Tag Team Review: From Ashes (Heathens Ink #3) by K.M. Neuhold

“When the broken man with scarred skin walked into Heathens, asked for a job, and showed me a sketch of a phoenix, it felt like fate.”~ Adam

It started with an anonymous post by someone who didn't want to live anymore. I read it over and over again, unable to get it out of my mind. What if my brother Johnny had posted something like this before he'd taken his own life? Would someone have been able to save him?

I've been living a lie for 16 long years and I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to keep it up. And when a beautiful, broken man walks into my tattoo shop asking for a second chance at life, I know I'll never be able to turn him away.

“When I was so far down I couldn’t even see the light, a stranger reached in to save me”~ Nox
I didn't have anything to live for, until a kind stranger pulled me back from the brink. With physical and emotional scars I have nowhere to turn now but to that same stranger who saved my life without realizing it. But as my feelings for Adam grow, will I ever be anything other than a surrogate for the brother he couldn’t save? Am I even worthy of his love?

**From Ashes is the third book in the Heathens Ink series, each book in the series CAN be read as a standalone.

CAUTION: this book contains graphic descriptions of domestic violence and drug use that may be disturbing to some readers.


Lost in a Book - 3 Hearts

You know what I thought while reading this? Playing dress up. Did you ever play dress up in your parent's clothes when you were a kid? Just to walk around and pretend to be an adult for a tiny bit of time? That’s this book. The kink, the drama, the “intense” situations and the character reactions all reminded me of kids trying to act like adults. Which is odd because there were some very adult situations taking place but their responses and the execution fell a tad bit short.

Adam is a closeted bisexual that has a hero complex after his younger brother committed suicide. He owns his own tattoo shop that provides refuge and work for many men (and a woman) that needed a second chance. He chats online with “Phoenix” when Phoenix is at his lowest point. Both men form a bond though they remain anonymous and hundreds of miles separate them. Throughout the year they talk and Adam repeatedly asks Phoenix to come to Seattle until one day he stops hearing from him.

Phoenix AKA Nox is a heroin addict that “whores” himself out to pay for his next fix. He lives with his psycho boyfriend and looks forward to his chats with Adam. He’s lost and doesn’t know how to break the cycle of using.

“I’m the spider in the sink, scrambling for a foothold, but inevitably being pulled down the drain.”

After his psycho ex earns his nickname of psycho, Nox heads to the hospital and then to rehab. After rehab, he finally takes Adam up on his offer and heads to Seattle; to Adam’s tattoo shop. Nox is offered an apprenticeship and after a few days, reveals that he is indeed Phoenix. Their relationship begins shortly after this revelation.

Let’s talk about the good stuff. The bones for a good story were there. Meeting online, forming a connection, tortured soul, tattooed white knight, breaking addiction, coming out of the closet, family of friends, etc…, all good. Also, the connection between the MCs had a chance to develop organically. Insta-love didn’t take place because they knew each other prior to ever meeting face to face. Their relationship was believable and had a solid foundation. The development of the MCs in the beginning had me rooting for them.


I had a few issues with the execution.

On top of the stuff already mentioned, there was stalking and a crazy female ex-fuck buddy. There was already enough going on and the crazy ex drama didn't add to the story. Also, there was a lot of deep subject matter that was taken with a grain of salt. Prostitute? No biggie. Lit on fire to die? No prob, just make sure you’re on heroin to take the edge off. Homeless, addict, junkie mother. Everything basically glossed over. There was a lot of telling and not showing throughout which I attribute the lack of depth and clarity to.

As I said, the bones of the story were good. The transitions, time jumps, developments and resolutions were just... there, and lacked the finesse to smooth the way. It was just ok. On the plus, I do like my white knights with tattoos. *growl*

Fantasy Living - 3 Hearts

This is the second story I’ve read from this author and I can see that KM has developed a bit more from the last story I read. I haven’t read the previous books in the Heathen Ink series but I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything. I believe this can be read as a standalone but there are references to other characters in the previous books that may be of interest first.

Unfortunately there are still things I don’t like about this writer’s style. The flipping between point of view is still choppy and premature. As soon as I start to feel like there is a flow in one character's head, I’m shoved into the other characters point of view, and it is really jarring. It makes it difficult to stay in the moment, and also creates a dismissive atmosphere. Examples of this are where confessions of dark pasts are shared and then I am dumped into the other characters head, instead of sitting with the feelings of the character who is sharing.

I enjoyed the storyline and the idea behind it. I think the author does a pretty great job with character chemistry and connection. I thought for the most part, the characters were developed well, but when it came to execution of the exchanges of information, a lot of the more difficult subject matter was glossed over. I’m not sure if the characters were supposed to come across as blase and dismissive or if the author wasn’t sure how to be in the moment and allow it to come to a more natural conclusion. It’s difficult to point out specifics when they are probably spoilers. I will say not all of it was glossed over, and there were some great moments between Adam and Nox when they are getting to know each other. I would have preferred the more emotionally scarring moments were the ones that had more time spent on them to parse through and develop the scenes more.

The drama and resolution was unsatisfactory. I could have actually done without it in the story and stuck to Nox and Adam developing their relationship. The resolution was completely underwhelming and unnecessary. I’m trying to pretend it wasn’t in there and focus on what I liked.

Overall I liked this story. I liked the characters, and appreciate this for what it was. I don’t feel like I wasted my time on it and I am not averse to reading more from this author. But if the POV shifts continue to be abrupt, I’d probably need to ensure I wasn’t feeling crabby when I started the next book. It is not a smooth transition, and I think this is why I have such an issue with it.

A review copy was provided for an honest opinion.

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