Title: Under A Sky of Ash
Author: Brandon Witt
Length: 270 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (March 21, 2016)
Heat Level: Moderate
Heart Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥ 5 Hearts
Blurb: More than a decade after leaving Colorado to attend college and escape his past, Isaiah Greene moves back and builds a life in Denver as a special education teacher. When he meets Ben Woods, the mentor of one of his students, the attraction is immediate. The revelations that they’ve both suffered traumatic childhoods form a bond between them.
Raised by an abusive grandmother, Ben is a recovering addict who has made a family with his construction worker boss, Hershel, and Hershel’s husband, Daniel—drag queen ManDonna. Adding Isaiah to his life gives Ben a glimpse of a future he’d never dreamed possible for himself.
Both Isaiah and Ben are survivors, but when guilt drives a wedge between them, the past threatens to end their relationship.
Ben and Isaiah embark on journeys of self-discovery. Though their path will be difficult at times, humor and love find a way to bring light to the darkness.
Review: Just look at this fantastic cover. It’s one of the best I’ve ever seen! To me, this beautiful cover had its own story to tell. I expected an intense, emotional book that would probably make me shed a few tears! I was not disappointed! This will more than likely be in my top 3 books that I’ll be reading in 2016 and it currently holds the #1 spot.
Let me start my review by saying that I’m truly overwhelmed and impressed with Brandon Witt’s talent for writing. Not only is his work easy to read and sure to make a lasting impression, it draws the reader (in this case me, of course) in to the point where every description of surroundings, every detail and emotion was right there for me to feel. I was right there with the characters seeing what they saw, sharing the sights, smells, feelings with them until I felt like I was a part of them. This happens so rarely to me that I was completely overwhelmed in the most beautiful way.
The night 12-year-old Isaiah got his first kiss from RJ, the boy he loved, turned into a nightmare that still haunts him two decades later. RJ’s entire future was ripped away from him in the most horrific way possible and he now lives in an assisted living facility, where he waits patiently for Isaiah to come visit and spends his days coloring. Isaiah still feels guilty for running and leaving RJ behind on that horrible Halloween night, and no matter how much professional help he’s gotten, he is still haunted by it.
Isaiah is now a teacher for special needs children, and that’s how he meets Ben Woods, the “brother” of one of his students. Ben is exactly the type Isaiah is attracted to, imperfect, somewhat damaged, with wise eyes that tell a story of a hard life. Isaiah can’t stop thinking about Ben and no matter how many warning flags and signals his brain is trying to send him when it comes to Ben, Isaiah simply can’t stay away.
Ben’s childhood pretty much ended the day before his 6th birthday, when his alcoholic father murdered his mother and brother before pulling the gun on himself. Ben doesn’t remember everything that took place that night, yet his whole life path changed that night. Sent to live with an emotionally abusive grandmother, Ben numbed his pain the only way he knew how: by submerging himself into a world of drugs and alcohol, prostitution and sex. Years later, Ben is a recovering addict who has the full support of his make-shift family: Daniel aka Mandonna and his long-time partner Hershel.
I can’t tell you how much I loved Mandonna, she was fierce and funny and precious, with a huge heart full of love for the people in her life…you know, the typical drag queen. Everybody needs a Fairy Drag-mother in their lives and Ben is a lucky bastard for having one. Mandonna was the very much-needed burst of happiness and light with mad fighting skills. Just give her a pair of stilettos and she’s lethal! But I also loved Hershel, the intense and grumpy guy who’s the opposite of Daniel, but his exact perfect match. So much love for those two!
I can’t say much about Ben and Isaiah’s relationship without giving the whole plot away, but let me touch on a few things I loved the absolute most! You know how usually Brandon’s books lack the steam factor? Well rest assured, there’s plenty of steam in this one. And while the sex scenes are not overly descriptive, they’re still hot and just perfect!
I also loved how honest and real the characters were, especially Ben when it came to his feelings for Aaron and his relationship with him. It was painful and brutally honest. Definitely not pretty, but oh so real!
Usually I’m pretty good figuring out early on which way a book or plot is headed, and despite a few warning bells I had no clue I was going to get completely and totally blindsided. I really didn’t see that coming. It was shocking and surprising, but definitely not overly dramatic or embellished. Well done Brandon, very well done!!!
I apologize for the long review, but in all honesty I barely touched up on the important stuff. This book is absolutely amazing. The best I’ve read in a very long time. I can’t recommend this enough. Read it or you’ll miss out on a wonderful story.
And for those of you that need a happy ending, you’ll definitely get one. A beautiful one that made me smile and made my heart happy.
Oh, and the dedication is very special as well. Eric Arvin, if you played such an important role in Brandon’s career as an author, thank you! If it wasn’t for you we’d miss out on some great talent!