Out of the Ashes
Out of the Ashes by A.J. Jarrett is a contemporary homoerotic romance.

Joe Bowman had a horrible time in high school. He was picked on after Randy, one of the school jocks, labeled him a gay. If it wasn't for his best friend Liz, Joe wouldn't of have had anyone on his side. Joe had a crush on Jackson, a friend of Randy's, who didn't get involved in the abuse, but he never attempted to stop it either. Joe moved away as soon as he graduated, building a new life until he found out his boyfriend was cheating on him. Joe decided to move back home, much to his parents delight. Joe is happy to see his parents and can't wait to see Liz again. When Joe goes to the fire station with his dad to visit, he learns that to new guy is his old crush Jackson. He is flabbergasted when Jackson happily agrees with his father's suggestion to meet with him later. Joe gets a vibe from Jackson that his interest is more than platonic, but he isn't gay, or could he be? When Joe meets with Liz, he is shocked to learn that her boyfriend is none other than his nemesis Randy. Joe's return home opens up old wounds, but will he find a love that he never expected?

This story shows how bullying can affect a victim long after others have moved on. It was understandable how Joe reacted when he first saw Randy years later. The way Liz tried to protect Joe's feelings was nice of her, but in reality, it was very misplaced. As a victim of bullying myself, I understand how he was feeling and it is best to acknowledge it up front. Randy, and even Jackson, believed that their behavior was just childish pranks and that it was left behind as they grew up, but this was proved to be incorrect when they how realized how Liz and Joe really felt about it. Jackson thought Randy would never accept him being gay so he kept it hidden, which became a habit until he met Joe again, forcing him to reevaluate his life. The love between Joe and Jackson was beautiful, but is it strong enough to overcome the difficulties ahead?

Reviewed by: Teresa