Ask Me To Stay by Elise K Ackers
A Homeland Book
Destiny Romance 2013
Ethan Foster left town and his older brother Dean when he was eighteen – two years after the death of his parents – and has only been back for a handful of short, unsatisfying visits. The last time he was here it was for the opening of his sister-in-law Bree’s shop; now he’s back for her funeral. At thirty-two, a tragic accident has robbed her of her life and left her two children, Rowan and Nina, alone with their father, Dean. No one expects Ethan to stay or to even be there the next day, and watching him drink and leave the wake with a beautiful woman looking for a way to drown her feelings in a lusty encounter seems to match up with people’s expectations.
But Ethan does stay – for now, at least. The children open up to him and he helps them overcome their fears and return to a kind of normalcy. His old girlfriend, Sam O’Hara, seems to have moved on but is secretly, privately destroyed each time Ethan leaves, and is trying to smother the slumbering embers of her desire for him, for good. His old friend Caleb, Sam’s brother, has a new girlfriend, Anna, whom he loves and plans to propose to, but he seems blind to the fact that Anna can barely tolerate it here in this small rural town. There’s a whole life here that Ethan ducked out on but which he slides back into – not without difficulty or animosity, but with some ease – and which he doesn’t actually want to leave. But with his relationship with his brother, whom he was once so close to, under continued strain, and everyone holding such a low opinion of him, Ethan has never felt like anyone wanted him to stay.
This time, he’s finding it harder, both to stay and to leave. But the one thing that poisons the water between Ethan and Dean – the truth of their deaths, a truth Ethan has held to in silence for years – stands between them, and Ethan seems determined to never share it. But in facing up to the past and laying himself bare to Dean, Ethan will have to face up to himself as well, and his fears that he is just like his father.
Ask Me To Stay is a sweet, shortish romance story with no graphic scenes whatsoever – something I point out in case you’re a reader looking for romance with no sex. I loved Ackers’ The Man Plan, set in Melbourne, and have a few more books by her to read; I picked this one off my Kindle at random, and it’s a very different story. Where The Man Plan is funny, light-hearted and fully of an endearing kind of whimsy, Ask Me To Stay is a much more serious story, beginning with a funeral and dealing with the falling-out of siblings, suicide and possibly self-destructive behaviours. It has a rural setting but I didn’t get much of a sense of place, sadly; I would have loved a bit more detail on the location, to really get a feel for it (I don’t remember the name of the town, sorry, and it’s very hard to “flip” through an e-book!).
The characters resonated in a realistic, genuine way, but the story does lean more heavily on the drama side – if you enjoy those kinds of TV series you would I’m sure enjoy this more than I did. I liked it, Ackers writes really well and this had some really lovely scenes and characters who felt real to me, but it was all a bit too melancholy for me. The theme of untimely death runs all the way through it, which is a tough one for Romance – just as well there wasn’t any sex in it, then! The drama was handled well – not ladled on too thickly, the characters not quite self-indulgent (though you could argue that Ethan is) – but I still struggle with this kind of story-line. The big bad secret that Ethan is keeping mum about, which ruined his youth more effectively than the death of his parents’ could have, was something I never quite understood. I mean, I understand what happened, but not why Ethan wouldn’t tell his brother about it. He was only sixteen, they were close, and had just been orphaned. Maybe I’m just thinking of what I would have done in the same situation, and obviously I’m not Ethan. But to let something like that ruin your relationship with your brother, drive you from your home, make everyone think you’re a shit and just sit there and take it? That’s tragic. I couldn’t quite understand it, and it is what the whole story hinges on.
I liked Sam, though, and her brother Cal – he was probably my favourite character, in fact. In such a short novel, you don’t really get to know the characters beyond the here-and-now all that much, and that was a shame. I wanted to understand them and feel more familiar with them than I did; knowing that I can revisit the characters in the next books in the series wasn’t much help for getting into this story. In short, I liked Ask Me To Stay as a well-written, rather sweet but sad Romance story, and it certainly connected with me emotionally (it’s a bit of a tear-jerker), but there was a lack of chemistry between Ethan and Sam that surprised and disappointed me and ultimately made this less than fully satisfying.
The Homeland series continues with Cal’s story in Ask Me For More.
“Ask Me To Stay is a short, quick read but a very engaging novella with appealing characters and surprising emotional depth.” Book’d Out
“Ask Me to Stay is a family drama with a heavy focus on relationships and reparation of past mistakes. Clearly Ackers is very versatile within the sub-genres of romance and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next!” The Australian Bookshelf
“This is a short novel at just over a hundred pages, with enough drama to keep the story moving. The family dynamics were tense and complex and realistic. The romance is truly a small element of the book, but it’s a good story that I read all in one go.” Kat’s Book Buzz
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