Ask Me To Stay
Elise K. Ackers
Penguin Books Aus
Copy courtesy of the publisher
**Featuring the stories Ask Me To Stay, Ask Me For More and Ask Me For Tomorrow**
In Ask Me To Stay, family tragedy has brought Ethan Foster back home to the small town of Hinterdown where he grew up. In the past decade, since he walked out, he’s only been back a handful of times and never for long. However with his brother and his niece and nephew needing him more than never, Ethan finds himself wondering if there’s a place for him back in Hinterdown after all. Especially when Sam O’Hara, his teenage sweetheart still around and looking as fine as ever.
In Ask Me For More, Cal O’Hara is suffering from a broken heart. His former girlfriend walked out on him just when he was ready to pop the question and now Cal thinks that he’s not enough for anyone. After all, who’d want the bloke who just pulls beers for a living in a tiny town? When Oliva Law aka “Lawless”, his sister Sam’s best friend blows into town, Cal is reminded of a long ago crush he had one her. But Liv has been places – she’s lived in Sydney and currently lives in Perth. Does Cal have enough to offer her or will he face heartbreak yet again?
In Ask Me For Tomorrow, Dean Foster has been a widow for three years but he’s learning that life can go on, even after a horrible tragedy. He has his son Rowan and his daughter Nina and they give him a reason to get up each morning and to do the best that he can. He has his brother Ethan and his friends, who rally around him whenever he needs it. But Dean is starting to realise that he needs a little more – companionship, a woman to love. And his new prickly office manager is in need of someone to love her.
This print copy comprises three previously published eBooks of Elise Ackers’s trilogy of novellas set in Huntingdown, aka the Homeland Trilogy. I hadn’t read any of them before and I think that reading them bundled like this was the best way for me. It was like one long story that was split into three separate parts but wove together almost effortlessly. It transported me right into the small town and made me feel like I was a part of the community.
It’s hard to really establish complex family relationships in such a short time-frame but Ackers manages this remarkably well, especially in the first story where she must lay all the groundwork between the two brothers Dean and Ethan Foster who have only seen each other a handful of times in the past ten years. Dean doesn’t understand why Ethan left and why he keeps himself at a distance and it’s built up over the years into resentment and awkwardness. Because Ethan and Sam had had a strong, two year relationship as teenagers, I don’t think that the length of the novel made their reconnecting feel rushed.
However, the other two stories did suffer in varying degrees. In the second book, Cal and Olivia haven’t seen each other since they were young children in primary school. They don’t have the relationship that Ethan and Sam had but this is partially negated a little by the way in which Ackers brings about how they take that next step. It works for the characters and the story and it only ends up feeling a little condensed and rushed, instead of very.
But the last story is a bit different to the other two and I think it would’ve benefited from a little bit of either extra length or a little bit more work on the connection. Dean and Alice went to primary school together and since then a lot has obviously happened. Alice has been a single mother for a very long time and Dean has been widowed for three years. He’s only just ready to throw himself back into the dating pool but Alice is so hot and cold and so prickly that it’s almost impossible to see a relationship between them forming in your mind. Given how Alice is and Dean’s story, this one does come across as a bit rushed. I think it had a lot of potential to be that little bit better. I was really looking forward to Dean’s story and seeing him get his happy ever after (or his second happy ever after I suppose) and ultimately I was a little bit let down. There were a few really good moments but overall I didn’t feel the same connection between the characters that I felt the other two stories had. It needed a bit more passion and warmth to it, Alice came across as very remote and cold, a difficult character for a reader to warm to. And as a mother, I was more than a bit concerned about her son. I know she was a single mother and in a desperate situation, but that whole thing just didn’t sit well with me at all. I felt that by the time he got his own book, Dean was a strong character, very well formed. A large part of the novel focuses on him and maybe if it’d had focused on Alice a bit more, I’d have found more in her to like, gotten to know her a bit better. But as it was, I just felt like it lacked that chemistry between the two to really give it some punch.
A cute and engaging read overall.
Book #23 of 2014
This is the 10th novel read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014