First Touch (First and Last #1) by Laurelin Paige
Holy mother of freaking pearl, Laurelin Page is taking us somewhere - And while for most of the book, I could guess the destination, the last three pages of this book blew that assumption clear out of the water.
Emily’s on a hiatus from her successful TV show (where she’s the voice of a computerized personal assistant) when she gets a voicemail from a longlost friend. That friend, Amber, uses their code word for ‘things have gone tits up, please come rescue me’ and Emily goes into action. She tracks down the last dude that Amber was famously tied to billionaire control freak Reeve Sallis, determined to find her estranged pal. In order to find out where Amber is, Emily needs to get close to Reeve, get access to his empire. So she does that the way she’s been getting close to men her entire life through her body.
I don’t want to give you a playbyplay of the book and that’s going to hamper some of my comments. This is the kind of book I would pass to a friend with a note on it saying we should meet for drinks when she’s done with it so we can discuss. Because this thing is rich with ideas to chew on but which are tied to plot points that readers deserve to find for themselves.
All that being said, there is one feature I need to reveal in order to talk about it: Emily and Amber have spent a lot of their lives being causal equivalents of escorts. And what I mean by that is that they live with men, at first together, then apart, and perform all sorts of sexual and domestic services for those men, in exchange for being taken care of. They’re liveingirlfriends to men significantly older than them. The narration takes place entirely from Emily’s perspective and she seems to believe that Amber loved some of the men, but she certainly never did and expresses skepticism that Amber did either. She comments a few times that the two of them have no idea what love is their commerce was lust.
Their falling out comes from one of those relationships and they haven’t spoken in years. When we finally get the full story of why they parted, it’s a story laden with trigger warnings: rape both vaginal and anal, abuse, the works. I suppose the best way I can offer warnings is this: if you are triggered at all about violence against women, about teenagers being exploited, about powerful men treating women entirely as playthings you need to steer clear of this one. It’s just safer.
For me, I thought this book was completely enthralling. I’ve rarely read heroines quite like Emily completely jaded, cut off from her heart, but completely in tune with her body. I’ve certainly never read about a woman who enjoys being debased as much as she does it’s submission for sure but with an edge. This woman gets off on being called degrading names and I can’t quite tell if that’s something natural in her, or a situation of complex guilt manifested in turnons.
Nothing happens sexually between Reeve and Emily without her full consent, but sometimes you only know that because you’re in her head. Asking is not Reeve’s strong suit, but Emily reports being completely his very quickly. It feels authentic to her character, but there were a fuew moments that if Page had not made it clear that Emily was in 100%, I would have felt squidgy. And I’m sure there are readers who will read it differently than I did and feel Emily’s relationship with consent is fuzzy at best. Reeve is both the typical Alpha Asshole and a tender dude who finds himself falling for Emily but fighting it at every step of the way. These two folks are each playing games with each other and we, the readers, are only privy to half the strategy. It’s captivating. The last fifty pages of the book, for my money, are the best, but this is also very clearly the first episode in a saga. It’s the first book in a new series and also my first exposure to Page. As soon as I finished this one, I signed up for her newsletter so I would not risk missing the second installment. And I have a feeling, if you read First Touch, you’re going to feel the exact same way.
Recommended for fans of erotic suspense, fans of rough sex scenes and characters being overwhelmingly drawn to each other against logic or common sense. Oh, and a healthy fascination with organized crime wouldn’t go amiss either.