There are a few things that I look for and love in a story - no matter the genre. I love a book that can tug at my heartstrings. I love a book that makes me fall in love (or at least empathize) with the characters. I love a book that causes me great pain to step away from. And Riley Nash - a new to me author - accomplished all of this with Hold Me Under.
From the Blurb
Love is cheap. Love is cruel. Love can’t save us.
Victor Lang had everything—looks, money, fame. A chance to become the greatest swimmer in history. Until a failed dope test brought him crashing down.
According to the rumors, he turned into a recluse, a drug addict, a whore. Broken beyond repair. Incapable of love.
And for some reason, he’s set his sights on me.
A freak accident in his pool throws me into a world of wealth and status and people who are willing to do anything to get what they want. Before I know it, I’m being paid to fly to Italy and pose as his boyfriend. Trapped at his side, I learn what it means to truly hate someone.
Turns out, that’s exactly what he wants.
I can’t save him, and I can’t love him. But as things fall apart and I discover the truths he’s hiding, I learn that hate can be greater than love—an obsession, a prayer, dark days and darker nights, a need to be the only one who hurts him. Hate can heal the worst wounds love leaves behind.
But I have problems of my own, a broken spirit and loved ones to protect. And I’m scared to face the things he’s waking up inside of me.
A gritty, emotional, epic hate-to-love slow burn with an inexperienced top and his bratty bottom, hurt/comfort, obsession, and healing. Guaranteed HEA!
Sarah C's Review
So let's start with the characters, as they are always the most important part of any book for me. Victor and Ethan are two incredibly broken men who were given terrible hands in life. They had the complete opposite of a meet cute - one that included Ethan almost drowning in Victor's pool and Victor being a complete and total ass. They rub one another the wrong way almost immediately, and that is not something that goes away quickly.
No this is a book that heard enemies to lovers and understood the assignment.
In fact, through part of the book, these boys are hard to really like - though I loved them and felt for them immediately. Victor, in particular, is very hard to like. He is incredibly guarded, even in his own POV sections, but the bits you get to see? They're heartbreaking from the word go. And as he lets down his walls and lets Ethan in? Every part of it is believable.
Especially when you learn his reasons.
The plot itself was amazing. There were several parts of the book that made me almost want to curl up and cry. This book does have a considerable amount of angst, but it is balanced out beautifully. The plot hit my third point too. I physically did not want to put the book down. Not for bed and certainly not when I got a call for work. This book sucked me in through its amazing characters, its amazing plot, and the absolutely beautiful prose Nash utilizes to tell the story.
Now, please beware. There are quite a few triggers in this book, including sexual assault, abuse, death of a family member, and dementia. These things are all handled incredibly respectfully and in a way that makes you truly feel the trauma these boys have gone through.
Hold Me Under is a dual POV, medium level angst romance between two wounded boys who find one another by happenstance (or maybe through fate) and learn to heal. I highly recommend this book to anyone.
Rating: 5 Stars
Let me start of to say: Hold Me Under is one of the best books I have read so far. This was a new to me author, but wow what an impression. The use of language, the way it is utilized to to draw the scenes and emotions is unbelievable well done. I had to keep reading because it was so emersive and engaging. I don't want to spoil anything from the plot, but I wanted to throttle, push away, hugh and just love on both Ethan and Victor through their times together and separate.
If their was ever a love to hate and hate to love you connection there is one here.
They do find their hfn.
This is the first book in the Water, air, earth, fire series. The book should be on anyone their tbr list if you can handle angst, sometimes 'the dark' and telling of past trauma. I am gonna one click for the second book just to see what Riley will create next.
Triggers may apply for some.
Rating: 5 Stars
Love is cheap. Love is cruel. Love can't save us.
“Love has borders, limitations. A million movies and a billion books have charted its course. We chase it because we already know how it makes us feel, and once you’re in love, your only choice is to fall back out of it again. Hate is intimate, endless, obsessive. Addictively co-dependent. You can’t disappoint someone who believes in the worst possible version of you."
Hold Me Under starts with a prelude to Ethan and Victor's first encounter. I love it when authors give you a little insight into what's to come.
This was possibly one of the best books I have read in 2022, I would go as far as to say maybe one of the best I have read full stop.
I don't feel like there is anything I can say that is adequate enough for how wonderful this was to read, breathtaking is the first thought that comes to mind. Riley Nash has created something that is nothing short of a masterpiece. This is an enemies-lovers, hurt/comfort book and it was written superbly. It is what I think every book in this trope should be, it was a true enemies-lovers.
“He makes me cruel, like a toxic cloud rotting away the good and leaving only the worst.”
“He’s a simple, pure person, made of cats and cookies and little brick houses full of afternoon sunlight. I’m made of mud and broken things, deep water and suffocation.”
It was raw, heartbreaking and had so much angst bleeding from the pages. There was a real tenderness to their story though. All the inner turmoil, lies, hiding and hate was a gauze to two lost souls desperately yearning for a reason to live and make sense of a world that had chewed them up and spit them out, somewhere between that they found themselves and strength in love and their home.
This is not a sugar and spice and all things nice kind of book, it's real and splayed my heart open for all to see, I wanted to curl up, cry and hide at points during this. Much how we see Victor do. There's are trigger warnings so just make sure you look into those before diving into this (e.g. child abuse, grievous bodily harm, death, drug use, suicidal ideation, depiction of someone with dementia) some are distressing.
“Maybe I’m doing this just to humiliate him, but deep down I want to know if being hurt by someone who hates you makes cleaner, sharper wounds than the hideous scars love leaves behind.”
Rating: 5 Stars
Not all stories have hero's who have capes, but sometimes, the two victims need to be each other hero to survive.
This book is the first from this author that I've read. This story is heartbreaking and emotional, and it takes you on a ride from the first page and to the last. Both main characters are broken in different ways, but come together perfectly at the end.
I did feel like some parts dragged a bit, but overall, it was a great story.
Rating: 4 Stars