Friday, April 5, 2024

Christina Lee - The Hardest Fall

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.

Comment: This is the third full length story in the Roadmap to Your Heart series by Christina Lee. I've read the previous two and liked one more than the other, but felt interested enough to finish the overall series.

In this third story we meet Tate, he is a young man trying to develop his art business and he also performs in a bar as drag queen Frieda Love. He is still recovering from a relationship where he had to hide himself but his feelings are now complicated, since the man who asked that of him has died. Recently, he has noticed a gorgeous man at the bar sometimes, and one day he decides to approach him. Although they don't seem to have much in common, they become friends...
Sebastian Clarke used to be friends with Alan and he knew his friend had had affairs but he was surprised to be asked to destroy some papers with proof of his relationship with Tate. At first, Sebastian goes to the bar just to understand what was it about Tate that seduced Alan, and he is intrigued. He is even more conflicted after realizing Tate, without the make up, is as amazing as himself... but will there be any future for them?

I did like how this was developed. As one can infer from the blurb, Sebastian doesn't immediately tell Tate why he is around but I must say I did like how they only become intimate after Sebastian tells Tate about being a friend of Alan. Things had progressed enough by them, emotionally speaking, between them, for this to be a hard task. In a way, I think the author managed the sentiments and the expectations between these two in a very appealing manner.

When the protagonists met, I thought the story would be about Sebastian accepting Tate's drag queen in ways that Alan never did, but I was positively surprised to see that this was actually more centered on Sebastian and Tate and not any type of fetish. In fact, most of the plot is about how they can be friends and share similar things, and how to go on to become more than just friends. In general, I felt this process was well done and I think the slow burn made what they ended up having more romantic and a little more believable.

Tate is a fascinating character, and his drag queen persona, in my opinion, is certainly not the most interesting thing about him. I liked how he was able to distinguish the two sides of him well, even though some people in his family (his father) could not accept him, but he has the support of many others. He is a dedicated person to his art and to do his share, not always as loud as one would imagine and I was quiet happy to read about him and see him go from just being attracted to Sebastian to be in love with him.

Nevertheless, for me, this story worked out mostly due to Sebastian. He wasn't OK with his friend's Alan behavior, although he and his wife had an open relationship, and he struggles with telling Tate or not about the request to not tell others about their affair. I liked how things weren't black and white and that he cared about how this would affect Tate, especially after getting to know him. I also loved how Sebastian carried on the shop and work of his adoptive father instead of continuing his studies. I say this because he had been homeless with his mother and then someone helped and loved him and he is paying that respect forward.

The romance is rather slow, they start going out together and they are quick friends, but like I said, they only go on to becoming intimate after the major conflict is solved. Towards the end of the story, the attention is mostly on them dealing with their newfound feelings, how can they cope with the other one's expectations and, closer to the end, a charity event brings in the last hurdle, which was a little too predictable and avoidable, in my opinion.

I enjoyed this book, but I will have to admit that there were moments where things seemed to drag, or when the plot choices didn't seem as clever as they could. Of course there are things I'd change as well, to better suit my preference, such as an even more romantic relationship, but it was all done well enough.
I might look for other work by the author, if it seems interesting.
Grade: 7/10


  1. Well, now; I am very intrigued, and writing this for the TBB wishlist. Thank you!

    1. It's not the best romance ever, but I think it managed to be touching. I've read the three main stories (there are novellas in between) and the first was my least favorite because one of the characters - if I remember correctly! - was part of a gang or had a connection to one and the existence of gangs as a subject is one I find unpleasant to read about.

    2. Yes, I am very much not a fan of fetishizing gangsters, bikers or maffiosos, and make them into "heroic" figures, where the only "heroic" thing they do is not being assholes to the heroine. (I'll spare you the rant, but it goes along the lines of, "well, he can't be a rapist/domestic abuser, because he was nice *to me*" thing)

    3. I've stopped reading an author because of how women were gradually mistreated book after book under the guise of the guys being alpha and all that. My last attempt was with a book where the guy was part of a paranormal family which behaved like a Mafia, precisely.