Release Week Blitz and Reviews: The Hardest Fall: Christina Lee

The Hardest Fall
(Roadmap to Your Heart #3)
Christina Lee
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Released June 23, 2016
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Lee trades country ballads for show tunes in the next standalone book of her Roadmap to Your Heart series.

After licking his wounds from a painful relationship, Tate Sullivan is ready to move back home. He picks up where he left off as drag queen extraordinaire Frieda Love in a West Village bar in New York City. He doesn’t expect to be drawn to the mysterious man with the dark eyes who shows up to every single performance—flirtatiously eyeing Tate one second and disappearing on him the next. Why mess around with a guy who is clearly giving him mixed signals?

Sebastian Clark is on a mission the first night he shows up at Ruby Redd’s. He doesn’t anticipate his plan being flipped on its head by the charismatic drag queen and even more so by the mesmerizing man beneath the makeup. But the more he learns about the vibrant and brash Tate Sullivan the more intrigued he becomes. So he pushes aside his guilt about why he sought out the bar in the first place in order to get to know the guy behind the stilettos.

They’re opposites on many levels, but as Tate spends time volunteering with Sebastian at the shelter, he begins to feel good about himself in ways he hadn’t before. For Sebastian, Tate represents a sense of fun and freedom that is completely fresh and invigorating. Before they know it, their easy companionship catches fire, and Sebastian is kissing a man for the first time, while Tate is opening his heart to new possibilities. But Sebastian is still keeping a secret, and Tate will have to decide if he can trust again, or if the betrayal he feels from Sebastian’s confession is too much to overcome.

The third installment in Christina Lee’s Roadmap to Your Heart series, The Hardest Fall, is the fifth book of hers that I have read and another satisfying entry in her M/M repertoire.

Orphaned at a young age, Sebastian Clark has always struggled with being able to let people get close to him. Now as an adult, he has been tasked with the dying request of the one person he considered a friend growing up. The request leads him to a bar featuring a drag queen show in search of one queen in particular, Frieda Love. While he expected to be able to complete his task and get on with his life, he is immediately enthralled by her fabulous charisma. So instead of wiping his hands of the issue, he delays and returns several more times to watch in fascination. Tate Sullivan is the attitude behind the queen that is Frieda Love, a role he reincarnated upon his return to New York City after a hasty escape to deal with the aftermath of a terrible relationship gone sour. His opinion of relationships after that is entirely hands off, so he isn’t expecting to be drawn so strongly to the dark-eyed and enigmatic stranger who has become a regular to his drag show, even though he keeps his distance from the stage.

I love the fact that the three books in the series are all very different, and I had very different reasons for liking them. Smoke and Vaughn (in the first book, The Darkest Flame) were the hottest pairing of the three, while Callum and Dean (in the second book, The Deepest Blue) had the best story of the set. This one, hands down, is the best of the group for drawing you in to the characters.

Sebastian and Tate are opposites in so many ways. Well, that’s not entirely true: when Tate is Frieda, her flashy, brazen, and invincible attitude counters Sebastian’s reserved and serious demeanor. When the makeup and outfit are removed, Tate is still outgoing and vibrant, but he’s much more constrained and vulnerable. Over the course of his visits, Sebastian discovers that his fascination is actually attraction, something he isn’t sure how to handle since he has always identified as straight. So when Frieda approaches him the first time, it is electric. And when Tate approaches him, they develop a surprising friendship. It’s this friendship, though, that causes Sebastian to hesitate continuously about sharing with Tate the secret he knows for fear it would not only devastate him but also extinguish whatever it is between them.

I have to admit, I wasn’t really buying the motivation for Sebastian refraining from completing his task right off the bat. Right away, he is concerned about hurting Tate. But everyone knows that giving bad news to someone you’ve just met is better all around than waiting until you’ve become friends with the person first. In an otherwise solid plot, that was the one bit of weakness, and it lasted well beyond the halfway mark of the book. Fortunately, by the time we finally get to the point where he confesses what he knows to Tate, we have learned enough about his background to appreciate his early hesitance. It doesn’t really make it any more acceptable as a reader, but at least I understood, and ultimately, it turned out to be the same understanding that Tate had about it too.

Outside of this issue, the story itself is a wonderful, slow-building burn that had the extra bonus of Sebastian’s first-time attraction to a man making everything all new to him. A lot of times this fact doesn’t add much to a story, but the writing here really made me feel it, especially when combined with Sebastian’s issues that keep him from letting people into his life. Tate is also written well: not only does the story say his personality is magnetic, but I too was drawn in, fascinated by him as a reader. Because of this connection I felt to both characters, the feelings that develop between them were all the more palpable. And when the intensity boils over, I could feel it as if I were right there with them.

Overall, The Hardest Fall is a straightforward read with a good blend of levity and angst in an interesting story line. It is a formula I know I can expect whenever I pick up one of Christina Lee’s books, but rather than that making her books boring and predictable, the result is more like a comfortable blanket, the sort of thing you can’t wait to curl up with the next time the opportunity presents itself.

The author generously provided me with a complimentary copy of The Hardest Fall in exchange for this fair and honest review.

Tate Sullivan makes no apologies for who he is. He is out and proud as himself, and is also known as Drag Queen, Frieda Love. He is vibrant, brazen, and flashy. His armor is hair color, make up, and standing out. But underneath he has been scarred by his past and guards himself to avoid being hurt.

Sebastian Clark is a quiet, serious business man. Issues from his past have made him more of a loner and he keeps himself at a distance from people. He had no idea that doing a favor for a friend would lead him to Tate/Freida Love. He becomes intrigued and mesmerized by both Frieda and Tate. It is confusing and enlightening for him. He has lived a straight life, but never really connected on the same level he does with Tate. They begin a surprising friendship that leads to more attraction and exploration.

But Sebastian has a secret that could affect Tate and ruin it all. And Tate has already been seriously burned before, so he guards his heart. I loved how different Tate and Sebastian were, but how they could also appreciate and believe in similar things. They both really needed a connection and to be truly loved and accepted, but were reserved with their feelings. They had serious sexual tension and slow burning chemistry, but their relationship was not just based on sex.

The confusion, wonder, and push and pull added to the tension. Sebastian was open to figuring out his needs, but it was all new to him. They were both vulnerable and afraid of rejection or being hurt. Tate tended to sabotage any chance at real relationships due to fear and trust issues. And Sebastian was torn between guilt from his secret, insecurity, and being blown away by his new feelings. So they don't always know what they are doing, but find they enjoy doing it together. I did get a little frustrated with Sebastian for holding onto his secret for so long, but I could understand his reluctance a bit since he had very few people in his life stick around.

But secrets don't always stay hidden and the past has a way of rearing its ugly head and exposing fears and insecurities. Can these two men fight through them or is there too much to overcome?

I got totally sucked into Tate and Sebastian's story even though some of the elements were not typical ones I read. But the characters were complex, likable, and really drew me in. Tate was so magnetic, yet had enough vulnerability. Sebastian was the perfect serious balance for him, and he had such intense feelings and a big heart. I could feel their connection, need, and want in both of their points of view. I could understand their conflicts and struggles, but was rooting for them to overcome them. 

The side characters added depth and support when needed. I enjoyed getting a little glimpse of another couple from this series, but this can be read as a complete stand alone.

I loved the small current trends like Tate's You Tube videos and humorous graphic tees in contrast to Sebastian's more timeless, old school profession. These two were so opposite, yet just fit and complemented each other. And they had strong physical chemistry and an emotional connection that you could feel through their interactions and intimate scenes. They were like the missing piece to each other's lives that they did not realize was missing. This was full of feels and tension. It was angsty, emotional, sexy, sweet, and romantic. Each installment in this series is unique and intriguing , and this was no exception. 

I was gifted copy in exchange for an honest review.
Tate and Sebastian seem like they should be opposites with nothing to draw them together. For all Sebastian knows he’s a straight man just trying to fulfill a promise to his best friend. Tate has only recently returned to New York after several years away, and has started performing as Frieda Love once again.

I loved both of Tate’s personas, and I love that Sebastian felt drawn to both sides of Tate’s life. Frieda Love is vivacious, brash, and loves to put on a show. Tate is a little quieter. Though still comfortable with who he is, he is more vulnerable when he isn’t dressed to the nines and in full makeup. He uses Frieda as much for armor as he does for the entertainment and attention.

Sebastian has always considered himself straight, so goes through quite the personal searching as the friendship between him and Tate develops. Where Tate is flashy and out-there, Sebastian is closed off and quiet, stuck in a more old fashioned, laid back way of life. His friendship with Tate draws him out of his shell and challenges him to let others in, not just Tate.

These characters had great development. From Sebastian’s questioning to the reasons that brought him to the club in the first place. I would say Sebastian is the most dynamic character in the story, but Tate goes through some changes as well. The secret that sits between them for much of the book drives some of the drama, but it is just as much about finding oneself and letting people in as it is the secrets they keep.

The side characters did a lot to help Tate and Sebastian navigate their new friendship and relationship, as well as support them as individuals. I love the loyalty Annie showed, despite Sebastian keeping her at arms length and the lessons he finally started learning from her. 

This is the third MM in Christina Lee’s Roadmap to Your Heart series, and it definitely stands up to the two books before it. Each book has a very different feel, but they fit together nicely as a variety of MM tropes. 
I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Darkest Flame (Roadmap to Your Heart #1)
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Released August 17, 2015
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Our 4.5 star reviews

From the author of There You Stand, a new male/male romance about an errant motorcycle recruit and the captivating bartender who sends his wheels spinning down an all too tempting road.

Vaughn O’Keefe has been part owner of the Hog’s Den for years. Privy to plenty of Disciples of the Road business, he’s never been more ruffled as when a new recruit named “Smoke” walks through the door. Something about the man gets his blood pumping, but he knows to keep his preferences under wraps around the club.

“Smoke” Callahan has done a couple of rehab stints and is finally clean, thanks to help from the Disciples. He’s on the right path and isn’t about to get sidetracked, no matter how much the guy who manages the bar gets beneath his skin. Besides, his last relationship with a man left him scared, alone, and with a nightmare of an addiction.

When the Hog’s Den becomes shorthanded, and Smoke is ordered to help out the one man he can’t have, his longing for the bartender reaches blistering proportions. Vaughn figures a night together should be enough to satisfy their mutual attraction. But neither banks on just how scorching hot it might be.

As Smoke’s past unravels and the one person he hopes never to lay eyes on again messes with all he holds sacred, it’s time to involve the Disciples. Problem is, he’ll have to risk his membership, his heart, and his own hide to keep everyone he cares about safe.

The Deepest Blue (Roadmap to Your Heart #2)
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Released December 4, 2015
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Our 4.5 star reviews

Lee exchanges skyline for swampland in the next book of her male/male romance series, Roadmap to Your Heart.

Rugged and conventional Callum Montgomery enjoys running Shady Pines hunting preserve, except for the secret that’s eating him alive. When his sister brings a date for a family wedding, he can’t stand the arrogant city slicker with the stick up his perfectly fine ass. He doesn’t understand his draw to Dean, who pushes his buttons at every turn, but he’d never dream of betraying his sibling over some lust fueled fantasy. 

Handsome and conscientious Dean Abbott is a research assistant in his university’s biology lab. When his roommate, Cassie, begs him to be her pretend date in front of her meddling family, he begrudgingly agrees to help. He doesn’t anticipate being enchanted by the countryside, the colorful cast of characters, or her sexy and brooding straight brother. 

When contempt turns to passion and leads to stolen moments in a sugar cane field, Callum can’t help longing for the kind of connection he believes he can never have. But not even the world’s most heart-melting kiss can bridge the vast philosophical differences between the men.

Dean’s return to his urban lifestyle leaves him restless, his mind continually wandering to the charming setting that spoke to something missing deep inside him. Because you can take the city boy out of the country but you can’t make him forget the intriguing man he left behind.
Christina Lee 
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Once upon a time, Christina Lee lived in New York City and was a wardrobe stylist. She spent her days getting in cabs, shopping for photo shoots, eating amazing food, and drinking coffee at her favorite hangouts.

Now she lives in the Midwest with her husband and son—her two favorite guys. She’s been a clinical social worker and a special education teacher. But it wasn't until she wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper that she realized she could turn the fairytales inside her head into the reality of writing fiction. 

She’s addicted to lip balm and salted caramel everything. She believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job. 


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