Book Review

Guest Review: How Not to Fall by Emily Foster

This review is by Sabra Nicole, who wrote to me and asked about writing a guest review of Emily Foster’s How Not to Fall. She said, “it gave me all the feelings, and I have things to say, even a good week-plus after reading it.”  Her Twitter bio says she is a writer of things…mostly words, and she’s that fluent in both Geek and Sarcasm. Welcome, Sabra! 

This book was a god-damn revelation, and a very long time coming for me.

As someone whose earliest memories of reading revolve around my mother handing me her historicals, with clear instructions on which pages to skip (which I never did), romance novels have always been a part of my life. They hold a special place in my heart, and as such, I’ve always searched out those romances that spoke to me. In middle school, those were Jeanne Kalogridis’ Children of the Vampire and The Magic Christmas from Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley Twins and Friends series.

In high school, it was Anne Rice’s Blood and Gold.

Now, in my early thirties, it’s this book.

Brilliant and awkward Annabeth Coffey, counting down the days til she leaves her University lab for M.I.T.’s M.D/Ph.D. program, decides to make a move on her lab’s postdoctorate fellow, Dr. Charles Douglas, to hilarious and sexy results. Fun, feminist, and sex-positive, How Not to Fall is as genuinely hilarious as it is sexy, and is my catnip in it’s purest form.


Tom Hiddleston raging, "All the petticoats. Out the window."

(I hear that Ye Olde Victoria’s Secret has a 2 for 5 sale on petticoats, just in case you should need to buy some to toss out yonder window)

Without rehashing the plot blow-by-blow (as it were), it’s almost impossible to give good enough explanations for why I loved the characters so much, or why the book left me a in puddle of wibbly feels.

It’s not just that it features an extremely driven, extremely competent heroine and an intelligent and sexy hero that makes it great. It’s not even that the sex is hot, and…spoiler…it’s hot. What makes this book absolutely all my damn catnip is that it takes these two people and makes me root for them, not just as a couple, but as people. I want to laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry. I want to see them to be happy, and succeed on their own terms.

The fact that they bone—a lot—is a fringe benefit. A rather large, rather sweaty fringe benefit.

Now, petticoat-tossing moments aside, this book has some meat to it. (Ba-dum-bum.) Considering our heroine is a fucking ace in the psycho physiology field, and our hero is a postdoc, this has the potential to seem intimidating at first glance. The science is strong in these two. It’s their bread and butter, the soul of their flirtation, and I honestly worried that I was going to be so goddamn lost. Luckily for us all, Annie is a brilliant woman who also speaks “ordinary human,” so minor stumbling aside, I was happy to follow her along.

The fact that this story is dealing with an internal time constraint makes this all the more compelling. With the countdown to our heroine leaving the goddamn state for yonder horizon, the question of “will they, or won’t they” underlined a good deal of her interactions with the hero.

Will they or won’t they ever go out, after Annie totally blows the initial approach. Me: “They’d Fucking Better.”

Will they or won’t they manage a bone-free friendship. Me: “Do I fucking need to repeat myself?”

Will they or won’t they just bone already, because my god. The book: “No, no…don’t thank me. You’re fucking welcome.”

Even with boning eminent, the “will they or won’t they” question rears its glorious, embarrassing head (heh): Will Annie or won’t she go five minutes without embarrassing herself?

Probably not, which is fortunate, as moments like this are a gift:

I blindly feel around me and find my phone, which I check for the time, and I find this enlightening series of texts from the night before, which I read through a haze.

I cn se your pantis poodlepie.


What. What. What have I done? Oh, sweet motherfucking Jesus, I texted Charles Douglas that I could see his panties. I called him a poodlepie.

Oh, honey.

Nicolas Cage face-palming

This combination of awkward hilarity, All the Science (some of which can be triggering, FYI), “Will They/Won’t They,” and a hero with issues comes together to offer up a book that fucking delivers. It delivers the funny and the heartbreak as easily as it does the sex, and left me hoping it would never end. Best of all? It emphatically dismisses the assumption that sex is going to be the cure-all for these two. Since this trope is one that tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth (insert oral sex joke here), I thought the story all the stronger for its absence.

In the end, this book literally flattened me—I spent a good twenty minutes sprawled out on my bed, staring at my ceiling, and hugging my phone. If I still occasionally make sappy eyes at the Kindle file, who’s to say.

In the days (*cough*weeks*cough*) following reading this book, I probably squee’d at four? Five? Friends that they just HAD to read it. Of those, at least three have it queued up on their Kindle. Of *those* three, two of those friends? Totally dudes. That’s right. This is a book that you can totally share with the men in your life, if you have the sort of relationship in which you feel comfortable doing so. Luckily, I do, so I made sure they KNEW that this was something they had to read–now–because they would love it.

On that note, I highly recommend this book to people (all genders, everyone) who are maaaybe, possibly interested in exploring BDSM themes in contemporary romantic-comedy, but are a little intimidated by the genre, or unsure where to even find that unique genre mish-mash. Since the kink leans more towards BDSM-light, it is a pleasant, sexy alternative for those who were left feeling limp (tee hee) after reading 50 Shades, but who aren’t quite ready to read about hard core couples in the BDSM scene. Even if BDSM isn’t your cup of tea, I’d still recommend giving this book a shot. The humor, brilliant characters, and heart make How Not to Fall a compelling read that you will be tempted to read again, and again.

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How Not to Fall by Emily Foster

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  1. 1
    DonnaMarie says:

    I just finished this one over the weekend and have been mulling. I really enjoyed it. The lighthearted, fumbling start moving to the deeper more emotion driven relationship. And this:

    “Science loves you, too.”

    Because I want science to love me back. I do.

    Books that tickle your intellect (have your Wikipedia link open as you read) as well as your emotions and your libido are few and far between. In that, this is a treasure of a book.

    However, I keep going back and forth about his control kink. Based on his history, it feels wrong to me. Then again, based on his history… Mommy issues suck.

    Or maybe I’m just tired of seeing this crop up in book after book after book. Including the one I’m reading now. It’s starting to feel less erotic and more:

  2. 2
    Samantha says:

    I loved this book. I already pre-ordered the sequel. It was the first book I read in a really long time when I wasn’t waiting for the sex payoff because I loved both the hero and heroine so much. I loved their banter. I loved that they were friends. True friends. To be honest, in my opinion, I found the sex a bit clinical. The book was still such a great read. Funny and intelligent with 3D characters. Wish there was more out there by this author. I would’ve binge-read everything.

  3. 3
    Sheila says:

    Is the man the dominant one? I’m going to have to guess yes, because if was otherwise, the reviewer would have made a point to mention it. Since that’s how it always goes with BDSM fiction, maledom is default, femdom is unusual and therefore must be specified. I mean, it sound slike in this book, it’s done *well* which is a point in its favor and I don’t object to maledom on principle (sometimes I even like to read and/or write it) but…there is always, always always an assumption of maledom as default. So I know when I’m *looking* for femdom (I’m not always looking gor that but when I am), to never click on or pick up anything labled BDSM *unless* it clearly lables itself as actually having femdom in it.

    It’s really tiring. As much as I want to encourage maledom BDSM fiction which is actually good and feminist and counteracts things like FSoG, it is exhausting to look at something claiming to be something I’m interested in and knowing it just won’t be.

  4. 4
    Lisa says:

    I loved this book.

  5. 5
    Ele says:

    I liked this book–it was well-written and both characters are smart, interesting, likeable. It bogged down a bit toward the end–a bit too much young adult agonized introspection for me–but all in all, a good read. As for BDSM, yes, it is male-dominant, but not very. That is, this is really mild–no pain, discipline, humiliation, sex clubs, etc. It has an older male in a position of power, with a younger (virgin) heroine, which really has potential for some ugly power dynamics. However, the book is actually pretty good about exploring that issue.

  6. 6
    Diana says:

    I don’t often read romance, but I think I should start. Thanks for the rec, Sabra! 😉

  7. 7
    Hera says:

    We should also mention that the book leaves off with the characters apart and sets up a sequel. I don’t know if it’s quite anxious enough to be called a cliffhanger, but it’s not really a resolution.

  8. 8
    subtlecat says:

    This review was wonderful: funny and informative. I’m ordering the book and hoping to see more reviews from Sabra!

  9. 9
    Palmdesertdiva says:

    Based on this review I sought out the book and it wasn’t available at my library so I looked on Amazon. In one of the reviews, someone linked to the author’s blog and after reading a bit, I couldn’t buy this book fast enough!!
    I really really liked this book on it’s own, but now knowing that’s it’s kind of a big fuck you to 50 Shades makes it oh so much better! is her blog and she is a sex scientist and to a previous commenter who mentioned femdom, I think you would find this author’s scientific research both reassuring and positive.
    Read this book!!

  10. 10
    Palmdesertdiva says:

    Sorry for hammering this home, but this is why this book is so good.

  11. 11
    Joy says:

    Glad to have come across this review! Finished it in less than a day! I felt that it was so wonderful to read a perspective of intelligent protagonists. I also thought the lead time into their relationship was refreshing. I was disappointed by a few points (some of which the reviewer mentions): virgin, the sex eventually loses steam, the experiment between the two is not fully explained or fully developed as a plot. All that on the table, best erotica I’ve read this year.

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