After her brother Dan loses in the final of the XXX-rated Reality TV show I Like It Hard, Helen Arnold finds new purpose in life: enter the show herself—and win.
But no amount of training, or advice from Dan and his lovers, can fully prepare her for naked interviews, two weeks in a porn-studio villa, and weeks of nerve-wracking live sex show—all while dealing with the capricious nature of the judges, who wield absolute power over the show and its contestants.
Being both bisexual and aromantic, Helen is used to dealing with people who don’t like or approve of her—and she’s never been the type to back down when life gets hard.
Book – I Like It Hard
Author – Francis James Franklin
Star rating – ★★★★★
Length – 18K
Cover – Really nice!
POV – 1st person, past tense, 1 person POV
Would I read it again – Yes.
Genre – LGBT, Aromantic, Erotic, Reality TV
** COPY RECEIVED THROUGH NETGALLEY **
Honestly, I don’t read a lot of FF stories. Girl-on-girl was never my thing, but as soon as I read the blurb of this book, I just had to read it. Curiosity has always been a weakness of mine and the totally original concept of the story had me itching to get my fingers on a copy.
I was not disappointed.
Not only original, but wholly realistic, the aspect of a Reality TV show based around sex isn’t that foreign to us readers. Think Big Brother, in it’s more recent inception, which has become so much more about shock and awe than anything else. That’s what I Like It Hard is like. A shock and awe reality TV show about sex, that is inclusive towards gay, straight and bi preferences, pairing them up accordingly.
The concept of swapping a bisexual female contestant between the lesbian and straight women groups was quite a genius move, on the author’s part, showing how the show – although inclusive – still has no set target for a bisexual contestant or audience. This is shown more in Marvin’s character, as well, when he admits that he didn’t give a bisexual preference, but a straight one, because bisexual men have never done well on the show. This shows the realistic shunning of bisexuality that is done within the real world, as well as sometimes within the LGBT community. It’s still a sexuality that some believe doesn’t exist, that is more of an existential crisis than a real sexuality, and that the person is just undecided. Hasn’t met the right man or woman yet, to swing them either way.
Sure, this story is about sex, but it’s about so much more than that, as I mention above. The shameless shut shaming that we, as a world, do, just because a person freely and wholly enjoys uncomplicated, no strings sex. The lack of acceptance of bisexuality and the prejudice linked to both. The story also offered a really great and accurate exposure of an aromantic. Though Helen is our heroin of the story, that doesn’t mean she has to walk off into the sunset, head over heels in love, with any man or woman.
Plot wise, I really loved the use of flashbacks. They were so strategically placed and really gave me an insight into who Helen was, her relationship with Dan – who I loved! – as well as how she had been treated throughout her life, for being bisexual and “different” to the other kids she grew up with. These reflective moments not only helped me connect and learn about both characters, but they had an important message too. About the link between depression, suicide, sexual orientation and the judgemental attitudes that adults pass down to children, who don’t know any better. They learn from adult behaviour and – somehow – we’ve made it okay to slut shame, judge and categorise people for being different to ourselves.
Overall, it was a fantastic look into the deeper issues of sex, sexuality and love. Although I would absolutely LOVE to read Dan’s story – with some sexy, hunky men – Helen’s story was brilliantly written and held an importance that went beyond the concept of the TV show.
“You have to practise. It is an act. An art. You have to know exactly what to do, while projecting an air of inexperience. There is no room for reality in Reality TV.”
“Had I, by having sex with Nicola, somehow ‘chosen a side’? Surely, if so, Nicola was also a lesbian? Everyone was so quick to label me that many unhappy months passed before I understood that I was and am bisexual – and that most people are not. But that was only the first step on the path towards myself.”