DNF Review: Amber to Ashes by Gail McHugh

Title: Amber to Ashes
Author: Gail McHugh

Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance
Publisher: Atria Books

Pub Date: June 2015
Rating: DNF

Previously posted on No BS Book Reviews

Our thoughts...
Laborious ~ Forced ~ Lacking

I know a lot of people who love this book. A lot. I, on the other hand, suffered.


My goal became to endure. I made a commitment to read this book and by-golly I was going to finish. Well, I failed and my goal went down in flames. And you know what? I am relieved to be done. Why, you ask? Excellent question! I’ll start with the writing. McHugh’s plotting lacks subtlety and fluidity. There is so little showing and SO MUCH telling. In my opinion, there are some things that should be implied, that the reader should be able to feel, glean, and infer. In Amber to Ashes, the reader is given everything in a forced fashion that makes me feel like I’m reading the dumbed-down version or something. And the plot. Ugh. It’s essentially Sex, Obsess, Unsexy Sex, DROP A BOMB, Obsess, Boring Sex, DROP ANOTHER BOMB, Repeat. The big bombs/plot twists are thrown out there like an afterthought. It’s the stereotypical “things aren’t going anywhere and my character needs a reason to be obnoxious so I’ll randomly mention this tragic event at the end of a chapter completely unrelated” technique. 

Which brings me to the characters. Not only is it a triangle of unjustified insta-love but even the characters themselves point out flaws that would stop sane people in their tracks. Amber (the female lead) calls Ryder a “cocky, outspoken bastard,” which is accurate. She also refers to herself as a “closed-off, delusional bitch,” which is also true. These characters are not likeable, relatable, or respectable. The reader is supposed to believe that these two guys are so instantly in love with this girl who treats them like dirt (in this book it’s presented as wit and sass, but that is rarely the case). Having a tragic past is not an all-access pass to constantly treat people poorly but that’s exactly how Amber explains away her behavior. 

Amber to Ashes is full of illusions. The characters appear deep and/or witty but are actually self-made martyrs and creepy, shallow poets. The situations seem dire or intense but are really just superficial and convenient. The characters in the book feel forced and overly dramatic, much like the plot. I had to stop around twenty-five percent through and I had yet to care about Amber, Ryder, or Brock. I don’t miss their story and I don’t care how it ends. I am just thankful the ride is over.


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