Reviewed by Carissa

Burning Ashes by H. Lewis-Foster eBookTITLE: Burning Ashes
AUTHOR: H. Lewis-Foster
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 200 pages
BLURB: Intelligent and confident, Australian cricketer Nat Seddon is one of the world’s best bowlers. He’s openly gay, but keeps his private life to himself, everything under control. But on the last day of his team’s “Ashes” tour of England, he meets Scott Alverley, England’s promising new batsman. Nat tries not to be attracted to Scott, but he can’t help finding the privileged young man handsome and endearing. Nat is tempted by a little end of tour fun, but finds himself playing agony uncle to a virgin. Instead of going home to bask on a beach, he spends a wet week in the north of England with Scott. Try as he might to resist, he can’t help falling hopelessly in love.

The hectic sporting calendar is a persistent obstacle to their growing romance; Nat and Scott are rarely even on the same continent. They make the most of the time when they can be together, but the months apart take a toll on Scott, professionally and personally. The possible solutions are nearly unthinkable, but if they are willing to make sacrifices that will change their lives forever, they might hold on to the love they found in the Ashes.

REVIEW:

“Cricket is a strange and beautiful game.  A match can last for five hours or five days, and the rules are near incomprehensible to those who have never played the game.  This sport of gentlemen evokes heated passions around the world and none more so than when England play Australia.  One of the oldest and keenest rivalries in sport, when the two countries do battle, the contest is known as the Ashes.”

When Scott and Nat meet over the cricket pitch, both men are struck by an attraction that is both worrisome and unexpected.  Not that it would stop Nat from bowling out Scott, whose first time at bat for the English national team ends with crash of Nat’s ball colliding with his wicket.  Attraction turns to quite a bit more when, over a friendly drink and rather botched attempt at seduction, Scott invites Nat to spend a week with him at his family’s house near the Lake District.  But with several oceans–and a longtime sporting rivalry–between them, can the love they’ve come to share stand the test of time and trials, or will it all turn to burning ashes?

Before I read this book I knew three things about the game of cricket.  The first is that it’s called cricket. Second, that the little sticky things that the bowler is trying to hit is called a wicket. And thirdly, that it is the most incomprehensible game I have ever tried to watch.  My anglophile obsession has carried me into many a deep dark corner of English life, but not even a nice cup of tea or my love of England was able to make that game watchable.  But like the anglo-addict I am, I was drawn into reading this book by the lovely cover and the idea of a sporting Romeo/Juliet style love story.

What I found within the story, though, led me to believe that the cover was probably the best part of the whole book.

I just had a very hard time believing that these two, who have only known each other less than a week, fall hopelessly and madly in love–and stay in almost constant loving bliss for the entire book.  I am no stranger to the idea of insta-love, and while sometimes annoying in its unreality, it can be executed in such a way as to make the reader feel the heat, the connection between the two main characters.  Not here.  There was about as much chemistry between them as a cup of table salt in a jug of warm water.  Handy for clearing out slugs or soothing a cough, but not a lot to inspire the more intense of feelings.  It had the potential–in so many different scenes, in so many different ways–but like table salt, something was preventing the full-on flash, bang, pow of chemical combustion.  It wasn’t till almost two-thirds through the book that I even began to feel anything between the two, and by then, I just couldn’t bring myself to care.  Too much was skipped over in the first section of the book.  Not enough time trying to build them up as a couple, and the lack of on-the-page romantic interaction–and yes, sex is part of that–just killed any hope for a believable romance.

This was not helped by the near teenage-level of angst and emotion that these two exhibited.  I was thrown, quite a bit, by how the stoic Nat–who at the beginning would not wince, less he show weakness–spent a good portion of the book near tears.  I’m all for being in touch with your emotions, but I prefer that they are your emotions that you’re in touch with–not a hormonal teenager’s.  Almost every twist, problem, or disaster was met by almost uncontrollable emotional-overload.  And when they finally do start to act like adults, there doesn’t seem to be much of a catalyst for it.  So either they were capable of it the whole time, or they just woke up one day and decided that almost breaking down in tears at the slightest provocation was not helping anyone.

Strangely enough, I think quite a few of the problems could have been solved if the author had stuck to a shorter timeline for the plot.  With a story that covers almost six years it felt like you would barely get comfortable in a scene before you were jerked out and thrown three months in the future.  If we had been given a novel that stayed with the characters long enough, in one setting, I don’t think it would have felt like we were being shown a highlights reel–instead of the real story.  Also, the amount of time spent in info-dumping, be it back-story or important conversations, may have been needed to move along the plot by giving large bursts of information, but it was too much.  It felt like I was reading a briefing on the characters, and not learning about who they actually were.

About two-thirds of the way through, it did pick up.  I was starting to get a feel for the real people that these characters were playing for the majority of the story, but by then it was too late to save the book, for me.  I really did want to like this book, and there were moments–when catching a bit of banter between Nat and Scott, or some of the players–that I felt it was on the cusp of something, but it could never quite push itself over the line.

Carissa rates it – 2_5

BUY LINKS:  Dreamspinner Press

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Carissa is one of the official reviewers on The Blog of Sid Love.

To read all her reviews, click the link: CARISSA’S REVIEWS
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