Tag Team Review: Risk Aware by Amelia C. Gormley

Tattoo artist Geoff Gilchrest is convinced his life is some sort of cosmic joke. Why else would a hemophiliac also be a masochist? He’s given himself more than one elbow bleed since puberty just doing what guys do when alone and bored, so forget about whips and chains. How many partners would contemplate playing with someone even a mild flogging could kill?

Gallery owner Robin Brady knows he can deliver what Geoff needs: to be taken to the edge of danger but never beyond. But Robin came to Saugatuck to get away from the leather scene and heal from a betrayal by his former sub, so he’s not sure he should get involved with Geoff. His ambivalence isn’t helped by the fact that Geoff’s unwillingness to communicate about his well-being hits Robin in some very raw places.

Geoff’s hemophilia isn’t the obstacle he thinks it is. Instead, a lack of trust—on both their parts—is what could end them before they have a chance to begin.

Another Instance of  #UnicornBrainShare


Tattoo artist Geoff Gilchrist knows he has the talent and drive to be successful, and is deciding whether to set up his own independent business. But it’s a financial gamble, given the immense costs of the treatments for his hemophilia. His genetic disorder has often hindered him, especially in love and sex. At a week-long vacation, Geoff is offered what he’s always wanted in his sex life - pain.

Gallery owner Robin Brady hasn’t been in the scene for a while, but he likes a challenge. He knows he can give Geoff what he wants, while keeping him safe. The two agree to a fling, not expecting that it will last longer than Geoff’s vacation.

The premise of a hemophiliac with a pain kink was immediately intriguing. The only thing I knew about hemophilia before beginning ‘Risk Aware’ was that it affected blood clotting. The detailed picture of life with hemophilia that the author gives was informative without becoming a lecture. Reading about Geoff’s daily struggle with hemophilia was eye-opening.

It also made me stop and think about my own privilege as an able-bodied person. It’s never a bad thing to remember how random the genetic lottery is, and why scientific and medical research and progress are so necessary.

The chemistry between Robin and Geoff is immediate. The two click from the beginning. I enjoyed their banter and how they slowly got to know one another. It was easy to fall for Robin. His backstory tugged at my heartstrings, and the complete attention he gave to Geoff and his medical needs reinforced that.

Geoff, on the other hand, took some getting used to. I could understand his frustration with his situation, but his disregard for his own well-being was tough to read. He was often very immature, particularly when he tried to hide problems during or after scenes with Robin. It wasn’t until somewhere around the halfway point that I truly began liking Geoff, and stopped wondering whether he had a secret death-wish.

The halfway point is also when I started believing that the two MCs could build something long-term. The two aren’t perfect and they often make mistakes or let their hang-ups get in the way, but it was clear that Geoff and Robin shared more than just a physical attraction. Through their ups and downs, the two kept coming back to each other, and worked at it until they got it right.

Pain really isn’t my kink. I often find myself skimming the more hardcore scenes when reading BDSM. However in this book, the heavier kink was a sensual experience. The inventive ways in which Robin indulges Geoff’s need for pain and edge play were sexy, and didn’t make me cringe the way S&M often does. Each time Robin hinted that he had something new up his sleeve, I couldn’t wait to read what it was.

The conclusion of ‘Risk Aware’ is definitely a happy ending, but I don’t think it’s the sunshine and roses that most readers would expect from their romance books. I gave it some time, and realized that while Geoff and Robin’s ending may not have been a shining HEA, it is a very realistic one. Long-term disabilities don’t disappear in the face of love, and hemophilia in particular isn’t something with a miracle cure.

It’s possible that sometime in the future Geoff will bump his head too hard or be harmed in another way that his body can’t cope with. It’s more than likely that his joints will deteriorate in the coming years. But he’ll have Robin at his side, and there’s no question that the two will love each other and deal with things as they come.

‘Risk Aware’ is a wonderfully written book, with an enthralling romance and a very unique look at BDSM and disability. I’d definitely recommend this book for any MM readers looking for something different.


If I had to describe this book in one word it would be impressive.

I was impressed by the level of research that must’ve gone into living with hemophilia, the staggering medical costs associated with the disorder, the stigma attached to it and just how affected hemophiliacs were by the AIDS epidemic. I, too, was impressed by the kink, but I'll get to that later.

Geoff is a masochist and a hemophiliac. It’s taken his mother’s passing and quite a bit of prodding from his sister for him to finally decide to take a chance and dip his toes into the kink pool. He and his best friend Jace head to Saugatuck for the Dunes’ annual Buns & Baskets Benefit, a leather event, where he meets Robin.

Robin has a history in the kink community but had a bad experience with his erstwhile sub which has kept him away from the scene for a while. He’s attending the event to test the Michigan waters to see if he wants to dive back into a pool with less memories than NYC.

They’re attracted to each other instantly, but their story is in no way instalove. As a matter of fact, this may be the best, most honest relationship development I’ve read to date. Gormley meticulously builds it by showing us both of their perspectives along with their angst, achievements and missteps.


Trust is important in any relationship but paramount when you’re talking about RACK level kink. I found it brilliant and brazen that Gormley chose to construct a character with Geoff’s condition and make him a masochist. Which is what immediately drew me to this book. It would seem an impossible task for most tops to meet Geoff’s needs without killing him, so not only does Geoff have to trust Robin to respect his limitations, but Robin has to trust Geoff to verbalize them without insouciance. It's a game of inches for them both.

“Jesus…For a whore you’re the tightest piece of ass I’ve ever…Fuck. Gonna go balls-deep…gonna pound the fuck outta you.”

Sadly Robin is not a bear. Maybe an otter… I digress. Robin is amazingly attuned and attentive to Geoff but not in that omniscient way that I find annoying. He’s human and has foibles, quirks and sore spots like anyone else, but he has that quiet composure that centers Geoff when he's being puerile or sardonic.

And that’s what Gormley is astoundingly good a-she shows all her character's eccentricities, insecurities, strengths and weaknesses holistically. There’s good characterization, there's great characterization and then there’s exceptional characterization and Gormley falls in the latter category, in my opinion.

As for the kink... I was just plain ole WOW'd. Since a simple spanking could be tantamount to death that forces Robin to get creative and WOOO BOOOYYYYY does he ever pick up that gauntlet! I had to create a new shelf! That gives me excite. What also gives me excite is reading the heavy kink scenes from the sub’s perspective.

I blinked at him sleepily, feeling so incredibly good that I wanted to crawl inside him and stay there, basking in him and this feeling for as long as possible.

And I, unlike my co-reviewer, LOVE DA PAIN. And Gormley brought it.

My caveat being I’m not sure how feasible some of it would be, but I gotta be honest...

I just soaked it up and rolled around in it like a happy puppy in a field of poppies. A glassy eyed happy puppy with a notepad.

Geoff and Robin are great together and not just in a kinky sense either. Their relationship evolves naturally as they get to know one another. Robin is just as much out of his comfort zone with edge play as Geoff is a neophyte to kink altogether, but they make it work and along the way fall in love. I wholeheartedly believe they will have a long future together filled with good days and bad, ups and downs, with ubiquitous mundanities and joyful events and perhaps even a family of their own.

He could make me feel like I was anything but delicate. He could make me fly.

If you like kink, heavy, sadomasochistic kink step right up, kids. This is a book for you. But I would urge anyone who hasn’t read Gormley to at least give Risk Aware a try if for no other reason than to experience her exceptional writing.

ARCs were provided by NetGalley in exchange for honest reviews.

Find out more on Goodreads.

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