Reviewed by Helyce
Rising, Freestyle is the story of Melanie Dixon and her struggle to take back her life and regain confidence in herself after a horrible rock climbing accident. When we meet Melanie it’s been about three years since her accident. She’s physically recovered from the injuries she sustained in her fall, but emotionally she still has a long way to go. She wants to get back to the active life before her fall, but her fear overwhelms her at times. But regaining her body’s athleticism is minor compared to her need to see herself as a desirable and attractive woman. Melanie’s body is scarred on one side of her body from her shoulder all the way down to her ankle. She hides her scars with long-sleeves and pants. When she attempted intimacy with a man after her accident, he reacted horribly when he saw her scars so Melanie has not been with a man since.
Melanie takes a big step, moving to a little town where her brother lives and slowly gets back into climbing at the local gym owned by Derrick James. Derrick knows about Melanie’s accident because he’s friends with her brother, but he really has no idea about Melanie’s emotional struggles and her body image issues. All he sees is an attractive, athletic woman and he wants her. Melanie is attracted to Derrick as well, but she’s afraid, worried that he’ll react badly to her scars. When Derrick asks Melanie out to dinner she accepts and they begin to date. When they move forward to sex, Melanie shares her worries with Derrick and realizes very quickly that he doesn’t care one bit about her scars.
Derrick and Melanie are enjoying their new relationship when Nathan King shows up at the gym one day. Melanie has known Nathan for most of her life. His sister is Melanie’s best friend and Melanie had lusted after Nathan for most of her teenage years. Melanie is thrilled to see Nathan and surprised that her old feelings of attraction have surfaced. Nathan is a photo journalist and he’s come to photograph Melanie for a “where are they now?” piece for his magazine. Derrick knows Melanie well enough by now that he can see clearly her attraction to Nathan and Nathan isn’t even trying to hide his attraction to Melanie. The kicker, Derrick doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he sees an opportunity to convince Melanie how beautiful and desirable she is once and for all. When he approaches Nathan with his idea, Nathan is shocked. When he realized that Melanie and Derrick were together, he wasn’t about to step in and ruin what they had. Derrick’s plan, however, put things into a different perspective.
What follows is a weekend in the wilderness where Melanie, Derrick and Nathan learn things about themselves that they never realized.
Rising, Freestyle is my first read by Vivian Arend, and I really enjoyed it. This is a very different kind of ménage story and it’s really done in such a beautiful way. It seemed so odd to me initially that Derrick would want to include another man when his relationship with Melanie was so new but Ms. Arend wrote it in such a way that it just seemed like the most logical step in order to finally free Melanie of that last strand of self doubt she had about herself as a woman. The author’s beautifully descriptive writing, detailing positions against the backdrop of the wilderness as Nathan snapped his photos was so well done I swear I could see them in my head. In the end, when Nathan presents the photo book to Derrick and Melanie, their emotional response to the photos just leapt off the page. I’m thoroughly impressed that the author packed such a touching story in just over 100 pages!