Posts Tagged ‘UK’

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.


“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

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

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

Reviewed by Carissa


18068792TITLE: Junk
SERIES: The Bristol Collection, Book 1
AUTHOR: Josephine Myles
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: 351 pages
BLURB: Letting go is the first step to healing…or bringing it all crashing down.

When an avalanche of books cuts off access to his living room, university librarian Jasper Richardson can no longer ignore the truth. His ever-growing piles of books, magazines and newspapers can no longer be classified as a “collection”. It’s a hoard, and he needs professional help.

Professional clutter clearer and counselor Lewis Miller thinks he’s seen it all, but even he has to admit he’s shocked. Not so much by the state of Jasper’s house, but by the level of attraction he still feels for the sexy bookworm he remembers from school.

What a shame that Lewis’s ethical code forbids relationships with clients. As Jasper makes slow but steady progress, though, the magnetic pull between them is so strong even Lewis is having trouble convincing himself it’s a temporary emotional attachment arising from the therapeutic process.

Jasper longs to prove to Lewis that this is the real deal. But first he’ll have to lay bare the root of his hoarding problem…and reveal the dark secret hidden behind his walls of books.


Junk: where a sexy librarian hoarder meets a shopaholic clutter-cleaner with (over)commitment issues, and falls promptly and fully head over heels. What’s not to like?  Well except the fact that our sexy hoarder, Jasper, is one false move from being buried under his hoard of books and newspapers.  Or that clutter-cleaners with therapist leanings, like our Lewis, might just let morals get in the way of his happily ever after.   It’s nothing that can’t be conquered, but can these two, and all their issues, fit into a house that’s packed to the brim with books, papers, and a secret that not even death can bury?  Only time and love can tell.

I knew from the moment that I read the blurb of Junk that I was going to like this book.  Even discounting my love for the books of Josephine Myles, this truly sounded like a unique story being told.  Yet, hoarding?–the supposed province of crazy old bats with hygiene issues and more cats than could ever be healthy–how could that possibly lend itself to a good ol’ gay romance?  Turns out it lends itself superbly.  Not just because Jasper and Lewis make my knees go weak, or that my inner anglophile has a girlish fit every time I read a book set in the UK.  No, this book actually has the audacity to have depth of character and plot.  And I love it.

I love that these character–all of them–exist in three dimensions.  It would have been enough to find two protagonist who are more than just top and bottom, domineering or shy, but we got so much more.  Jasper and Lewis were great characters to come to know, but Yusef, Carroll, Mas, and of course the clothing free, free-speaking, parents of the Miller twins were a joy to read about.  Feeling like you could actually come across these people, if you take a quick (or not so quick, for the poor residence of sunny cali, like me) jaunt up to this English town, was a wonderful feeling.  The more I found out about these characters the more I wanted to know (if not exactly see–the only people I want to hold naked conversations with are those I’ll be tying to my bed later on).  I am also hoping Myles might be feeling benevolent and will give Mas his own happy ending–because seriously, that bouncy, sassy man has some serious depths that need to be plundered…er…discovered by the right man.

Jasper is a hoarder, but not a pushover.  He has a strong will, a working love life–well, he at least is getting some, if not from the right person, or in the right way–and the determination and courage to go after what he wants.  Be it a solution to his overwhelming hoarding problem, or after the reluctant clutter-cleaner that came to save his house and ended up claiming his heart, he is willing to take the steps to get it.  Yes he has doubts–and plenty of dithering about before he forces himself to change–but he does make those changes.  He does go after his man.  Even if said man made me want to whack him with the stick even as Jasper lulled him in with his, ah, carrot.

Lewis has pesky ethical issues, and unfortunately I can’t say that they are wrong.  Not even if they almost cock-blocked the happily-ever-after.  Lewis does have commitment issues–in that he comes to them way too fast and way too hard–so it is perfectly reasonable, and probably much healthier, to insist that they know that this is what they really want.  Both of them.  Did it bug me?  Of course.  I am a hopeless romantic that would happily live in a world of love at first sight and forever.  But I am also an unrepentant realist and hate when things come too easy to my heroes.  Make them strive for it, make them work hard for it…and then let them declare their undying love as they fall into each other’s arms.

There were so many little moments in this book that made me smile.  Zombie flirting in the cafe (a proven method of convincing your desired other that you are the perfect partner is to show just how useful you would be in a zombie apocalypse).  Decorative fountains that were so much more.  A brother and sister who reminded me quite a bit of how my sister and I act whenever we are in the same room (she’s the pretty one, I’m the smart one.  And most likely the dead one if she ever reads this!).  Yet for all its face splitting smiles and lighthearted nudist oversharing, there was real depth and insight into to the problem of hoarding.

These people don’t just have a problem throwing things away.  It is much more complex than that.  They can’t let go of what they have because they either feel that no one will love it like they do or they are sure that one day they will need it, use it, or turn it into something better and new.  But after a while the sheer weight of stuff, of time, of guilt, build up around them, and make even the thought of trying to move stuff out, impossible.  It does keep piling up, too, because it is hard to pass up that one last book, that one last set of knives.  After all, what is one more in the grand scheme of things?  Then one becomes ten, becomes fifty, and then three rooms are forever closed to you because gravity won out over haphazardly placed piles of stuff.  This was Jasper’s world, and it is no wonder that even thinking about the task before him made him cringe in horror.

And Jasper’s big secret?  Well you’ll just have to find that out on your own, ‘cause I can only deal with so much heartache.  I don’t need to go and break your heart as well–I’ll let Myles and Jasper do that for me.  But I will say, that while I got hints of it along the way, it still hurt to hear.  Maybe it was the combo of wine and late-night reading, but to see what Jasper had put on him, what he had to do, and then having to live with it every day after, it about broke my heart.  I don’t know where I come down on the issue itself, but that is one hell of a burden to carry.

But don’t worry, it is not all doom and gloom!  The love here is genuinely heartwarming, and the chemistry between these two is like a bonfire on a cold night: irresistible to watch and you can’t help but get as close as you can so to feel the heat lick up your skin.  Surprisingly it is Jasper who is the driving force behind most of the action.  He seemed so broken at the beginning of the story, and even with him saying that he’d the one topping Mas, I didn’t think he really had it in him to go after Lewis like he did.  But, boy, was I wrong.  I was wrong in the garden, on the bed, and in the warehouse–several times!  And while Jasper may eventually want to be able to switch it up, it was hot and sweet and very very much a pleasure to read with him in charge.  I do take issue with the fade-to-black before Lewis got to go all toppy on Jasper wonderful behind, though–that was just mean…if completely the right choice for the story.  But still.

I loved this story, and while there were a few areas where the transitions were a little iffy and I might have been jolted out of the scene as I tried to figure what was going on, I don’t have many complaints.  This book took me, my heart, and my head, through a wringing and wonderful journey, and I have no qualms about recommending it to anyone who wants to fall in love vicariously, likes pants-melting kisses, and who is willing to see some of the crazy secrets that hide behind the towers of literary genius.  5 stars.  Go pick it up; you will not regret it–unless it is the domino that sets off your own worded avalanche.

(This book also prompted a little clean-out on my part. So yea! to more shelf space and less shoes clogging my closet.  That means I can buy more books right?)

BUY LINKS: Samhain Publishing :: Amazon :: All Romance eBooks

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

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