Title: Ashton and Justice
Author: Stephani Hecht
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Length: Novella (24k words)
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
A guest review by Sirius
Summary: This story was a mediocre read for me with Insta!Love being a driving force behind the characters’ actions.
When his domineering brother drags him to a college party, Justice expects only to have yet another boring night out. So he is both shocked and intrigued when he catches the eye of a cute, mysterious stranger named Ashton. Just as the men introduce themselves, Justice’s brother intervenes and drags them apart. It’s then that Justice learns the awful truth–Ashton’s father is a notorious criminal, and Justice’s own father is the District Attorney who has made it a personal goal to take down Ashton’s family.
While Ashton may have grown up around criminals, he’s nothing like them. Hardworking and compassionate, he’s done everything he can to prove he’s a good person. When he meets Justice, Ashton is instantly drawn to the soft-spoken man. Then Ashton realizes how Justice has a horrible home life and becomes determined to protect the other man, no matter the cost.
As the two men grow closer, they face hostilities from their own families. Will Justice and Ashton be able to find happiness together, or is their love destined to end in tragedy?
This is part of the Amber Quill Press Masquerade series, and after reading several very solid novellas which were part of the series, Ashton and Justice is unfortunately the second entry in a row which was a forgettable and unsatisfactory read for me.
As the blurb tells us, Ashton and Justice’s fathers could not stand each other and explains why. When their sons meet they are pretty much instantly attracted. The story deals with how they find a way to be together despite their fathers’ being enemies.
I did not find the story to be a satisfying read. We have an Insta!Love here — after a week our heroes are ready to spend their lives together. We have a rather sad, in my opinion, attempt to invoke associations with Romeo and Juliette and to distinguish it from the classical story by giving our heroes a happy ending. Unfortunately I did not feel nearly as much emotion from the page as when I was reading Romeo and Juliette, and neither did I feel that characters were rich and multi-layered.
I also felt that some of their conversations were written for people who know each other much longer than these two did. For example, Ashton’s insight about which profession Justice should go into failed for me because they knew each other for such short period of time. Justice’s reaction to his father and brother’s actions failed for me because it just did not make sense to me; he was a college student who lived on campus already and I did not understand why he felt a need to even ever go and see them. He was not even financially dependent on them. If he was living at home, sure, I would not fault Justice for any of his reactions — it is not like he could help it. But as I said, the characters’ reactions either did not make sense to me, or whatever emotions I was supposed to be feeling — relating, sympathizing with them — just fell flat. I wanted to get to know characters’ better, I wanted them to get to know each other better before making such drastic decisions about their future.
While I did like how love made Justice a stronger person, I wished that I could believe more in their love. I also wished that Justice’ father would not have been portrayed in such an over-the-top way.
Finally, I did not like how the Masquerade theme was used in this one either; to me, the masquerade should be before the two protags know each other because if it is after, all the mystique and intrigue is gone. This is just my personal preference of course and not even close to the top on the list of reasons why this book is getting a lower rating from me.
Recommended with reservations only if you are the fan of this author.