Following yet another stint in rehab, Elias James has no plan beyond getting high. Nothing else matters and never has. At least that’s what he is quick to tell everyone. But when he looks into the weary eyes of his twin sister and thinks about his nephew, Elias realizes he’s been lying to everyone, including himself. When a plea-bargain chains him to the small coast town of Havenmoore, Elias has no idea that it just might end up saving his life.
Caden Walker never thought as an adult he would end up living with his parents again. After his fiancé cheats on him, Caden abandons his life in New York and returns to his childhood home. When he goes to work for his mother’s charity, he finds himself providing after rehab care to Elias. The two are naturally drawn to one another, yet Caden refuses to take the next step due the conflicts of his professional position. But when their passion grows too strong to resist, Caden and Elias must decide if what they have is real and if they are strong enough to stand against all those who would see them fail.
Shelter is another fantastic novel by Ashley John and one that hit a little close to home. I have a childhood friend who has had more than one stint in rehab. I can’t imagine what he endures and while I know about them, I can’t fix the demons that plague him. As a result, I found myself sympathizing a great deal with Elias’ twin sister, Ellie. She comes off initially as cold and distant to Elias, but it becomes evident that while she truly cares for Elias, she can no longer trust him. Her exhaustion and pain really rang true because I know exactly how hard is to love someone absolutely and always be waiting for them to hurt you, even when they don’t mean to. The dichotomy of those two emotions can be utterly draining and I felt that Ellie was truly representative of this.
Elias and Caden are equally engaging and as a reader it was easy to cheer for their happily ever after. Elias is in a dark place upon introduction, but his intrinsic goodness and desire to be loved shine through. With Caden’s support he finds the courage to face his problems and begin to truly live for the first time since becoming an addict nearly a decade before. Elias is an incredibly strong character and even when he wavers, I was always willing to champion his continued growth. Caden is a little harder to connect with but only slightly. He naturally believes the best of people and comes off as slightly naive as a result. But his love for Elias reads as powerful and real and the two sync with an easy, comfortable sense of “rightness.” Their relationship is one of love conquering all.
The only less than stellar aspect of Shelter surrounds Elias’ mother Judy. Her character is made out to be so evil that she often seems unbelievable. As a result she comes off as a caricature rather than fully formed and that only feeds into the lack of realism surrounding her relationship with Elias. Even more unrealistic is that Elias would ever allow her into his life after the things she’s done to him. It feels out of place for him and their whole connection strains the confines of credibility. This said it only very occasionally detracts from the story and never for very long. The real focus of Shelter is on Caden and Elias and the author does a good job of avoiding too many potential plot entanglements by remaining true to the couple.
Shelter is an excellent book about two broken men healing one another. Their path isn’t always an easy one but their natural chemistry works on a lot of levels. Their hardships may be recognizable to some of you as they were to me and the author’s ability to create such a strong connection with readers will make this a big hit with anyone who loves reading about the rocky road to true love. And that friend I mentioned? He met the man of his dreams shortly after leaving rehab and they’re getting married in a few months. Just like Elias and Caden, I think they found happily ever after.