Rising from Ash by Jax Meyer is a tender romance about two women who seem to be complete opposites. Their relationship isn’t really a slow burn, rather it’s a journey about finding true intimacy and building a relationship based on mutual respect. It’s a case of the journey being more important than the destination.
Phoenix Murray is done slinging hash at her local Hooters. The only thing worse than her incompetent boss is her drug addicted father coming in and out of her life when he needs money. She’s over a life of struggling just to get by. All the one-night stands in the world can’t fill the void in a life with no direction. When her aunt presents her with the opportunity to go to the South Pole as a cook, she jumps at the offer. The only caveat is Phoenix has to avoid casual sex so the tiny community she will be restricted to is left drama free.
PhD candidate Ashley Bennett is excited for her year at the South Pole. As an astrophysicist, her research is part of her grand plan to become a Mars colonist. Concentrating on her work will make it easy to circumvent the complications of dating in a society that knows little about asexuality. She’s a true romantic at heart but she doubts she will ever find a woman who will accept and respect her sexual orientation.
When Phoenix and Ash first meet, they bring out the worst in each other. Phoenix’s flirtatious nature sets Ash on edge causing her to revert to a safe, cold façade and this triggers Phoenix’s insecurities focusing on her upbringing and lack of education. Both women realize that they need to make nice if they are going to spend a year together in such a confined location. They strike up an unlikely friendship. As they get to know each other they realize that their differences aren’t as big as they thought they were. They bring out the best in each other and slowly develop an intimacy neither woman has experienced before. Will this unexpected turn in their friendship lead to something more? Can Phoenix and Ash put aside their insecurities and open up to each other so they can take a chance on love?
This is the first book in the Forged by Fire series.
At first, I wasn’t too sure if I was going to like either Phoenix or Ash. It was clear that both women were presenting themselves with carefully constructed fronts so other people could not see their unsure and delicate true natures.
Phoenix is a true player in all her butch glory. She gives off a devil-may-care attitude, and she never lets women get too close. Her reasoning is that she doesn’t need any emotional entanglements. She is an island unto herself, but this is all an act to keep from getting hurt. The same is true for Ash. She presents herself as a cool, indifferent scientist who isn’t looking for a romantic relationship that might distract her from her work. Like Phoenix, her demeanor is a shield to protect her from possible heartache. Thankfully, Ash has a nonbinary best friend, Cole, who she can be herself with.
So, while Phoenix and Ash seem to be polar opposite, they are very similar in their need for self-preservation. Phoenix’s upbringing left her feeling that she isn’t worth anyone’s time or trouble. Ash’s past relationships left her with similar feelings.
The character development in Rising from Ash is subtle, yet powerful. Watching Phoenix and Ash slowly reveal their authentic selves never felt contrived. Watching them risk their hearts and attempt to develop a loving relationship felt completely relatable. Trust does not come naturally to either woman so watching them overcome their fears highlighted how courageous each of them is.
The Writing Style
Meyer does a nice job creating the confined world of the South Pole research station. Rather than give tedious descriptions, she presents the lay of the land through the natural progression of the plot. She doesn’t tell the reader there is a library, she shows the characters working together in the library. The same is true of the station’s gym, sleeping quarters, and dining hall. We aren’t just told they’re there. The gym’s the place Phoenix takes refuge when her anxiety is getting the better of her and a heavy bag is the best way to rid herself of her anger and fears. I’ll tell you, any dreams I may have had about visiting the southernmost point of the world evaporated upon learning that I would be limited to two, two-minute showers a week.
Since the story is mostly restricted to the polar station, it’s very dialogue heavy. This is a good thing. Any successful relationship Ash is going to be part of is going to be based on open and honest communication. This allowed me time to learn about demisexualtiy without it feeling like I was reading a manual on sexual orientations. It also brings depth to the main characters. The intimacy that develops between Ash and Phoenix is beyond heartwarming, and it will melt the heart of the most cynical reader.
Representation matters. It’s important to see characters of various sexual orientations in novels. It leads to inclusivity and acceptance. I thought the way Meyer developed Ash was refreshing and informative. It’s not that Ash is there to represent everyone on the asexual spectrum. She happens to be one woman who is demisexual, and we come to understand one woman’s experiences. Ash isn’t painted with broad strokes. Ash is a unique individual with unique experiences. A reader doesn’t have to be ace to empathize with Ash, and that’s due to Meyer’s fine storytelling.
Ash and Phoenix are at the South Pole because of their talents in their fields. I would have liked to see a little more of Ash science-ing and Phoenix foody-ing under the restrictions of their unusual living conditions.
Rising from Ash is a thoughtful romance I took my time reading. Focusing on a character who is on the ace spectrum allowed me to pause and contemplate a sexual orientation I wasn’t very familiar with. I had a real desire to understand Ash’s experiences and learn how she and Phoenix navigated their relationship with respect and honesty. It’s the first in the Forged by Fire series and I’m looking forward to finding out more about Ash and Phoenix’s journey. Now they are on my radar, and I don’t want to miss out on the next instalment of their story.
Excerpt from Rising from Ash by Jax Meyer
Ash’s lips were drawn tight. “No,” she answered quietly. “Your past doesn’t bother me, not really. But…” Ash wrung her hands as she furrowed her brows. She’d ignored her insecurities too long and she knew Phoenix deserved to know. Phoenix’s hands closed around Ash’s, stilling them. Ash focused on Phoenix’s hands as she spoke.
“I still worry I’m not going to be enough for you. That in a few weeks, or a few months, you’re going to want more than I am able to give. I don’t know how much that is, but I can’t imagine it will be as much as you want. What if that’s too hard?”
Phoenix brushed her fingers over Ash’s forearm and she looked up shyly. “Hey, easy. You’re getting ahead of yourself.”
Ash didn’t meet her gaze. Phoenix moved closer to her so their knees almost touched. “Ash, I recently realized I wasn’t having sex purely for pleasure, but to escape my life which has been a complete mess for as long as I can remember.
“When I discovered sex it made all the crap in my life disappear. Sex became my go-to coping mechanism. It was better than drinking and made me feel loved, at least for a moment or two.”
Ash needed someone to believe in her outlandish dream, even if the thought of fulfilling it meant she would no longer be in Phoenix’s life.
Ash intertwined their fingers in response. She suspected that admission wasn’t easy.
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Forged By Fire
Rising from Ash
Bits and Bobs
- ASIN number: B07VS97Z5R
- Publisher: Indie author
- Jax Meyer Online
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