Adam is surrounded by friends, but often feels alone. His younger brother, Johnny, killed himself years ago at the age of 16 and not a day goes by that Adam isn’t haunted by what could have been. Johnny was bullied for being gay and while Adam has known for years that he’s attracted to both men and women, he never told Johnny. Adam also has never told his best friend, Gage, who was dating and in love with Johnny. Adam owns a successful tattoo shop and tries to make amends through helping anyone he can, but he feels like he’s living a half life as he can’t be honest with those closest to him. When Adam starts communicating with a scared and broken guy through an anonymous chat site, Adam feels once again that he can help someone and continue to honor Johnny.
Nox had been on the streets for years until he hooked up with a man who he thought could get him going in a better direction. Yet Nox is now addicted to heroin and working as a prostitute in between getting beaten by his so-called boyfriend. His chats with Adam give him a purpose and, over time, Nox feels that he could have something to live for with Adam’s help. But nothing is easy for Nox and it takes him longer than he would have liked to get to Adam. By the time Nox makes his way to Adam, he is scarred inside and out, but takes a chance as an apprentice at Adam’s tattoo shop. While Adam feels everything for Nox, he’s scared to come out to Gage, and Nox feels that he can’t ever be worthy of a man like Adam. Both men will have to finally trust themselves and each other to be able to accept the love that is right in front of them.
This is the first book I have read by author K.M. Neuhold and it’s always fun to try out a new voice. From Ashes is written in alternating first person point of view and that style as well as the characters overcoming troubled pasts appealed to me here. The story is character driven and focuses on Adam and Nox. Adam owns a tattoo shop and his staff are his family. He takes people in and gives them a chance whenever he can. He feels a connection with Nox from the start and tries to convince Nox to let him help.
Nox grew up with a drug-addicted mother and was on the streets at a young age. He did what he needed to do to survive and really doesn’t feel like surviving any longer. He has nothing to live for until the messages from Adam show him a glimpse of a possible better life. The book depicts substance abuse and domestic abuse and while a good portion of it us off page, it is clear what has happened to Nox.
The men fall in love easily as they are kindred spirits. That part of the relationship is easy for them and it’s believable that they can fall so easily. Nox’s issues are his past and thinking that Adam is just experimenting and that he will soon realize that Nox isn’t good enough for him. Adam’s main issue is that he never told anyone that he was also attracted to men and while he’s fine with being bisexual and wants to come out and have a relationship with a man, he’s afraid how his best friend, Gage, will take it and how it ties into Adam’s brother. This was a little less believable for me as it was presented. Adam and Nox begin a physical relationship and they are roommates with Gage. Nox sneaks into Adam’s room at night so Gage won’t find out and it really wasn’t that believable that Gage had no idea what was going on while living in the same apartment. There is then a stalker storyline and these storylines rarely work out for me. The stalker is primarily off page, but we see the actions that the stalker is taking. It’s no mystery at all who the stalker is and it didn’t add anything to the story for me as it came off as being added in for the sake of drama without a complete arc to it.
From Ashes is also the third book in the Heathens Ink series and is billed as a standalone. While the relationship between Adam and Nox does stand alone, there are a number of secondary characters that have a reasonable amount of page time. At first, I wasn’t sure which of the characters had already been given a story. It’s clear that Gage is next, but the other characters that were already coupled or even some that it was clear had been previously introduced gave me the feeling that I was missing something. So, some areas stood alone for me while others didn’t.
I was invested in seeing Adam and Nox come together, but some of the more emotional scenes lacked a certain depth I was looking for. But the group of friends as a whole was interesting and I would be interested in checking out Gage’s upcoming story now that I have a footing in this world.