The universe is a glitterball I hold in the palm of my hand.
Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and—most of all—himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.
Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.
But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?
Glitterland. Oh, Glitterland. Why did it take me so long to read you?
I noticed this title on Netgalley earlier this year but for one reason or another I didn’t request it. The fact that I looked at it multiple times should have clued me in that maybe I should just request the damn thing. Then one of my romance heroes, Eloisa James, posted this on Facebook and then repeated her recommendation here. What I am getting at is that Eloisa James told me to read Glitterland and that was enough for me to add it to the top of my “to buy” list. So I bought it. I read it. And I loved it.
Ash is clinically depressed; diagnosed with bi-polar disorder after a suicide attempt landed him in the hospital. His belief that happiness is impossible for someone like him has turned him into a bit of a prick. He is so consumed with the focus and energy it takes to accomplish the day to day basics of living that he has distanced himself from friends and family. His only human connections being required meetings with is agent and when his old friends force him out of the house to fulfill social obligations. Which is how he ends up at a gay club in Brighton for a stag party.
Ash is no stranger to the one night stand. He prefers them as they don’t require any emotional engagement. The pretty and glittery man with the fake tan is not what he is usually attracted to but something about him grabs Ash’s attention. When that same man notices Ash standing alone and climbs to the balcony to make a pass, Ash doesn’t waste the opportunity. But an evening that should have been free of any emotional complications unexpectedly becomes full of them which has Ash running away in the middle of night while in the midst of a full on panic attack. But sometimes things are meant to be and you can’t run and hide. When Ash’s “Glitter Pirate” shows up at one of his books signings (a hilarious scene that had me spitting my drink all over my e-reader) he has to decide if he can handle turning that one night stand into a multiple night stand.
I enjoyed seeing the world through Ash’s eyes. Reading a first person account of a man dealing with depression and self-doubt allowed me to understand his fears. It also allowed me, as the reader, to see the changes in him as he learns to be happy and to love again. And I absolutely adored seeing Darian through Ash’s eyes. I am sure Darian would have been lovely no matter how he was written. But watching him through Ash’s grudgingly smitten view is absolutely beautiful.
I’ve read a number of romance novels with British heroes that have a cockney (or in this case an Essex) accent. Most of those stories perpetuate the stereo type that equates the accent with a lack of intelligence. I can’t think of a single story where the hero doesn't try to hide who he is behind a fabricated high society accent. As if they are only worth something if they are anything other than whom they are. Needless to say, I am not a big fan of those particular books and heroes. Darian was a pleasant surprise. How wonderful to have a hero that is comfortable in his own skin. A modern day Essex man that is not ashamed of who he is or where he is from. A hero that knows he should be valued as a person and won’t accept anything less. Darian not only loves and values himself, he also loves and values Ash despite (or maybe because of) all of Ash’s issues. Not once does Darian shy away from Ash’s illness. Instead, he opens his arms and accepts all of Ash. And maybe, in the process of shining all that glittery happiness upon Ash, he can teach him that Ash is also someone to be valued.
Five stars is the highest rating we give out here at Bibliojunkies. I want to give Glitterland ten. That’s how great it is. Thank you, Eloisa James, for recommending this. Thank you, Riptide, for publishing it. And THANK YOU Alexis Hall for writing an absolutely beautiful and sparkling love story.