Olivia Duncan Craig – Out of the Ashes


Author: Olivia Duncan Craig
Reviewed by: Lucy
Publisher: ODC Press
Genre: M/M Fairy Tale
ISBN 13:   9780985400

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Summary:  Young Noah hadn’t any idea how quickly his world could turn upside down. One minute, he was living, happy and secure, with a doting father and grandmother to look after him. The next, his father is dead, his grandmother is confined to her sickbed, and the only other family he has left is his new stepmother and her two children.

Taken far from his home, worked hard and hidden away from the world, Noah hasn’t much to look forward to, growing up. Until one day, Matthew, a handsome neighbor, comes riding up to him like a knight on his charger.
It’s love at first sight, at least as far as Noah is concerned.
Now all Noah has to do is make his Prince Charming aware he exists, triumph over his evil stepmother, and claim the love he so richly deserves. He may not have a fairy godmother helping him, but magic can come in many forms. The only question is–will it be enough to give Noah his happily ever after?

Review: This is a Cinderfella story with a little bit of a twist. Well, besides the obvious fact that both Cinders and his Prince are male!  In this retelling, Cinders, AKA Noah, is basically imprisoned and enslaved by his stepmother, but he does it to take care of his beloved Gran, who is also imprisoned.

The story is told in alternating views of Noah’s life and Matthew’s.  Matthew is the son of a very wealthy Texas family, with parents who taught him to value people and not to depend on money as a guide to life. He takes these lessons to heart, and Matthew is a truly good person.  He has an amazing best friend, Cal, who is four years older and provides a bit of mischief, keeping Matthew from being too perfect.   While we read of Matthew’s basically charmed life, we are also exposed to Noah’s increasingly horrible one.

When Noah is born, his parents are so happy.  His mother dies young, and his Gran is the one who convinces his father for the sake of Noah he must marry again.   Father does try his best in choosing someone who will be good for Noah, the beautiful Elaine, who has two children of her own, Lucy and Dillon.  It is telling that right from the beginning Elaine hugs and kisses only her own children.   Even at five, little Noah questions why this is true, but he has his daddy and that’s all okay. Then daddy dies, Gran has a stroke and Elaine moves them all to Texas.  She allows Noah to bring just one toy with him, which is the beginning of the end of peace for Noah.

It is diabolically accurate in how Elaine is portrayed as a true abuser.  She tacks on the chores just a bit at a time, so it doesn’t occur to Noah at first that he is being abused. She uses his love for his Gran (and for Midnight, the colt his daddy got him earlier) to control his actions and to add on more work.  The addition of Willis, the abusive stable manager, makes the transformation from boy to slave complete.

One thing I absolutely loved about this – when Matthew comes riding up and meets Noah for the first time, he sees a cute young man with dimples, working in a stable.  He does not fall instantly in love and he does not spend the next four years pining over him.  That gave the fairy tale a little more of a realistic down to earth twist.  Yes, he was attracted to Noah, but he recognized his youth and that they were strangers.  Good for you, Ms. Craig.

The story greatly follows the plot of Cinderella, changed to fit modern times and the M/M story line.  At times I hated to turn the page, because I knew something was going to happen to poor Noah.  Also mention, Elaine has never allowed him to go to school, and he has never set foot off the ranch.  Add in the fact that Gran isn’t capable of going anywhere, and Noah is well and truly stuck.

The ball of this story is a Halloween party. I admit, I laughed twice – once while picturing Noah’s hat bouncing all over his head, and another when “that old Leslie Gore song was beginning to echo inside his head”.  I am assuming this is the refrain, “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to”.  At one point, Matthew even says “You really are Cinderella” to an absent Noah.

The story does very closely follow the Cinderella story, so there aren’t really any surprises or big plot turns.  Matthew, similar to Prince Charming in the original story, is more of a background character because the focus is more on Cinders.  It’s very well written and Noah is a lovely character.  You know his HEA is coming, but after everything that happens, you want him to have it.  I loved the character of Cal, and also that Lucy (Elaine’s daughter) wasn’t portrayed as an evil stepsister, yet wasn’t an innocent either, as she stood by and allowed the abuse even as she got older.   It’s a very nice take on a classic fairy tale.

 

 

 

 

 

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  1. Pingback: T Minus Five Days and Counting (Ashes, Reviews & More) | Olivia Duncan Craig

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