Author: Elise K. Ackers
Ask Me To Stay is a trilogy of stories set in Hinterdown, a small country town with a very long memory. Each of the stories has previously been released digitally, this is the first time the trilogy has been released together and in print. Ask Me To Stay, Ask Me For More and Ask Me For Tomorrow could all quite easily be read as stand alone stories but I feel they work best in this format and read as a complete story in three parts.
Ethan Foster is the black sheep of the family, he ran from Hinterdown over a decade ago leaving no explanations and heartbreak in his wake. He has been back for the big occasions over the years but he has always breezed in and out of town as quick as he could, usually leaving without a word. The years have been rough on the relationship between Ethan and his brother Dean and there is barely contained animosity at every meeting, which is not helped by the gossip of the small town locals which only serves to fan the fire. His latest return is for the funeral of Dean’s dearly beloved wife Bree.
This trip home may just be different, if he can ever get the town to stop ostracising him. His first trips into town he couldn’t even get service in the local cafe, the locals were not going to make a return easy for him and that’s part of the reason he stays away. As the story unfolds we discover there is more to Ethan and his absences than the town of Hinterdown is aware, each time he leaves there may be broken hearts in his wake but it isn’t easy for him either.
Ethan broke off a two year relationship with his high school sweetheart Sam when he originally left town and it’s a heart break she has never recovered from. He also left behind a brother who had been trying to raise him since the death of their parents, and who has never understood the reasons he ran away. This time Ethan may just be ready to let go of his past and make a new start in his home town. His newly widowed brother could use the support of his estranged brother if only they could get past their differences and go back to the closeness they shared as kids; his niece and nephew fast become attached to the uncle they have never really known and then there’s Sam and her brother Cal.
Ask Me To Stay explores many relationship dynamics alongside the reignited romance. Ethan needs to build bridges with much of the town as well as his family. Slowly his actions belie his true character and they contradict the beliefs held by Dean and the long time locals of the town. One tiny step at a time Ethan rebuilds a life in Hinterdown; he renews his relationship with Dean, he finally gains service in the cafe and he helps Nina and Rowan move forward after the tragic passing of their mother way too soon. He rebuilds the friendship with his childhood friend Cal, and rekindles his romance with Cal’s sister Sam.
We get to know quite a bit about these characters in this first Hinterdown tale, which is good because it gives us extra background as we move into the next two stories. It isn’t all reconciled relationships and rekindled romance though, Ask Me To Stay also has an element of suspense as we try to unravel what it is that sent Ethan running from his home as a teenager. I am not sure if it was my head space when I was reading the book, because I’ve been a little preoccupied this week, but I came up with all sorts of wild theories about what was going on but none of them came close to the actual reason for his leaving.
Ask Me For More is Cal’s story, it picks up about a year later. Sam has her best friend flying in from the other side of the country to help plan her wedding. Olivia went to school with Sam, and the rest of the gang, until an unfortunate incident at the school saw her parents move her away from town. Sam has kept in touch with her and they have caught up over the years but Olivia hasn’t been back to Hinterdown. The welcome Ethan received was almost warm compared to the treatment Olivia is subjected to by the townsfolk who remember her.
Cal stands up for Olivia, remembering the treatment Ethan received and finding himself very disappointed in the behaviour of these people he has known his entire life. Seeing it with Ethan was one thing but then watching them behave the same way towards the next returning childhood resident makes Cal step back and see his town in a new light. Hinterdown has a very long memory and does not forgive easily. Time and patience see attitudes change but the fact that Cal steps in certainly helps and Olivia has the support of Ethan, Sam and Dean as well.
Again there is quite a history between the couple, and they are both carrying quite a lot of baggage. There isn’t a lot of time to develop the chemistry so we rely on the fact that the pair both harbored a crush before Olivia left town and lowered inhibitions to get them together and then help them move past their baggage.
Ask Me For Tomorrow focuses on Dean, no longer newly widowed but at that point where moving on is starting to look like an option. He is starting to feel like there might be a second chance at happiness for him but he isn’t sure how long he is supposed to grieve, how long is long enough. He is also hiring a receptionist for the garage so that he can spend more time getting his hands dirty on the cars rather than just doing admin duties. In waltzes Alice who went to primary school in Hinterdown, no surprises there. The difference with Alice is that she left quite young and left no scandal behind so though she is remembered there’s no real connection, and to a large extent no real relevance.
We have gotten to know Dean quite well through the earlier stories and there’s a lot of family stuff going on alongside Dean’s journey back to the dating world. Alice on the other hand is a new player in the narrative and we don’t know her very well. We aren’t allowed all the way into her life which makes it a little hard to be sympathetic to her. I understand her need to do what she thinks is best for herself and her son but it isn’t until the very end that we discover just what it is she’s doing and that was a little hard for me to get my head around, always wondering what it was she was up to.
The story is quite short so there isn’t a great deal of time to cultivate the slow build of the feelings between Dean and Alice. The page time they share is vague and doesn’t allow us to see how the feelings grow which means you really just need to go with it and not think too much about what it is that forms the basis of their attraction.
I really enjoyed this trilogy and getting to know the central characters. It was fabulous to see families reunite and people getting their happily ever afters. I definitely think this is the way to read the Homeland series and I look forward to more from Elise K. Ackers.
I devour books, vampires and supernatural creatures are my genre of choice but over the past couple of years, I have broadened my horizons considerably. In a nutshell – I love to write! I love interacting with a diverse range of artists to bring you interviews. Perhaps we were perfect before – I LOVE WORDS!