Review: Textual Relations by Cate Ashwood

textual relationsRating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novella


On his thirty-second birthday, Henry Hathaway is out to dinner with his brother when he receives a text sent to the wrong number. Since the text sender, Ash, says the battery is almost dead, Henry worries that Ash didn’t receive Henry’s response that it was a wrong number. So Henry does the gentlemanly thing and meets Ash to explain that Ash’s texts went awry.

Henry is surprised when Ash turns out to be Asher Westcott, as he foolishly assumed it would be a woman. He graciously accepts Asher’s offer of a drink as a thank you for showing up and explaining, and when Asher suggests they get out of there, the two spend a pretty magical evening wandering a night market. But Henry is so clueless to life’s cues, he doesn’t realize Asher views it as a date until Asher kisses him goodnight.

Henry has always thought of himself as straight, so he dodges Asher. But Asher doesn’t give up easily, and he makes one last effort by showing up where Henry is. They agree to be friends, as the two men clearly have clicked, but that doesn’t last long. Henry doesn’t understand the shift in his own thinking regarding his sexuality, but he knows he wants Asher. And as they explore their new relationship, Henry realizes that it doesn’t matter what label he gives himself, as long as he can keep being with the man he’s coming to love.

When I read the blurb for this one, I was quick to pick it up. I have a thing for socially awkward heroes, and Henry fits the bill perfectly. He is lacking self-awareness in extreme measures, and he really is just clueless. But Ashwood writes it in an endearing way. And the funny thing is, Henry is aware that he’s unaware, but he doesn’t know how to change it, or even if he needs to. He clings to his routine, he loves scientific explanations, and understands human experience mostly through psychoanalysis. He’s endearing and lovely, and I was rooting for him to find his happily ever after.

Asher is outgoing and impulsive, and in a very good way. He’s sweet and caring, and he pushes Henry past his comfort zones without being overbearing and asshole-ish. I really liked that he accepted Henry at face value, and when Henry’s outlook started to shift, he went with it without pushing. He really was the perfect guy for Henry to be with as he explored his sexuality and tried to make sense of it all. It’s easy to see why Asher, of all people, was the one who had Henry reevaluating things.

So a quick mention about the sexuality aspect, because, as I mentioned, Henry thought he was straight. There’s a definite GFY/OFY thing going on here, but I think the author did a great job of painting it in a sensitive light. It’s not so much that Henry is only attracted to Asher, though that’s a part of it, but that Asher is the first one who ever made him question things. In the end, Henry doesn’t really label himself, and that’s okay. He personally doesn’t need to do such. After he works through his own issues, he’s happy accepting things as they are.

So there was a lot I really liked about this book. It’s sweet and easy, with just a bit of weight to give it some heft. But there’s also not a lot going on here, and I felt a bit like some things were missing. Asher is pretty easy going, but at times, it seems like he accepted things too easily. I would have liked to see a bit more discussion between the MCs and to see where Asher’s head was at. Not necessarily his POV, as this is first person only from Henry, but that Asher would have shared more of his thoughts. I didn’t feel like I got to know him well enough, and this was lacking for me. The connection between the MCs was palpable, but I would have liked to see it explored just a bit more, to balance out the time spent with Henry thinking and trying to understand himself. Also, Asher is apparently shifting his own perception about things—we’re told he was formerly a bit of a player, so I would have liked to see more of what it was about Henry that made him change his outlook.

So this book was a nice read, and definitely sweet, with a bit of heat. These guys come into each other’s lives at exactly the right time, and they find a connection that could last forever. I really enjoyed the characters, especially Henry, and I can recommend this to anyone looking for a light and happy read.

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