Author: Brandon Witt
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4.5 stars
Received from Publisher
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: Isaiah feels like he’s been running for most of his life; ever since, at twelve years of age, he was witness, and victim, to a horrific bashing that left RJ, the boy he might have loved, permanently changed. After spending fourteen years away, the thirty-two year old Special Ed teacher had made the decision to move back from Seattle, enabling him to be closer to the care facility where RJ resides. During the course of a meeting with the foster cared of Aaron, one of his students. Isaiah meets Aaron’s assigned Big Brother, Ben. The two men may have come together initially because of Aaron, but it quickly becomes evident there is much more between them than just care for their charge. Just when they think they are building a future together, events from the past collide and threaten to be too large for their relationship to overcome.
Ben is no stranger to adversity. He lost his family to tragedy as a young child and was sent to live with his bitter and uncaring grandmother. To escape his reality, Ben had turned to drugs. At twenty-six, Ben has been clean and sober for the last five years. He has found a family with Hershel, his boss at the construction company he works for, and Hershel’s fiancé Daniel, aka drag queen extraordinaire ManDonna. They give him the acceptance, love, support and belief in him that Ben never got from his grandmother.
The prologue of RJ’s story broke my heart, but while both MCs had traumatic backgrounds and there’s a major obstacle to their relationship that occurs, the story has some nice humour and a beautiful connection between the MCs that gave some lightheartedness to what could have otherwise been a very heavy story. I adored both MCs. I may have wanted to smack Ben a little every now and then in some stages, but I wanted to hug him and make things better for them at the same time. I loved the friendships between Isaiah and Charity and between Ben and ManDonna. Charity was fun and smart, and a great friend/roommate to Isaiah. ManDonna was a fabulous, larger than life character, and the love and support she gave Ben was just heartwarming – a great portrayal of how sometimes the family we choose is more truly family than the family we are born into. I would have maybe liked a little more of these wonderful secondary characters. Sometimes it seemed like the two MCs were in a bit of an isolated world.
Love, hope, heartbreak and humour combined to make a great story, and I thoroughly enjoyed Under A Sky Of Ash. The surprise revelations were well done and the characters wonderfully complicated. And what a lovely ending. It was worth the occasional heartbreak!