REVIEW: Fall by Karina Bliss
Dear Karina Bliss,
When I read the You Had Me At Christmas anthology recently, my favourite novella was Play. When you offered me a review copy of Fall, I snapped it up. It took me much of the book to work out that Fall begins before the action in Play. When there was a reference to Jared’s and Kayla’s marriage still being in trouble I got worried but I drew a sigh of relief when I worked out the timeline and realised that the events of Play hadn’t happened yet.
Seth Curran is the drummer for rock band Rage. The lead singer, Zander Freedman, ran a New Zealand reality TV show to find three other band members to resurrect the band. Seth, Moss and Jared were the winners. They went on a world tour and tasted rock and roll success only for Zander’s voice to fail. Zander has had surgery for vocal polyps and everyone is waiting to find out whether he will ever sing again. Obviously this has huge implications for the other band members. Zander has them working on a “Plan B” so if the worst happens the other three will have the best path to successful careers he can give them.
Dimity Graham is Zander’s PA. She is a powerhouse of organisation, grit and guts. She has a tough outer shell which presents a challenge to most people but once you’re in, you’re in and she will move heaven and earth to help those she cares about.
Rage is Dimity’s family. Dimity is an only child from a dysfunctional (aren’t they all Dimity, aren’t they all) broken home. Her mother is uber passive-aggressive and has relied on Dimity to organise and manage her life since Dimity was 11 years old. Her dad faded from her life when Dimity had to spend to much effort propping her mother up. In effect, Dimity hasn’t ever known unconditional love and doesn’t trust the idea of it.
Dimity thought of Rage in chess terms. Zander was king, and Dimity, queen. In an ideal world everyone else would be pawns, but she begrudgingly accepted she didn’t live in an ideal world. Until now, she’d wondered if Seth might be a bishop or a knight.
With a shock, she realized he was a far more dangerous rook. A rook began the game quietly in a corner, but was one of only two pieces that could checkmate the opposition alone with their king, making the piece one of the game’s heavies
However, when Fall begins, Dimity’s mother has just remarried and Dimity is free, free, free. She wants to go out and get laid to celebrate. However, on the same day, Seth is told by his ex-girlfriend, Mel, that she is engaged to someone else and he is drowning his sorrows.
“I could give you my therapist’s number,” she added.
“No.” The liquor fizzed up, then subsided without spilling over the rim—a small win on a shit day. “I’m a Kiwi bloke. We suffer stoically, and die of heart disease brought on by repressed feelings.”
One thing leads to another and they end up in bed together. Of course.
Dimity reads Mel’s texts to Seth as a code for her wanting him back, or, at the least, Mel not being 100% sure of her choice so Dimity comes up with the cunning plan to be Seth’s fake girlfriend when they are back in New Zealand for two weeks to meet with Zander. The fake part doesn’t last for very long and I must say I liked the how and why of it.
Seth is the “nice guy” of the band. Dimity had thought rock and roll would chew him up and spit him out but he’s still his good guy self. He didn’t cheat on Mel when he was on tour, trying desperately to keep hold of his relationship from a distance. When Mel broke things off he was devastated.
“After your breakup, I couldn’t work out whether I admired or despised your willingness to suffer when you had so many women wanting to help you feel better.”
He was silent a few seconds, then pushed his plate aside. “I’d gotten used to having sex with someone I loved. It was a tough habit to break.”
His expression was so bleak that she had to look away. This was why she kept relationships transient. Love hurt.
He initially hopes to win Mel back (if it can be done) but also, when he’s in New Zealand, he wants to try and repair his relationship with his dad. Seth had been working as an engineer in his dad’s business when he found out he’d won the reality TV show. His dad felt betrayed and basically hasn’t spoken to him since. Seth is devoted to his family and the estrangement with his dad eats at him.
When they arrive in New Zealand, Zander gives Dimity some bad news that, to understate matters significantly, she doesn’t take well.
As Dimity deals with the fallout of Zander’s announcement, Seth finds out some home truths of his own and while this is all happening, Seth and Dimity become closer and closer. Seth sees through Dimity in a way few others do.
The word you’re looking for is nice,” he said.
She scowled. “Take that ba—”
He kissed her, and it was slow and tender and fiercely sweet. But she didn’t want his sweetness, and had no idea what to do with tenderness. It scared her, exposed her.
She broke the kiss. “No offense, but you’re home-baked cookies and I like my beefcake raw.”
“Bitch,” he said appreciatively, and kissed her again. It was a punishing kiss, a hard kiss, the kiss of an exasperated man, and she felt herself responding. She’d been intrigued by this side of Seth since she’d seen him with the groupie who didn’t know him well enough to value the contradiction. She wanted the titan she saw on stage, the pool-side debaucher.
This time he was the first to end the kiss. “Well?” he demanded roughly.
“Meh,” she croaked.
He kissed her again, a ravishment, a porn-star kiss, carnal and rude and shockingly intimate.
Seth isn’t only a good guy. He’s got some animal in the bedroom in him and Dimity is delighted to discover it. And scared. Because he just might be all she ever wanted but thought she could never have. She’s terrified and about to run away but then Seth is struggling and she can’t just let him deal with it alone.
“You want to hole up and brood. Pull all the hurt and the pain and the loneliness inside until you’ve made it your ally. Something that reminds you why it’s easier not to give a fuck every time you’re tempted to give anyone the benefit of the doubt.” Tightening her hold, she started tugging him toward her room. “I’m not letting you do that. There are too many of us in the world already.”
“Yeah?” He dug in his heels, forcing a standoff. “How are you going to stop me?”
“I’m going to do something for you tonight that I’ve never done for any guy.”
He stopped trying to loosen her grip. “Okay, I’m intrigued. What’s that?”
She took a deep breath. “I’m going to be tender.”
Dimity is a somewhat unusual heroine. She’s prickly and fierce and Machiavellian when it suits her (and it often suits her). Her focus is scary and her determination indomitable. When faced with something devastating, she reacts the only way she knows how – with plans and schemes to fix everything. Because that’s what she does – fix things. I must say, for quite a bit of the book I was wondering whether the story would turn out to be that Dimity knows best and she actually does need to fix everything or that Dimity needed to learn that she can’t fix everything. I thought you walked that line exceedingly well.
Seth and his devotion to his family and his hurt at their treatment of him felt authentic and real, as did Dimity’s reaction to it. I liked very much how Seth saw through to the heart of Dimity, even when Zander, who had known her longer, had no flipping idea. I liked that Seth wasn’t scared of Dimity and didn’t seek to change her. He just wanted to love her and be loved by her.
You march to the beat of your own drum. Who better to keep time than your own personal drummer boy?
The chemistry between Dimity and Seth was obvious and, even though the pace of their romance was super fast, because they had known each other for a fair time and in tour conditions which put them in each other’s pockets, I had no trouble in buying it at all.
There were a couple of things left undone that I’d have liked to have cleared up. Did Dimity keep the job? How was her mind changed on that issue? And, what happened with Elizabeth’s (Zander’s girlfriend’s) book? Maybe they will be cleared up in a future installment of the series.
I read Fall just after the US election apocalypse – even though I’m in Australia, I still
felt feel pretty wrecked by it (No doubt it’s worse actually being in the US especially if you’re a person of colour, a Muslim, a part of the LGBTQ community, a member of any other minority or combinations thereof, or you know, a woman). Reading anything was hard. I took a longer time to read Fall than I normally would have but this wasn’t the fault of the book. In fact, that I could relax into it and enjoy it at all speaks highly of it.
I loved Seth and Dimity – they complement each other perfectly. Dimity is, in many respects, the alpha dog in the relationship but Seth’s ability to go with the flow makes me think he will be able to soften some of Dimity’s rocky edges without changing her essential nature. I like that Seth is in no way threatened by Dimity and celebrates her talent and skills. An unusual heroine, a beta hero who’s a genuinely nice guy and the beauty of New Zealand as a backdrop – win.