“Pain given and received equally in an exchange of need more than power.”
It’s only fair to start this review with a warning; it will be more me fan-girling about a book I adored and a story that touched me deeply, than a coherent reflection of my thoughts. And before I get all incoherent and start gushing let me just say that this book went straight to my ‘extra special’ list because it will stay with me for a long time to come.
Lynda Aicher ventures were few romance authors dare to go in The Deeper He Hurts. Just like The Harder He Falls, this book’s story is not quite BDSM. Sure, it plays by the BDSM rules in so far as that safewords are mentioned, but Ash is a sadist rather than a Dom and while Sawyer may be a pain slut, he is nobody’s sub. And that is what makes them perfect play partners, despite the fact that Asher has a rule against relationships with employees and Sawyer doesn’t want, need, or trust connections. Ms Aicher doesn’t flinch away from the thoughts and feelings a sadist harbours anymore than the needs of someone finding release in pain. Those scenes should have been shocking and even hard to read but weren’t. In fact they were stunningly beautiful.
Asher and Sawyer are two men who have convinced themselves that they are better off alone. Asher because he can’t figure out how to come out to his family and Sawyer because he knows, without a shadow of a doubt that to let people into his heart is a sure fire way to loss and pain. And yet, knowing you’re better off on your own with your head doesn’t always mean your heart is on board with the game.
Asher is the first to recognise, acknowledge and also accept the feelings he’s developing for Sawyer. In fact, Asher has no qualms revealing his secrets and darkness to the man he’s falling for. Sawyer on the other hand has built such strong walls around himself that he finds it impossible to open up. Even as he has to acknowledge to himself that Asher has gotten under his skin, he can’t bring himself to accept it; not to himself and especially not to Asher.
“Sawyer hid so much from everyone, he doubted anyone really knew him. Not even himself. Asher’s level of self-awareness was both humbling and terrifying. What would he find if he looked that deeply at himself? If he let anyone else see beneath the layers to who he really was?”
I hurt for Sawyer and I hurt for Asher and yet I cheered whenever they were together, doing what they were perfectly matched to do together. Who knew there was this much beauty in the giving and receiving of pain, just for the sake of pain? Because trust me, the description of the scenes between Asher and Sawyer is nothing short of glorious.
In fact, every single word in The Deeper He Hurts is a thing of beauty. I had so many sentences and paragraphs highlighted in this book it was almost embarrassing. Picking my favourites to share here almost broke my heart, but I managed it.
Sawyer is lonely, and the care Asher takes with him the first time he inflicts his pain is a stark reminder of that loneliness. Especially since the relief only lasts as long as the pain lingers; as soon as it lessens Sawyers need to isolate himself resurfaces with a vengeance, except now he’s had a taste of what could be.
“And he gave him all of it.
Every ounce of the hurt and pleasure that blinded his sight and trembled from his core. The well of emptiness that could only be filled by the pain. The years of isolation and loneliness he’d blocked into survival.
The crazy, mounting yearning to be held. To live instead of survive.
It flew from him until there was nothing left.
Nothing put the pain.”
Ash’s reflections on Sawyer’s self inflicted scars made me pause for thought. Self-harm is of course damaging, but it’s worthwhile reflecting on what it gives to those who indulge in such an escape.
“Whatever had caused every one of these marks would’ve hurt like a son of a bitch. Some deep, others more superficial, each magnificent to Ash. Where others might see ugly and deformed, he saw strength. Courage. Agony challenged and defeated.”
Sawyer needs the pain, even if it is a mixed blessing.
“Every ache was a testament to how alive he was.”
Sawyer feels as guilty about being alive as he’s grateful for it even if he’s convinced he shouldn’t be. He needs the pain to remind himself he’s living, while it also reminds him of those who don’t anymore. He’s pushed his feelings aside for so long, he’s no longer sure who he is and what he’d find if he allowed himself to really look into the heart of himself. Until Sawyer finds the courage to give and feel fully; I’m not ashamed to admit that I cheered—out loud—when that happened.
“His orgasm built from his groin but burst from his heart. It slammed through every fiber, tore from his chest in a long cry, and pierced through the hurt to wipe out the pain.”
The Deeper He Hurts tells a pain filled story without ever becoming overly angsty. It drew me into the minds and lives of two men I couldn’t help loving and rooting for. The sex scenes between them, both those centred around pain and those that were only about giving and receiving tenderness and love, touched me deeply. And just when I thought I’d given all my emotions to this book I came to the dedication which describes this wonderful, amazing, touching and heart-warming story better than I ever could:
“To those who’ve hurt, those who’ve healed, and those who’ve walked the line between both. And to those who understand that sometimes you have to hurt in order to heal.”
Lynda Aicher has never let me down. Every single one of her books made a lasting impression on me. And while I didn’t think it was possible, it is safe to say that she’s getting better with every subsequent book.