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A Firm Hand - Fallon Blake Ever had one of those authors you want to try but just haven't found the time? Yep, Fallon Blake is one of those for me. I kept seeing her name around and wanting to try her out, but just kept running into time issues and a TBR pile that never goes down. So when she requested we review this book for her, I jumped on it literally like an hour after I got the request. Bad of me to push everything aside, but I just couldn't resist. My impatience paid off and I got a wonderful story that left me wrung out in the end.

The story weaved me into characters I didn't want to like, but ended up loving. Gen Hawthorn is a twenty-five year old woman who wants more out of life. She is hemmed in by a mother who turned into a child when Gen's father died. While Gen doesn't take care of her mother day to day, her mother is a noose around her neck, preventing her from growing. Working as bartender at Donovan's is mostly a job to make ends meet, but it is also filled with friends she considers family. Painting and digital is Gen's true passion, which she constantly puts down as not good. After being late for work three times in a week, her boss has enough and lays down the law in some not so ethical ways.

Brian Donovan owns Donovan's Bar. It's is pride and joy, but also a way to get out from under his father's thumb. After a past filled with pain, Brian only takes submissives to fulfill his need to dominate. He isn't into bratty subs, so he is puzzled why he feels an attraction to Gen. There is a sense that she might be submissive, but in reality he doesn't know that until he spanks her for going through his file on her. Basically she has a choice of quitting or taking the spanking and keeping her job. Not quite ethical and they both know it.

Brian offers Gen power exchange relationship with no love, girlfriend/boyfriend, or emotional ties. It is just a power exchange between a Dominant and a submissive. The two then embark on a relationship that changes and grows in ways neither expected and at times wanted. The depth they growth is amazing to watch, but all the scenes after the agreement take place outside of the work place. That part was fine with me, but I also wondered how they got along at work even if their relationship didn't take place there.

The story spans several months in groupings. So this isn't a few days and the bottom drops out. There is time for them to learn about each other, to branch out in ways they never expected and to hurt one another without hardly thinking about it. Most of the spankings, canings, etc. took place as punishment. I don't remember one being for pure erotica. These two are sadist to masochist and at times I cringed with some of the brutality. Be sure there was a safe word. She just didn't use it and at times I understood why.

There were two times in the story that I did feel Brian should have stepped back and thought before he acted. You see is internal thoughts about the same thing in one scene. It felt brutal from the fact you thought he wanted to break her and that just did nothing for me.

Above all, Brian never does anything to truly hurt Gen mentally if that makes sense. He is up front always that this is not a relationship. He owns her and he wants use of her body. He never lies on that front and gives her the gushy gushy love words. He doesn't play around even if he starts to doubt himself.

Gen falls in love. No other way to put it. She bottles it up knowing that is not what he wants from her. But it starts to break her and she has to make a decision for her own good.

The story isn't perfect, but is. Meaning the characters aren't perfect and this is what makes it a good story. You see their journey from lonely separate people with problems of their own. They change for the good and some bad, but they change over the course of the book. The conflict left me crying at one point. The pain left me cringing wanting to break all the canes in the world. And the emotions these two felt were wholly human and heartwarmingly gut wrenching.

There are so many things I wanted to share from this book, but that would be a spoiler. If you love BDSM, this is a book that will leave you breathless and hungering for more of their story. If you aren't into BDSM, you still might like the struggle these two have to fight, but be warned it is a S/M and D/s book, not light BDSM.

This book blew me away. I read it in just a few hours, not putting it down till the very end. That is a rarity lately for me and one I can't wait to do again!

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