This is gonna be painful.
First of all, I want to say that I like Ashley John. He said some smart and insightful things at times when they were needed to be said. So, it's not an issue of personal dislike.
But, maaaan, I feel like I've read a completely different book than everybody alse. Everyone, especially people I follow, respect and somewhat worship, loved it. And in a way, I can see a lot of potential for the love here. Elias is one MC with baggage. His family is the complete opposite of what family should be, although his sister had some redeeming qualities. Caden is sweet and caring, has a great family. His issues are more on the... philosophical side? Well, let's just say, he is my picture perfect nice boy, with a relatively sheltered life, who has been loved and cherished for who he is most of his life, and it showed. That's not something negative, it was just the complete opposite of Elias. Like I said, the potential was there. Not saying that the plot ideas were bad, maybe a little over the top, but not bad. Then there was reality and the very real execution of the ideas. At which point I'm going to hide the ranty spoilers, just in case you're not in the mood for bitching.
First of all, the location. A very small town, almost a village, where everybody knows you, and you can walk from one end to the other on your own two feet without any problems. This little, small village is also home of THE super-mayor, controlling and intimidating everyone and everything, hosting a huge ball, having a massive glass-steel-home with guards and the whole nine yards. Wow. Some village that is. CONSISTENCY, anyone? I had issues with it throughout the whole book.
The mayor. I was constantly thinking of Regina in Once Upon a Time, although Regina at least had somewhat plausible reasons for acting like the control-freak bitch she was. I mean, hello? Evil Queen. But Elias' mother? What the actual fuckity fuck? She was portrayed like the super-duper villain. Almost like a cartoon and with no motivations, no real explanations, just a whole lot of crap on top of more crap, and some evil mojo. I was NOT convinced.
The sister was better. Even though I felt for Elias in the beginning, because he just wants help and his sister acts like she couldn't care less about him, she was also the one person in this book that actually felt real to me. Because, if you like it or not, when a loved one betrays and hurts you again and again and again, you will build up some walls and a whole lot of distrust and defense mechanisms. Doesn't make her acceptance or ignorance of how Elias was treated his whole life any better, but like I said, at least she felt real to me.
The Magical Dick. Beware, ladies and gentleman, of the magical dick in books. This is one of my absolute no-go's. NOT OK. Here we have Elias, fresh out of rehab - again - feeling like crap and still an addict - because you are not healed after rehab - and with a whole lot of issues. And in the beginning I was okay with how it all developed. He was not instantly okay, he was tempted, he felt weak, he tried to substitute one deathly substance with another. It might not have been the most accurate description, but I'm not reading romance books because they all portay reality so well. My real issue probably started halfway through the story. Because once Elias and Caden were fucking - pardon, making love - it all was just fine and dandy. Which, okay, isn't even that far off in the beginning. Right after rehab, falling into a new relationship, feeling all the love for one person, needing them as an anchor, is not unrealistic. But not experiencing the crash afterwards? Battling addiction with only one person as real support, and without learning to actually stand on their own two feet again?! No. Way. It's jsut not possible. Granted, love can survive something like this, make the addict feel stronger and/or more willing to fight. But it can NOT substitue for everything else. Which is exactly what happened here. And it pissed me off royally.
The Writing. It did not work for me at all. It's not really bad. It just didn't touch me. There were some constant repetitions that annoyed me, and parts of the dialogue felt too stilted and akward. Most of all, I felt like things were told to me rather then shown, and in a very simple way too. Like I couldn't understand what the author wanted to tell me without him spelling it out specifically. Which is really not what I'm looking for in a book. For example, you don't have to tell me again and again how hard and cold someone acts, looks AND talks - I get it. I even get it if you just show me the actions and leave the actual words completely out of it.
So yeah, I was so not happy with this book. I probably should have DNFed it, but I didn't want to. Firstly, because it came with high praise from people I adore. Secondly, because I could see the potential - in the story and the writing - and I was hoping for better chapters. Granted, they didn't come, but I still wanted to try.
So now here I am, grumpy and unhappy, writing a really grumpy and unhappy review. And feeling like the odd one out. But, it can't be helped, so I'm giving it 1.5 stars rounded up to 2, because potential was there, execution just rubbed me the wrong way. Hard. With a metal sponge.
Now I'm done. I promise.