If you’re up for a short, rollickin’ read and aren’t afraid of violence, this dual-novelette will impress you. Ashton does a remarkable job of expressing the depths of human depravity. Her fiction reads like an autobiography and leaves you hoping desperately these actions didn’t really happen to her.
How I stumbled across her work: Ashton reached out to me through Elance.com, a popular freelancing site I use for odd writing and editing jobs. I read her work and wrote an Amazon.com review to help her promotional efforts. I’m glad I did; it isn’t a book I’d normally pick up, but I won’t soon forget the powerful emotions and hopeless turmoil of this book.
Here’s the full review I wrote for her on Amazon.com under my alter ego, “shoptaneous”:
You know those stories that are so real, so personal that fiction feels like an autobiography? Gray’s “Dreams Within the Ashes” are two of those powerful, savagely emotional stories.
Gray is a master at showing that there are no limits to the evil and violence people can do. Her work contains strong themes of abusive, manipulative men and broken relationships. Her dialogue is realistic and raw, and her descriptions are piercingly tangible.
The first novelette features a downtrodden mother named Charlene, who’s rebounding from another round of heartrending losses. Layers of letdowns, exploitative relationships and abusive situations leave Charlene battered in body and spirit. Her teenaged son David and longtime friend Dottie meld into the background as Charlene becomes entangled in a series of barhops resulting in a new job and a vicious domestic attack. Finally, Charlene is literally at the end of a dock, facing a metaphorical dark ocean of people who have used her – will she jump or will she stop allowing people to hurt her?
The second novelette reads like a mystery/crime thriller. Two boys, the product of messy home lives and exploitative families, strive to work hard and make their dreams come true. Ben dreams of marrying the virgin Amanda despite his soiled sexual history, and he idealizes love beyond intimacy. When Amanda’s life is endangered from the person she’d last suspect, Ben and his friend Russ embark on a violent, desperate mission to save her. They’re new at the game of life and death. But can what was lost be restored?
It’s a shame that whoever edited Gray’s work wasn’t more careful; there are missing words and dropped quotation marks. Usually these things drive me crazy, but the sheer emotional power of her writing carried me through. A powerful read that you won’t forget anytime soon!