From the Ashes by Daisy Harris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Daisy Harris is a new author for me and I was happy to try out her upcoming book from Samhain. Usually Samhain has good instincts and solid editing and I certainly can’t resist firefighters. I had high hopes when I opened this to read and I was happy by the time I got to the end. I enjoyed reading for the most part and although I didn’t always like the main characters, I did appreciate their complexity and ability to grow. This is a nice novel with a few roadblocks to love, but honestly very few. Instead it focuses on sweet romance and a happy ending.
Tomas is a firefighter who happens to be in the closet about his sexuality. His family kind of knows but they prefer not to talk or be reminded of it. Out of sight, out of mind. When Tomas responds to a fire at Jesse’s apartment, he feels bad for the young man and offers him a place to stay. Armed with only a handful of groceries and a crazy dog that isn’t technically his, Jesse tentatively accepts. Their simmering attraction means their pseudo friendship doesn’t stay platonic long and as a couple, they face a few hurdles. Not the least is Tomas’ family and closeted status.
The story is mostly character driven as Tomas finds his way out of the closet and into Jesse’s arms. After the dramatic fire in the first few pages, Jesse is set adrift and needs Tomas’ help. The two circle each other for a while, trying to fit together. The characters are nicely drawn and feel weighty. They’re not perfect, and often frustrated me, but they feel genuine. There are a few very minor issues brought up as stumbling blocks on the road to HEA, but these are easily and almost immediately resolved unfortunately. Here the story definitely struggled because it would bring up good and worthwhile problems, only to solve them too fast and without real weight. An example of this is Tomas’ closeted status, which comes out pretty quickly and with no real recourse.
Part of this leads to my frustration with the characters. They are nice and honest but feel lukewarm at best. Perhaps it’s because their romance feels low key. I didn’t mind that the two didn’t jump into anal sex immediately. In fact it makes for a nice twist to Tomas’ mental growth and one I felt was likely common to some men. However, Tomas’ instant proprietary feelings towards Jesse felt too fast and awkward. Similarly, Jesse’s back and forth and inconsistent demands were very frustrating. Jesse asked for things he had no real business asking (re. Tomas and his brother) and acted petulantly over minor issues. Jesse comes across as young and immature, a combination that didn’t convince me he was capable of a long term relationship. He shows some growth, not as much as Tomas but some, so perhaps there’s hope.
Writing was smooth and clean for the most part. The descriptions of the area leap off the page and really plunge you into the Seattle setting. It’s nice that the book clearly uses Seattle as another character and not a ubiquitous city background. The slower, sweeter romance definitely appealed to me as a change from the hot and overly erotic romances I’ve read lately. The characters are nice, but not ones that made a lasting impression. I’m not sure I’d read more books about them but I’d be curious to read more books by this author.
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