ARC-Review: HOLD ‘EM by Katie Porter

A man with handcuffs. A woman with a paddle. Both fly F-16s.

Daughter of a world-famous motocross champion, and head-on competitor with three brothers, Captain Leah “Princess” Girardi was born with a need for speed. No one tells her what to do, especially not men with chauvinistic “girls can’t be fighter pilots” attitudes.

That’s what ended her brief relationship with Captain Mike “Strap Happy” Templeton. Now, six years later, he’s been assigned to her squadron, and whoa damn, he’s filled out nicely. Plus he’s cultivated a Zen-like chill factor that pulls at her hormones.

Even after four tours, Mike’s the new kid in the 64th Aggressor Squadron. That’s not the only thing new. Since he last saw Leah, he’s learned a few things about himself. A female who outranks him still makes his teeth grind, but in the bedroom he craves the rush of pain inflicted by an adoring, powerful woman.

Their reunion is an explosive revelation. Leah is the beautiful mistress he’s been searching for, and she takes to her new role like a natural. But Leah’s aware one thing hasn’t changed. Loving him is still an all-or-nothing proposition. She’s not sure her reckless streak is wide enough to risk her career–and her heart.

This book contains a hot stud on his knees, a woman wielding a paddle, and filthy-gorgeous femdom sex. Also: dangerous rock climbing, two amazing motorcycles and some bad tequila.

Title: HOLD ‘EM
Author: Katie Porter
Series: Vegas Top Guns, book 3
Genre: Erotic Romance, Contemporary Romance, Military Romance
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Year of release: 2012, September 25
Format: eBook
Source: Received an e-ARC from the author for review

First line:
Captain Leah Girardi loved her time in the flight simulator.

Last line:
“We’ll keep each other safe, Michael. Together. Always.”

Memorable Scenes:
– Leah & Mike showing off on their bikes on the parking lot in chapter 2 > loved how it broke the sexual tension in Mike
– the scene at Mike’s house where he shows Leah he’s a sub > I was literally holding my breath at the end of chapter 6
– Leah & Mike first foray together into the D/s territory > wow that was hot… and the ring, djeezus!
– the gang, including Cass and Mike, at Paulie’s bantering > loved the banter the guys and Leah dished out
– the ladies bathroom at Paulie’s scene > so hot it was a miracle my phone (= reading device of choice) didn’t melt!
– the tacky Mexican restaurant scene > probably my favorite scene of the book, it was a changing point for the relationship between Mike and Leah taking it from sex and work to something deeper and more profound. The rose…I melted at the rose!
– Leah and Cass at the sex-shop > what an awesome scene…Cass is a hoot!
– the scene with the cane > OMG! That was intense!

Captain Leah “Princess” Girardi is a female fighter pilot, drives a motorcycle and is competitive as hell. She’s is wild, blunt, impatient and direct, she’s a control-freak and beneath the bitchy exterior is a caring woman with insecurities and a vulnerability that doesn’t take away from her strength or determination. Yet despite her the tough front she upholds, she worries about what other people think of her.

In HOLD ‘EM Leah has definitely cleaned up her act in comparison to the other 2 books as she’s trying to make Major but I did miss an explanation for her past self-destructive behavior.

Captain Mike “Strap Happy” Templeton is easygoing but with dark edge. He’s an adrenaline junkie, competitive and sexually submissive with some interesting jewelry on his body… It seems like sexually Mike has come a long way since the sweet and slow sex he’d shared with Leah during their 3-month relationship 6 years ago. Leah wanted it more kinky and rough…well her wish is his command. I really liked the Mike in the bedroom but the Mike outside the bedroom confused me a little.

I found Mike’s standpoint on women in combat situations a bit awkward and old-fashioned. And the way he wasn’t always able to rein in his sexual feelings but still hated that Leah outranks him during the job also confused me. It didn’t stroke with how he presented himself to Leah (and the reader) that first time at his house and explained “the rules” to Leah. However, an explanation for this was given at the end and he redeemed himself splendidly.

HOLD ‘EM (like the other books in this series) doesn’t have many secondary characters as it focuses mainly and intensely on the primary couple of the book. The cast of secondary characters consists of Leah’s two best friends and their other halves, who are main characters of the previous 2 books and Mike’s fellow fighter pilots he hangs out with, who are going to be the heroes of the next two books. I loved seeing Jon, Heather, Ryan and Cass but was also intrigued by the new blood and fodder for the future books in this series. To say they’re interesting would be an understatement.

I knew INSIDE BET was going to be a tough act to follow and the beginning of HOLD ‘EM, though thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable, indeed didn’t reach that ultimate and immediate click I had with Jon and Heather’s story. This being said, there is no question this was another dirty, hot and sexy book. HOLD ‘EM was another red-hot read that once again broadened my horizon a bit more, despite not being a stranger to the D/s trope in erotic romance. The exchange of power between Leah as the mistress and Mike as the submissive was heady and titillating. And addictive! I couldn’t get enough of it.

Whereas INSIDE BET was about being in control and intensity, HOLD ‘EM was naughtiness and relinquishing control. But both were filled with the durty and naughty heat. And in both books trust is a key theme. Giving and receiving trust is a red thread throughout HOLD ‘EM, be it professionally, sexually or emotionally.

What I love about this series is that the authors take kink to that next and refreshingly unique level. Sure, a male submissive and female Dom aren’t new in the erotic romance scene but the way Katie Porter incorporates it in the emotional story arc just blows me away exactly like the familiar tropes in the previous 2 books did.

I read in reviews of the previous 2 books that there are readers who were a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more of the story dedicated to the Air Force/fighter pilot stuff. Well, those readers will not be disappointed with HOLD ‘EM. There a lot more time spent at Nellis and being a fighter pilot, and everything that comes with it, is explored more than in the other two books.

The romance is awesome and much in the vein of the other 2 books it starts focused on the more sexual side and gradually you see it develop towards the emotional side. With subtly placed hints in POVs and dialogue it’s as if you’re witnessing to people fall in love and they themselves are not aware of it. Like another favorite author of mine in the erotic romance scene, Katie Porters saves the emotional punch for the end so by the time I finished the last chapter before the epilogue I was bawling. I just love how this author team wraps up the emotional conflicts in their books!

After a wobbly start for me HOLD ‘EM kicked into gear and kept me enthralled with hot kinky FemDom sex that was uniquely refreshing, characters that had emotional depth and chemistry that was off the charts. It was a book I enjoyed peeling off layer after layer to get to the amazing characters and emotions tucked beneath the awesome writing and scorching kink. Next please!

Favorite Quotes:

[Mike] “Been here and there.” Thankfully, he positioned himself along a triangle between her and Ryan’s desk, so she could assess them both. “Few tours over Iraq and the ’Stans. How’d you get lucky enough to hide out here so fast?”
Poof. Tightened-nipple problem fixed. She slumped back into her seat. Nothing killed her attraction faster than condescension.

“Cherries, even?” She grinned up at the waitress. “Don’t tell me you’re so desperate for a pilot that you’ll pick up a chick?” (Leah to Theresa the waitress)

She curved a hand around the underside of his chin and tugged up. “No, keep looking at me. I like the way you watch me.”
His fingers gripped the top of her ass. “How do I watch you?”
“Like you’re hungry. For me.”
“That’s because I am.”
That did it. She went flying over the edge of the canyon, spun wild on the absolute rush of his faith.

“Michael,” she purred, intentionally grazing her nipples over his bare chest. “You do realize I’m going to do very bad things to you?”

He took her kisses as she offered them—fierce, hard, greedy. The sweep of her tongue over his sent a hot jolt down to his guts. The hard-on he’d been sporting half the night was a beast now, eager to come out to play.

Mike sank deeper into the arousal that was quickly chipping into his brain, making inroads toward his control. Sinking in was easier than fighting it. He absorbed it like any extreme sensation—pleasure or pain, hot or cold, fear or desire. At that moment they all felt like Leah.

Jon leaned against his Aston, as if the paint job on the expensive machine didn’t matter in the least. “What’s up with you and Strap Happy?”
Leah choked. A stream of curses wove together in her mind. Trust Jon, the original kink, to figure out that something was up. So damn pervy, he picked up the tiniest little clue like some goddamn sex radar.

She came so freaking hard, like her brain shivered into little shards. White flashed where she clenched her eyes shut. Her moan wound free into a soft scream, but Mike kissed it away. Took it into himself.
Just like he took everything else she gave him, then turned it bigger and brighter.

Mike blinked out of his thoughts. God, she looked amazing. Sleek. Mysterious in the dawn shadows. Somewhere along the way, a woman with a ballerina’s build had become a fighter pilot. The combination of soft and feminine, hard and competent, made his blood fizz.

She shivered on the chilly burst of need that turned her veins to live wires. Two words were all she needed to become wrapped up in him.

She was tearing in two. The part of her that cringed at doling out unintentional pain crashed against the part of her that reveled in the idea of being allowed to try again. Another try at taking him higher. She wanted to see how far she could push before he crumbled to beautiful, satisfied pieces—pieces she’d be trusted to put back together again.

“Michael, please.” She swallowed and looked about ready to puke. He could relate. “I need to apologize.”
He could’ve been punched in the chest and felt less pain. Hope was a goddamn bastard with a wicked right cross.

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