and dialogue to learn about Colin, but it left me wanting to know more.

The conversational dialogue between Colin and Allie are primarily ‘surface level’ chat, but rarely do their talks explore who they are, what they feel, and what they desire. The dialogue between Allie and him felt limited, and it made me wonder how much these two ever talked about anything of a serious nature. In the end we get a clear enough picture of Colin, but I would have enjoyed seeing more meaningful dialogue between these two along the way.

I enjoyed these two as a couple, and felt they truly belonged together. Once the trust issues were addressed and they finally started opening up about their feelings, I knew Allie had turned a major corner in her life for the better. It was a great moment in the book!

And while this story is an erotica tale, the sex scene are not the typical ‘intermission breaks’ meant to give readers some steamy relief. Instead, they are very much a part of the heroine’s story and reflects the damaged person that she is. These scenes help display the struggle she deals with as she learns to cope with her past and learn to trust again. Some were very touching, while others were a bit difficult and sad to read.

Overall, Giving it Up is an emotionally-charged debut romance with a heavy subject matter. It will push readers out of their comfort zone, yet deliver a very satisfying ending. It will be a challenge to read certain parts of this story, and I admit that parts of it was a bit too dark for my taste. The heroine's constant self-deprecation was also hard to take, and even harder to understand. Her need to use sex as a coping mechanism was so sad, especially in light of the sexual violence she already endured. The ending made it all worth it, though. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed closing the book knowing Allie and Bailey were in a safe, happy place with Colin.

(NOTE: ARC copy provide by Amber Lin)