Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link: Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK
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!
I don’t think I have ever read about an asexual character either, at least not that I can think of, and reading the first half of your review I was thinking: Yes, this sounds like a book I would like, especially the quote you used to summarize the story. Then I began the other half of the review and I got second thoughts: Hmm, maybe not for me after all. And I still can’t make up my mind. It sound interesting though … so maybe I should give it a try!?
I definitely think Ace is worth the read, Sara, I have never read a book like this and don’t regret the journey in the least.
This looks really interesting. I’m definitely putting it in my TBR pile. Thanks!
I finished the book yesterday afternoon, and while I’ll get into it much more in the Friday wrap-up, I did end up wondering if Jake and Damien were a good bet for the long haul. Part of that came from the story’s implication near the end that both had dealt with some sort of unwanted sexual contact in the past, leaving me to wonder if Damien acts out sexually as a way of dealing with it. Byrne has actually said that the character is a homoromantic demisexual, which adds a whole different shading to things…
Jake, that is, not Damien. Sorry to be unclear there…
What I found was that there was so much to consider in Ace and boy, did Google get a workout as I tried to understand Jake, whom I liked enormously as a character. I also agree with your question about whether Damien was the right man for the long haul.
Another new-to-me writer, and another really intriguing book. I hadn’t read anything about asexuality, didn’t even know it existed, till Blue Steel Chain by Alex Beecroft (one of my favourite M/M writers). Now I’m really intrigued by the topic, and delighted to find new books about it (and also to label some intriguing characters of books I’ve read as more definitely asexual). Thank you for the review. Ace goes straight to my Wishlist (to be purchased asap)
I can’t recall ever having read a romance with an asexual character, so it was intriguing to read this review.
I would have thought a ranch manager would live on the ranch, but that’s clearly not the case for Jake. While this does sound interesting, I don’t think it’s my cup of tea!
An asexual MC is something I haven’t read yet either. I’ll add this one as a solid maybe. Not that I’m opposed to reading about an asexual character, I rather find that intriguing. But because I just don’t know that I’d like this particular book. Thanks for the review.
I am glad I read it, I feel that Byrne addressed the dynamic between Jake and Damien in a realistic way (totally my opinion) and Jake was just such a great character.
I have never read this author or about an asexual character before either. While I’ve refused to read other books on this subject before, your review as made me want to read this one. Thanks for the review.
Okay…this one sounds very interesting. Not only a new author, but as with the previous commenters, the asexual nature of the main character would also be a new trope. So, “Ace” has found a spot on my wish list. Great review.
I’ve only read one other story about an asexual person (in a Love is an Open Road story), so this sounds intriguing. Thanks for the review.
Thank you for the thoughtful review! I have read several stories with asexual supporting characters, but not an MC. While it sounds like this book may have been a bit difficult to read in spots, I am wondering if that struggle and distance is something experienced in reality. I have Blue Steel Chain on my reading docket. It would be interesting to know how it compares to Ace.
And now I have Blue Steel Chain on my list of books to investigate – thanks for the comment and inadvertent recommendation!
I’d actually never heard of asexual until recently and I did a bit of research to try to understand it more. Not really sure how 2 people that want such different things can stay together. I might want try something a little shorter, maybe a novella, to get started. Thanks for the review.
Ace was a fast read, and I too did the Google-fu quite a bit to learn more about what made Jack tick on a sexual / intimate level. Based on my research, Byrne did a good job with his portrayal.
Thanks for your thoughtful review. This sounds like an interesting book.
I’d seen this one before because the title grabbed my attention. I knew what ‘ace’ meant and enjoy seeing the new storylines authors are producing with asexual MCs in romance. I feel like what I’ve read about it elsewhere and seeing this review make this one not for me. If it shows up in my digital library, I’ll give it a try. I wouldn’t mind being surprised.
I’ve never read an asexual MC or this author. I’ll be giving Ace a read thanks to your review. 🙂
I’m a bit torn about this one. I do enjoy reading about the “other” sexualities, and the premise sounds intriguing, but BDSM is something I tend to avoid. Something I’ll consider for reading at some point, I’m sure.
The BDSM aspect was minimal and pretty light compared to other books I have read, and really only encompassed being restrained.
I have the book but have yet to read it. I still haven’t read anything by Jack and well I have a love/hate relationship with BDSM so I’m not sure I’m quite ready to tackle this story yet. Thank you for the review!
Interesting review – definitely sounds like a few ups and downs, but maybe a different enough story to make it worth checking out. I don’t think I’ve read a published romance with an asexual character before.
I have never read a story with an asexual main character so this sounds intriguing. Thank you for the informative review.
I’m pretty sure I never read a book with an asexual chracter but my memory can be wrong too. I haven’t read this book yet and I already feel for Jake and want to kick Damien… hard. Thanks for the review but I’m not sure about this book, I think it’d give me more headaches than joy.