Review: Under a Sky of Ash, by Brandon Witt


cover-brandonwitt-underaskyofashMore 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.


Dates read:
Edition read:
March 21, 2016
Dreamspinner Press
Contemporary, M/M, GLBT+
292 e-book pages
1st person, multiple POVs
April 1-6, 2016
Kindle Edition
See the book on GoodReads.

Rating:     ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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This may be a case of “it’s not you, it’s me” as I never fully found the level connection to the characters or the story that I try to find.

The cover of this book is one of the most gorgeous I’ve seen in a while. Just striking.

The blurb, also, was impactful and full of promise.

I wanted to love this.

But, I can truthfully say that I only liked it.

The main characters Isaiah and Ben, are both deeply damaged, both overcoming some serious and violent childhood nightmares that have managed to cripple them both from having lasting relationships of any depth.

It’s the past that links them in understanding each other in ways no one else ever can. That’s a beautiful thing, I think, to find That Person who gets us better than anyone else. And what’s more, it’s interesting when the connection is forged from the twisted and jagged life paths that parallel and sometimes intersect. There was beauty in this book because of those unexpected parallels and intersections.

However, it just fell a little short for me. It might be because I’ve grown tired and a bit cynical of the trope of romance built on the foundations of horrific childhood tragedies and survival. It might also be because the story is told in alternating first-person POV and it was more work than I wanted to invest shifting from one brain to another. And, it might also be that the prose just never reached out and grabbed me. It sometimes felt a bit disjointed and the momentum wasn’t quite there to engage me.

Also, Isaiah mentions “red flags” a few times…that maybe getting further tangled up with Ben may not be the best thing for him. It’s taken me a while during this life o’ mine to learn the lesson to always heed the red flags. So part of the time, when Isaiah was contemplating the downsides of a future with Ben I was nodding my head in agreement and thinking it was time to skedaddle. Ben’s a good guy with an awful past that truly tugged at my heart…but I had a hard time making excuses for him as an adult.

I adored the side characters and almost wished their roles had been larger because with them in the picture, the momentum always picked up. The scenes with the MCs alone with each other or flying solo…just dragged more often than not.

This book was hard work. Hard for the characters to finally put their horrible pasts behind them, hard for them to take steps to forge ahead together, and hard for me to grab onto or maintain any sort of connection.

There’s so much angst, so much heartache, so much struggle, so much self-loathing, so much clawing out of the depths of despair of addiction, trauma, guilt, and etc. that….oh my god I wanted to dive into a vat of margaritas.

These guys needed to communicate way more than they did. I kept looking for moments of quiet intimacy that would solidify their bond, strengthen their ties, build a newer and stronger foundation for them to last. Instead, it was one struggle after another and intimacy that fell short for me.

Again, I’ll fully admit it could’ve been me. It’s often the setting of the reader whether or not a book grabs. The time and place I chose to read this book may not have been the best.

There are some fab reviews circulating out there for this book, loads of people are loving it. I just wish I’d been one of them.

This review also posted on GoodReads.

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