I chose to read Ace during the New-to-Me Author Challenge because there is seriously nothing better than discovering a new author and refreshing (adding tons more books) my TBR pile.
Life as a ranch manager is lonely for Jake. Early mornings and long days leave no time for anything extra. While driving home one afternoon, Jake notices a dog trapped between the lanes of traffic, trying to escape, and narrowly avoiding being hit by a car. Jake saves the dog and three days later, with the help of the local shelter, the dog is reunited with her owners. As a thank you, the owners invite Jake out for supper where Jake first spies a piano and a leather-clad Damien.
In the short time they have known each other, Damien has catalogued virtually all of Jake’s kinks, but promises to take it slow, not wanting to make Jake, a self-professed asexual man, uncomfortable. Soon after his declaration of taking it slow, Damian’s actions and expectations run contrary to what he vowed and he leaves Jake’s ranch angry. Jake, used to disappointing the men in his life, is left alone yet again, humiliated and resigned to a life alone.
Six months. Can Damien and Jake make it six months? That is the question, and in order to find the answer, they must get to know each other. Weekly visits by Damien become become a need as the weeks pass. However for Jake, the want or need for sex remains nonexistent, much to Damien’s ongoing frustration. Is it love? Damien says yes, and Jake is pretty sure it is. Are they growing closer or drifting apart? The jury is still out on that one.
The entire story can be summed up by this quote: “They stared at each other across a gulf of misunderstanding and frustration.”
What an unexpected find. Unexpected because I am notorious for not reading the publisher supplied blurb when I select books for review (I kind of like the element of surprise), and so when I discovered an asexual main character and the man who falls for him, I was in virgin territory (no pun intended, and no, neither of the guys was a virgin).
Ace features two interesting main characters and some solid secondary characters. Jake, a loner, happy with his solitary life, is an asexual man whereas Damien, Jake’s friend Diane’s “daddy”, takes a shine to Jake, falling for him quickly. Although there was some attempt to explain what drives Damien, I never really felt like I truly understood him or the connection between Jake and Damien. Their interactions were all over the place and there was little chemistry. I also wondered how Jake and Diane could be so close, and yet Jake had never met or heard of Damien as something other than “daddy” before. The animosity between Carl and Jake was sudden and unexpected based on their previous interactions, but that piece of the puzzle was added later, but not fully, meaning I was left speculating about a secondary character. I also noticed that at times there were rambling sentences and gaps, most notably when we found out about Diane’s departure.
There was an interesting bondage scene that speaks volumes about Jake and Damien’s relationship, primarily because the set-up was initiated by Damien, but the scene was initiated by Jake. Although Damien had been pushing for sex and emotion that Jake openly admitted he could not provide to the relationship, this was the turning point, it seems. Here is where Jake could give Damien some of what he wants and finally not under duress or steeped in guilt. Wow, doesn’t that speak volumes? From an outside point of view, I was able to relate to Jake more easily than Damien, not because I can relate to Jake’s asexuality, but rather because we have all felt the pressure to “perform,” experienced “no means are you sure and I will make you feel bad for not capitulating.” This sure put Damien in a poor light, and it took quite a while for us to understand what was beneath the surface.
Some of the best parts were Byrne’s descriptions of Jake’s piano playing, which were smooth and almost melodic, like the music it was describing, but overall, this was one long struggle for understanding.
Overall, this was an interesting read, the first by Byrne for me and also the first story to feature an asexual MC. That being said, I think that Ace is worth a read, even if some elements were not to my liking.
One parting thought…where did the title come from? I had to wait until the very last sentence before I could say “Ah, I get it now…Ace”.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.
This review is part of our September Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win this week’s fabulous prize sponsored by Samhain Publishing, as well as our amazing grand prize sponsored by Riptide Publishing. You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on New-to-Me Author week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!