Review and teaser: Sink or Swim by Ashley John

*This is 5th book in the Surf Bay series. It is an origin story for Finley and not a HEA romance novel (although it does have romance elements). It is recommended that you have read the other books in the Surf Bay series first, although this CAN be read as a standalone (no cliffhanger) or as a prequel to the rest of the series*


Framed for a crime he didn’t commit, British teenager, Finley, is given a fake passport and forced to forget the life he’s always known. When he arrives in Surf Bay, he meets his uncle, Monroe, and he learns his time in America isn’t going to be a vacation. From the second his plane hits the ground, he is dragged into a world of organized crime, working under his uncle’s wing.

He is forced to share a tiny apartment with another of Monroe’s employees, Jay, and they soon become puppets, acting out Monroe's terrible crimes, side by side. When their work starts to become increasingly more dangerous, Finley is torn between his need to obey his uncle and his need to protect Jay.

As his life spirals out of control, he falls deeper and deeper into a world filled with money, crime and power and his only form of escapism is in his growing love for Jay.

Can Finley resist the lure of a life-changing proposition from his uncle, while still protecting the one he loves, or will he make sacrifices, which could change the course of his life, forever?

Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I'm throwing all the hearts at this one - which is super generous of me, as I don't actually have a heart that is intact after reading this. As far as I'm concerned, Ashley John blew this one out of the water. After reading the last book, it is hard to believe that I would have any sympathy for Finley. Even though, in Saving Michael, he took a character I didn't have much sympathy for and made me like him, I was convinced that he would not be able to do it again. Boy oh boy was I wrong. I think Finley has become my favourite Surf Bay character (it's not just cos he's a Brit, honest!!), my heart aches for him, I want him to get his HEA. I want the world to see the man that Jay did. I need more for Finely - more of Finley. I really, really do.

Over the course of these books Ashley John has grown and grown as an author. the plot of this is so tight and the characters brilliantly rounded. I said in my last review that we know what we're getting with the Surf Bay series, that was before this book though. I'm not spoiling anything to tell you there is no HEA - it's right there in the blurb. Ashley still manages to give us a love story though. it's a love story that will make you bawl like a baby by the end of the book, but it's a beautiful love story nonetheless. Maybe it's precisely because we know how things go (to a certain extent, we've seen the man Finley becomes in later books) that the love is so much more poignant and heartbreaking. Whatever the magic that Ashley John worked, it has me still longing for Finley to have another story, to get an HEA, to mend is broken, patched, hard-boiled heart.

Please Ashley. Pretty please with a cherry on top???

If you've yet to discover Surf Bay I would urge you too - if for no other reason than to read this book. Just, when you get to this one, make sire you have tissues handy.

I'm going to leave the review there because Ashley John has kindly given us an excerpt from this book, so you can have a taster of it. This was one of the best scenes, really beautiful. Enjoy.

Sink or Swim Teaser
Taken from Chapter 14

In the late morning sun, Finley kicked off his flip-flops, dipping his toes into the cool ocean foam. Awkwardly, he looked over his shoulder as Jay played with the settings on his camera. People were already settling onto the beach and surfers were running into the waves, boards over their heads.
“I can’t do this,” Finley mumbled, “it’s embarrassing.”
“It’s not embarrassing, it’s art,” Jay didn’t look up from his camera, “nobody will be staring at you.”
He wasn’t too sure about that. Porter was still standing on his deck across the beach, watching them with intrigue.
“No, really, I can’t,” Finley stepped back, holding out his hands, “this is too much. This isn’t me.”
The old version of him, the one he’d left behind in England, would have laughed at him for even entertaining the idea. Before he’d touched the gun, he was pretending to be the macho, tough guy. He was denying the feelings he had inside, to fit in with the rest of his family. Somehow, he’d lost all of those fears as he crossed the Atlantic Ocean. He still had Monroe to worry about, but not in the same way. He didn’t need to worry about ‘disappointing’ a family, who had raised him to be a stereotype since birth.
He’d been raised to be the clone of his father, a criminal, a con-man. He thought the good thing about leaving and starting a new life in the States, would mean he’d get away from that life but somehow, he was slowly becoming that man anyway.
Was it his destiny? Did they pick Surf Bay because it was far away, or because Monroe would keep him on the track they’d trained him for?
Despite all of that, there he was, standing on the edge of a never ending ocean, with a man in front of him, who did things to his insides he’d never experienced.
He didn’t want to do the photo-shoot but he also didn’t want to do most of the things he’d been made to do since he’d arrived in town. At least this way, he’d be doing something against his will to make somebody he cared about, happy, rather than to carry out somebody else’s dirty work.
“I’ll do this under one condition,” Finley planted his hands firmly on his hips.
“What? You’re already doing it! No conditions!”
“Hear me out.”
Jay sighed, dropping the camera to his side for a moment, copying Finley’s stance, “What do you want? Blow jobs? Because let me tell you, that thing you have is far too -,”
“No!” Finley waved his hands, “I want you to show your pictures to somebody.”
“I already have,” he shrugged, “I showed you.”
“Somebody else. You mentioned a gallery in the town hall. I want you to try and get your pictures in that gallery.”
“Finley –,”
“Jay,” Finley cut in, “Just promise me you’ll try. You’re too good to be under a bed for the rest of your life.”
He could see Jay arguing with himself in his head. He was struggling between his desire to photograph Finley and his fear of having his work judged. He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, each time, sighing and huffing out his chest, as if a tantrum was brewing.
“Fine!” he cried, “Will you let me take your Goddamn picture now?”
“Just tell me what to do,” he scratched the back of his head, “don’t leave me hanging.”
“Don’t worry,” Jay held the camera up to his eye, and clicked, the flash almost blinding Finley, “I can tell you’re going to be a natural.”
“I wasn’t ready that time!”
He clicked again, and again, leaving Finley standing there, more and more terrified each time the bright light burned his eyes.
“You’re not going to pose,” another picture, another flash, “just be you. Be Finley. Be the person I see, not the person you want people to see.”
For a second, that statement puzzled him but after a second of thinking, he understood it perfectly.
Jay saw through every act, every wall, to see the person he was deep down. He saw the person behind the fake passport, without even knowing the full story. He didn’t seem to care that Finley was hiding things from him, but that didn’t matter to Jay.
That’s why he cared about him.


  1. I seriously need to do a catch up on this. I've still got book 4 to read. No HEA? Oh no!

  2. No. No HEA Lorraine.

    I'm seriously hoping another book will give Finley some happy. *puppy dog eyes at Ashley*