Review: A Forced Silence, by Cate Ashwood


cover-cateashwood-aforcedsilenceFor paramedic Adam Carson, his world is lights and sirens and saving lives. Pressures at work keep him firmly in the closet, and life is too busy to contend with the complications that come with dating and relationships. When a familiar face from his past turns up where he least expects it, Adam starts to question whether or not there is room in his life for those complications.

The last person forensic pathologist Sam McKenna expects to see at pub night is Adam, the guy who made his life hell in high school. The attraction is instant, but Adam isn’t gay and Sam has no interest in pursuing him. Still, the leftover animosity from their teenage years isn’t enough to extinguish the lust growing between them. After both are called to the scene of a horrific murder, Adam admits he’s not as straight as he led Sam to believe and they seek comfort and distraction in each other’s arms. One night becomes many as the murder investigation intensifies, but when Adam is faced with losing Sam, he is forced to make a choice: to break his silence, or to give up everything for the job he loves.


Dates read:
Edition read:
December 11, 2015
Dreamspinner Press
Contemporary, M/M, GLBT+
219 e-book pages
3rd person
Zero Hour, book 1
February 21-24, 2016
Kindle Edition
See the book on GoodReads.

Rating:     ⭐️.5

Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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This book took serious perseverance on my part. I’ve taken a few days since reading this in an attempt to soothe the snark that was revving me up while reading and upon finishing. Alas, thinking about it all now is getting me worked up again.

I mostly skimmed that last 25% and nearly sprained my suspensory ligaments with all the eye rolling. I probably should have DNF’d early on, to be honest. But I didn’t.


TONS of spoilers.

Seriously. When I read a book that doesn’t do it for me, I tend to spoiler the hell out of it, and I can’t hide them on the blog like I want.

No worries if you don’t want to read any further! 

So, in the books I read, some of what I want is organic growth and seamless scene changes that feel natural betwixt the characters and the progression of their story with some neat surprises along the way.

Instead, it felt like there wasn’t a lot of focus with lots of unnatural/stilted dialogue and was all over the place with abrupt scene changes, leaps in time, and unnecessary situations that came across as forced and contrived stepping stones taking us, presumably, down the path to an HEA. Top all that off with a non-mysterious mystery that serves no higher purpose and doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the MCs and…I am not a happy reader.

These characters knew each other from Days of Yore and Awkward Adolescence. Sam hated Adam for the way Adam treated him back in the day. Adam was a dickhead who didn’t have the interpersonal skills not to come across as a dickhead. Their paths cross in adulthood, but they’re both so immaturely hung up on the past that it takes a bit to start moving forward into forgiveness and a relationship.

Pile on that Adam is deeply closeted from family, friends, and co-workers for a host of reasons. Some are absolutely valid out of fear for safety on the job, but I didn’t get any sense of motive in respect to his family and friends. Family he’s close to, that adore him. That’s just…sad.

Sam is comfortable in his skin, has good friends, a good career–he’s just been unlucky in love. He’s instantly attracted to the straight-dude (or so he thought) who treated him like shit in high school. Right.

Obviously, they make a go of it, and Sam’s all kinds of A-okay stepping back into the closet to preserve Adam’s street cred–and in order to have The Best Sex Ever. Mmmm-kay.

I’ve gotta say, though, that for two guys who have a nasty past to work through and a complicated present…they don’t do much (necessary) conversing. Because magic cock is magic. Obvs.

Maybe I take closeted-hero stories a bit too seriously. But, I really feel this needs to be handled with care–so I was already a little on edge when I started this. I get a little chip on my shoulder where judgment perches in wait for carelessness, and I rarely have confidence that the author will do it justice. I do not like it at all when I feel it’s used with the sole purpose of sensationalizing a plot.

I get everyone’s coming out story may not be sunshine and roses. I get that sometimes it’s a disastrous public spectacle. I get that sometimes coming out isn’t a planned-out decision or, more importantly, safe. It breaks my heart in real life but usually just pisses me off in fiction.

Along that same vein, the closeted hero playing it straight…okay. I understand this. I really do. Just…great care needs to be taken here, too. I thought it was so overdone and nearly repetitive with him targeting very specific vapid supermodel types as his beard-unaware, running fingers up their spine, the flirty-dirty dancing while eye-fucking his secret man-crush over the woman’s shoulder, leading the woman on with a sultry “wanna get outta here?” then brushing her off when no one was looking. Gross. Greasy lounge-lizard gross.

He would much rather be back at the table, but a guy had to do what a guy had to do to maintain his image.”

Blarghety + full body shiver of misogynistic ick.

Other scenes and where I had rant-inducing eye-roll headaches:

We get a funeral of a tertiary character who was dead and nameless when we met him. A John Doe victim of a heinous crime. The poor kid’s parents, when the cops find them, don’t care and don’t want anything to do with the death of their child. So, Sam takes it upon himself to do a really good deed and coordinates a funeral for this unloved soul who died a horrific death. Okay. Really! That was awesome. But…we don’t know this kid at all. Yet, we as readers get to suffer through treated to the narration of a full-on grave-side service packed with cops, medics, doctors, etc. and the cherry on top is a four-stanza poem. I’m sure it was lovely…but I skimmed the service and skipped the poem. Because–I couldn’t find it in me to care, even a little bit. Yes, it was sad….but not a necessary part of the plot that was just begging for a heavier hand in editing.

Following the service, there’s baaaad behavior foisted upon us by Adam’s fists. He lets his temper get the best of him and whales on a piece of shit (also tertiary character) who dared to (oddly) show up at this funeral. While Adam’s in a suit. At a cemetery. Amidst his co-workers. And other respectable onlookers. This is a set-up for things that happen later on, but still. This sort of behavior is immature, unappealing, and over-the-top.

Let’s chat about the sex. I like down-n-dirty rough sex in books as much as the next perv. ‘Cept one thing in this book had me concerned, and another had me squicked.

Concern: Nearly every time Adam and Sam came together for a kiss or sex it reads as violent. Adam SLAMS his mouth against Sam’s in brutal, forceful, bruising, claiming, possessive kisses; Adam SLAMS/YANKS/SHOVES Sam against walls and doors and SLAMS his hand over Sam’s mouth to quiet his sex noises. Ouch with all this. And poor Sam.

Squick: There’s a scene involving maple syrup. And sure! Food stuffs can be fun with sex. But this was so much eww-face for me.

“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Getting you sticky.”
“The sticky part is supposed to come at the end.”
[—–sex stuff, sex stuff, sex stuff—–]
“Now we’re both sticky.”


There was a hospital gala. This was a device for a close-call of getting busted being gay and a device to ramp up jealousy. With a sigh, I sallied forth. But, then I started taking issue with the logistics. One being the likelihood of a group of paramedics buying a table for this sort of event. When tickets for an entire table generally run about FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS OR MORE. Sure, faculty attends, as do patients and their families on occasion, but mostly…these soirées are for reaching into the pockets of a city’s wealthiest sponsors and business leaders. Medics are typically woefully underpaid and overworked, so… really + tux rental? And with them being understaffed on a regular day, who was minding the shop?

Also, the descriptions of this event were both overdone and underdone–how does that happen? The ballroom was described in great detail and as having HUNDREDS of tables. Okey-doke. Further down, we get the information that the tables are eight-tops. So…we’re talking roughly 1600 to 2400 (or more) attending this shindig. No problem. That’s…plausible for a big-ass ballroom the size of an airplane hangar. BUT THERE’S ONLY ONE BAR mentioned. That is not a party I’d want to attend unless I had a flask tucked in my décolletage and spare in my garter. I’ll be at Taco Loco in jeans and a tee sucking back margaritas instead, thanks. Feel free to join me. I’ll even share my nachos.

Too many THINGS didn’t work for me. I had more in my notes with colorful highlights, but I’m approaching 1500 words for this horrible review. That’s a bit much, I think, and I just remembered it’s the cocktail hour so I gotta jet.

Oh! One more thing. There’s a weird cliffhanger at the end of the epilogue. It sounds like Adam and Sam got their HEA, but apparently there’s A Big Something on the horizon. Cue dramatic fanfare: duh duh DUH.


3 thoughts on “Review: A Forced Silence, by Cate Ashwood

    • I’m definitely interested in your thoughts. There are lots of good reviews for it on GR from people whose opinions I respect. I also think I might have started this on the offensive because of the deeply closeted hero thing that usually annoys me.

Tell me what you think!