“Under a Sky of Ash” by Brandon Witt

about

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

Easy. Mild. Hot. Fiery sea of flames. No, I’m not talking about hot sauce, I’m talking about angst. Pay attention to the title, it literally tells you all you need to know. Flames, smoke and  finally ash. It will lick & blister, force your eyes to water, and leave you a little scattered afterwards.

I really really liked it…but I didn’t love it with all my heart. Let me try to tell you why. There are times I want it easy and I yearn for my star slut days. Yeah, if you hadn’t heard, I used to be….easy with the stars. Other times I want to work a little for it. But this time, Brandon made me work soooo hard. A bit too hard. I’m still feeling overwhelmed and stressed. I’m knackered. This time, I need a hug.

I spent the weekend reading, which is not unusual in itself but it was fitful and…painful. I could only handle so much and had to put it down. Then an hour later I was over overcome with the ‘need to know‘ bug and tentatively picked it back up. The world can be an ugly place with ugly monsters doing ugly things to innocent bystanders. This book dives all the way into an ugly tragedy. It will hurt you. There is a lot of anger, which is expected but there was very little joy. I can do angst if I get happy. I didn’t get quite enough happy to balance the pain. If a HEA is pivotal for you, you’ll get it but you’ll bust your heart getting there. This book is hardcore: complex characters, twisted plot and brilliant writing. But it’s so damn hard.

Tragic chain reaction events take place and we sporadically flash back into the past. When the rewind button is pressed we are tossed directly into the heat of the moment and its scalding. Alternating first person narrative was valuable. The head hopping was instrumental in getting the most emotional bang for your buck. I enjoyed my time in one MC’s head more so than the other but I think it was vital having both perspectives.

Ben lost his family twenty years ago. The only family remaining is his abusive grandmother and his adopted family. He hit rock bottom a few years back after drugs, alcohol & sex nearly destroyed him. A couple of angels saved him. They protect him, push him but most of all, love him. He’s dedicated to staying clean though he’s not giving up his nymph card. He volunteers with Big Brothers and a young boy suddenly becomes very important to him. Aaron is a challenge he’s willing to fight for and fight he must. Aaron’s teacher catches his eye, but Ben doesn’t do relationships. He does hook-ups and he does them very well thank you. Perhaps it’s time to try something new? If only pursuing a relationship wasn’t so complicated.

Isaiah is an amazing teacher, specializing in children with special needs. Like Ben, Isaiah has suffered a cataclysmic event that haunts him. Against all logic, he permits and encourages Ben’s pursuit. He is looking forward to being caught but the emotional tsunami that snatched him was not what he had in mind. His roots were firmly planted in religious soil but he’s found a happy medium with his true self and a polite respect with his parent’s place in the church. His coworkers are aware of his sexuality but it’s not something he displays with his students. He is fearful of the possible repercussions of coming out with the student body. One of his students, Aaron, suffers from impulse controls and a future with him involved on a personal level could lead to unforeseen complications.

They say “love conquers all” but what if they are wrong? Maybe some things are too big to overcome. If you’re willing to jump on this harrowing coaster to find out, I’ll hold your hand.

Like

Witt highlights the impact trauma leaves on a soul. As I said, it’s heavy, hard and he does a damn good job making you feel it. Even scars decades old can still viciously burn. The vivid descriptions of the ‘hallmark’ setting added beauty, which I desperately needed.

love

The plot. Wow…I am still wrapping my head around it. Truly brilliant twists and turns. I never saw it coming, not even a hint of…it. I loved Ben’s handpicked family, especially the fun and glittery fingerprints the fierce drag queen leaves behind. The special occasion celebrated is simply marvelous. I wish I’d made the guest list. A shout out for the gorgeous cover too. I loved the intensity and power of the story but I hated the hurt and most importantly, I respected the book.

beware

Abuse and monsters who specialize in sick, vile and unforgiving behavior. There is a TON that I can’t tell you because it would be extremely spoilery but the demons are considerable. A touch of religion also plays a role but it’s not overly oppressive. Smoking hot smexy but scare on page nekkidness.

bookisforMega-angst lovers. If this is you, never fear, a generous serving of heartache is provided. Would I do it again? Without question. Was it extremely difficult? Hell yes. If you’re brave, I would highly encourage you to jump under this burning sky, just don’t forget the antacids and Kleenex and maybe some crayons for…you’ll see.

 

bookinfo

TITLE: Under a Sky of Ash
AUTHOR: Brandon Witt
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
LENGTH: 270 pages
RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2016
BUY LINKS: Dreamspinner, Amazon

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