5 Stars, Faith Ashlin, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Totally Bound

Review: To Stand Close by Faith Ashlin

Title: To Stand Close

Author: Faith Ashlin

Publisher: Totally Bound

Pages/Word Count: 223 Pages

At a Glance: Surprisingly deep and thought provoking.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Can love grow and survive for two men on opposite sides of the deepest of chasm—slavery?

In this world one country has cut itself off, and is closed and mysterious to everyone else. What’s the secret it’s hiding? Magic? Monsters? No, just the cruel reality of slavery. But inside its borders life goes on as normal, and it competes with the rest of the world at sport just like everyone else, just to prove that it’s the best.

Nicky accepts that, and is happy in his own small, simple life as a gymnastics coach. He accepts it because he’s never known anything else, but he stays as far away from the brutality of slavery as he can, until he’s given a present he doesn’t want and isn’t allowed to refuse.

As for love? Well, he loves his sport, isn’t that enough?

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of slavery.


Review: I was completely surprised by this book. The premise sounded intriguing, and I thought I was going to get a little angst, a lot of romance, and…something else. To be honest, at this point I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t a book that would leave me thinking about the characters and the world they live in well after the fact.

To Stand Close is a tough one to read because in this alternate world, a country has cut itself off from the rest of the world because it still practices slavery. When Nicky receives a slave as a gift from the mothers of the girls he coaches for gymnastics, he doesn’t want him because he doesn’t want to think about slavery. He doesn’t agree with it, but he doesn’t really care. He has his own problems to worry about, and slavery is not one of them. But when he sees the fear in the slave’s eyes at the thought of being returned to the preparation center, he agrees to take him.

It’s clear from the outset that Nicky is a good man. He isn’t going to use the slave for anything. Not even cleaning his home. But then, in this country, slaves are good for only one thing: sex. They can be used in any way their owner wants, and that’s it. They can even be passed around to others if the owner wants. And, more terrifyingly, if their owner isn’t around, they’re fair game.

The slave is Michael. He initially is a heartbreaking character. Every time he was on the page my heart ached for him, so unsure of himself and desperate to do anything not to go back to the slave prep center. And it becomes even more awful when you discover where he’s from and how he became a slave in this awful country. Nicky promises to do everything in his power to keep Michael safe because, at first, well, that’s his responsibility.

But it changes.

Throughout the course of the novel Nicky falls in love with Michael, and that’s where the questions start to come in. Nicky is, technically, his master, even if they don’t see themselves as master and slave. So how can Nicky ever be sure Michael really does want to have sex with him? He might say it, but how can he know? Because even though Nicky is a great guy, technically he could just take it if he wanted to. He has Michael’s paperwork.

Most of the time when I read books where there is angst and miscommunication, or lack of listening, I get frustrated, but with this book, it was completely believable and I understood the deeper issues at hand. Nicky is completely right in fearing Michael is doing it to keep him “sweet,” as he says. And while Michael doesn’t seem like that kind of guy, let’s face it, he really is at a disadvantage. If Nicky were to say screw it one day, he could very well end up in a terrible place. And for a slave in this country, he has it made.

I felt for these characters so much. And my heart broke. Often. The ending was good, but I would love more from Michael and Nicky. I want to know what happens to them next. And I want to read more set in this world. I know it might sound terrible, but I want to see how other people react to their slaves and what they do to try to change it.


You can buy To Stand Close here:

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Faith Ashlin, Giveaways, Totally Bound

Guest Post and Giveaway: To Stand Close by Faith Ashlin


The Novel Approach welcomes author Faith Ashlin today on the To Stand Close blog tour. Enjoy Faith’s article, then be sure to check out the giveaway details from Totally Bound Publishing below!


The Best Way to Write Sex 

Once upon a time, a long, long while ago, I used to find it…tricky to write a sex scene. Maybe I was a bit embarrassed, even though I was on my own. But, hey, that’s fair, isn’t it? There’s a whole world of difference between reading a steamy scene and writing one yourself. If I write it that means the smutty stuff comes from my brain. There’s no saying, ‘oh, I didn’t realise the book was like that,’ because it’s all mine!

I soon got over the embarrassment – although I still have to be on my own when I write sex. I don’t even like someone else being in the house – and now I love writing sex.

Oh boy, do I love writing sex.

But, sometimes, it’s hard to get started. On a cold Tuesday afternoon, with the rain pouring down outside and a pile of ironing waiting for the end of writing-time, it’s really difficult to think sexy thoughts. I’ve tried lots of things: reading something good or watching sexy TV. But I was always worried I’d copy their scenes. I tried thinking about my favourite gorgeous man. Only trouble was I got more interested in him than the sex needed for the book.

Then, by accident, I discovered my perfect way to write sex. With a glass of cold Pinot Grigio.

The words fly off my fingers and all these different ideas seem to just suddenly pop into my head. I’m sure I never would have thought of putting his legs there or have them do that if it wasn’t for the wine!

It has to be the right amount of wine though, and at the right time. It has to be long enough after lunch or there’s still too much food in my belly and the wine doesn’t work. Too long and there’s no time to write.

Then the amount. Too much wine and I go to sleep – I’m great at parties. Three glasses and I’m asleep in the corner – too little and it doesn’t work. One big glass is about right. But even with that there’s a short window of opportunity. For about half an hour, I write almost without thinking (and most definitely without editing. That can be done later/sober.) The images flash in my mind as I fight to get them all down while more and more just flows.

Then comes the first warning sign that time is almost up. I want a biscuit. And a cup of tea.And a wee. After a visit to the bathroom sexy-writing-time is up and the sleepiness kicks in. At that point I might as well go and cook dinner or start on the dreaded ironing because writing becomes laboured and more like work than fun.

It does mean that I work on a different alcohol schedule to everyone else. But, hey, I think it’s worth it.

Later, when everyone else is either asleep on the sofa or shooting tanks on their computer, I can go back and read what I’ve written. Yes, it needs polishing, and the spelling/grammar/punctuation correcting, but usually I’m pleased. The magic of Pinot Grigio worked again.

My new book, To Stand Close which is out now, isn’t cover to cover sex but it did need some intense scenes. I used the Pinto Grigio method a couple of times!


tostandclose_800Blurb for To Stand CloseCan love grow and survive for two men on opposite sides of the deepest of chasms—slavery? 

In this world, one country has cut itself off and is closed and mysterious to everyone else. What’s the secret it’s hiding? Magic?Monsters?No, just the cruel reality of slavery. But inside its borders life goes on as normal, and it competes with the rest of the world at sport just like everyone else, just to prove that it’s the best.

Nicky accepts that and is happy in his own small, simple life as a gymnastics coach. He accepts it because he’s never known anything else, but he stays as far away from the brutality of slavery as he can, until he’s given a present he doesn’t want and isn’t allowed to refuse.

As for love? Well, he loves his sport. Isn’t that enough?

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of slavery.

DividersExtract from To Stand Close“God, so beautiful,” Michael said, appreciatively. “I knew you would be. I want this.” He crawled over Nicky, kissing his knee, his thigh, the line of his groin, the dip of his belly, then moved up his chest with one long lick of his tongue along Nicky’s sternum.

Back to Nicky’s mouth, the kisses deep, thorough, demanding and exploring, as he forced his way between Nicky’s legs to press their cocks together for the first time. “Want that,” he groaned. “Want all of it, all of you.”

“What do you want?” Nicky asked. “What now?”

“Want to fuck you, want to suck you down deep, taste you on the back of my throat.” He bit at Nicky’s throat, little nicks with the promise of more behind them. “What do you want?”

Nicky snorted. “When have you ever taken any notice of what I want?”

“Right now.” Michael stared him out. “You want this but you’re too decent or too scared to even hint at it, let alone ask for it. So I just took the pressure off you and gave it to you.” He pressed their hard, hard cocks together, circling his hips so the pressure was never the same, the pleasure constantly building. “Yeah, you want it.” He lapped at Nicky’s mouth again and this time Nicky bit back, taking. “But what do you want to do right now?”

“Now?” Nicky dug his fingers deep into Michael’s hair, twisting them tight. “Pretty much the same as you. I want to fuck you, suck you. Feel all that skin under me, between my teeth, as I pound into you.” He kissed up again, harder, more insistent, forcing his tongue deep into Michael’s mouth before pulling away so he could watch him. “I’m not going to get it though. You’re going to take what you want first, aren’t you?”


Author BioAbout Faith AshlinWhen Faith was clearing out her attic many years ago, she found a book she’d written as a ten-year-old. On rereading it she realised that it was the love story of two boys. Over the years her fascination with the image of beautiful young men, coiled together as they fell head over heels in love, became a passion for her.

Since that first innocent book—written in purple sparkly pen—she has written many stories, set in varied worlds, but always with two men finding their way to happiness.

Still nothing much has changed because now she can be found in a daydream, wandering around the supermarket, or sitting in a meeting at work still dreaming up stories.


Enter Totally Bound’s March blog tour competition for the chance to win an eBook of your choice, not including boxsets or anthologies! (**NOTE: Contest Deadline Has Been Extended To April 3, 2015**)



A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

A Welcome To New Reviewers And A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Sneak Peek

Cheers, everyone, and thanks for dropping by to see what we have coming up for you in the week ahead!

First, though, I’m so thrilled to introduce two new reviewers to the TNA team: one comes to us brand new to the reviewing biz, the other is a long time veteran reviewer in the M/M genre.

Welcome to Karen and Sadonna! Now, here’s a bit about them:


TNA_Signature_KarenAbout Karen:

Well, Hi, I’m Karen! I am a 36 year old from Michigan. I have a great husband who’s only complaint is that I am addicted to reading (still trying to figure out why this is a problem…I don’t get it) but, he’s right, I know I’m addicted (hey! at least I admit it, well to you, not to him!). For about the last 2 years or so I have read pretty much exclusively MM. Reading is an escape for me, it is what i use to get out of my head and just relax, which is why you can usually find me on my breaks at work sitting with my Kindle, who am I kidding any free moment I have is usually spent with my Kindle. I am looking forward to trying out doing reviews and I am really happy to be here! Alright…enough about me…back to my book :o)

TNA_Signature_SadonnaAbout Sadonna:

Hi I’m Sadonna. Just like Madonna, but with an S ;) Yes, that’s my actual legal name. I used to hate it when I was a kid, but then I learned to embrace it! I’m 52 (when the heck did that happen??) and I work in downtown Chicago as a corporate type in HRIT – but I have a 60 mile commute each way, so I have a LOT of time to read and watch the world go by from my express Coach that has wifi. :)

I’m a long time voracious reader who read nearly every book in my grammar school library and left the public library with stacks of books each week. My sister was always mad that I wouldn’t play with her because I was reading. As an adult, for years I read pretty much historical and literary fiction (history major in college) and nonfiction. I was introduced to m/m in 2010 when I saw one of my friends had Special Forces on her Goodreads feed. Now 2300+ books and counting later, I still blame her and Aleks Voinov (and I have told him so :D). I currently have over 9000 books in my Calibre library as well as over 1000 physical books in my house. So I guess you could say I have a problem. ;)

Besides reading, I love to travel all over the US and the world – 15 countries and counting. I’m a big art lover and I spend a lot of time in art museums whenever I travel. I used to say I could live in bookstores and art museums, but it seems bookstores are practically becoming museums now! I also love the opera both live and at the movie theaters and have seen some gorgeous productions in Chicago, the Met and Covent Garden. I dream of Vienna and La Scala someday! I also like to go to the theater and see live music whenever possible. I also have my own art in the form of tattoos – two so far, with plans for lots more. :P

Now, here’s what we have on tap this week! 


MondayMA Church kicks off our week on the To Touch the Sky blog tour

Tuesday – The Cut & Run farewell tour stops by with Crash & Burn by Abigail Roux

WednesdayFaith Ashlin is our guest today on the To Stand Close blog tour

ThursdayLilah Suzanne drops in on the Spice blog tour

FridaySkylar M. Cates joins us today with a guest post to celebrate the countdown to Rainbow Con

Saturday – To close out the week, we’ll have Bey Deckard with us today—or, I should say Captain Baltsaros, Tom, and Jon join us with a character interview that just might shiver yer timbers and make you anxious for Fated: Blood and Redemption, book three in the Baal’s Heart series


And that does it for this week. Until next time, happy reading!

2.5 Stars, Faith Ashlin, Reviewed by Lana, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Totally Bound

Review: A Slow Process of Understanding by Faith Ashlin

Title: A Slow Process of Understanding

Author: Faith Ashlin

Publisher: Totally Bound

Pages/Word Count: 348 Pages

At a Glance: A Slow Process of Understanding did not grab me, and I really wish it had because it could have been a great read.

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: How does a world that accepts slavery affect both master and slave? Can two people build a new life for themselves with a start like theirs?

It’s a world like this one except for the all-powerful State that’s very firmly in control and the fact that slavery is legal. Jimmy had never really thought about it or the fight for freedom going on around him. He was too busy enjoying his privileged life as an actor on a sci-fi show.

But what is he meant to do when he’s forced to permanently bond to a slave he doesn’t want just because he made one silly, drunken mistake? Does it change who he is, what he is?

Trouble is, Jimmy isn’t sure who he was to start with. He’d never thought about it.

And what about his slave, Nate? Can a slave force Jimmy into learning something about himself?


Review: A Slow Process of Understanding is the perfect title for this book because the story itself moves slow. If you are looking for something fast paced and exciting, this book is not it. This is an Alt U story, which is usually right up my alley, but this one just didn’t do anything for me.

The story takes place in an alternate reality where slavery is legal. These slaves are sex slaves who are used and abused by their owners. The story starts with Jimmy, a kind of meathead actor who winds up in prison and is about to be bound to a male slave, Nate. Jimmy’s offense and punishment were implausible to me, and though it’s sort of explained later in the story, I didn’t buy into it because it was too simplistic. Nate, the slave Jimmy gets, is hurt and seems docile, but as it turns out, he is no ordinary slave.

Jimmy’s whining and constant description of himself as a good guy throughout the book was annoying to me, and Nate wasn’t really better. He played the role of slave, but later, when he revealed who he was, he did a complete 360. Some of his actions were too out there, and yes, it’s part of the plot, but when I can’t believe in it, pretty much everything else in the book then just falls flat. The premise of this book is interesting, but the execution left a lot to be desired, as the storyline drops the reader into the middle of a make-believe universe with no real explanation and little world building. In an alternate reality storyline, you need it. The whole plot just seemed simple and underwhelming.

A Slow Process of Understanding did not grab me, and I really wish it had because it could have been a great read.

You can buy A Slow Process of Understanding here:

Totally Bound

Totally Bound

All Romance eBooks

All Romance eBooks