Ash Winters is barely holding on, near drowning in his own darkness and fear. He lives a gray shadow of a life, sullen and cynical, unable to remember hope or happiness - much less the distant, fading glitterball of love. It has to be a sick joke of the universe that he finds himself hooked up with good-humored Essex boy Darian Taylor, a wannabe model in a sparkly jacket and a fake tan. Darian may not be an intellectual giant, but he's hysterically funny, and he's got the courage to challenge Ash to live again. Just being able to laugh is extraordinary enough to Ash. Loving may be a gift he can't bear to accept, even if his denial breaks the biggest heart he's ever known.
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Coming in to this audiobook, I already loved Glitterland, which I had read in ebook before. It's a smart, humane, emotionally honest, entertaining story. We experience it through Ash, the writer A.A. Winters, who has mental health issues, among them bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. The story starts out right at the start of an episode he has after a certain hook-up. We see him at, not his worst, but certainly not his best, where he calls up his friend/former lover, Niall, who's had to literally save his life before and is pressed into picking Ash up. It's a bold move to start off a romance with that scene. Neither man comes off very well (though only one is one-half of the main couple) and it is not a light start, but it's perfect, pulling the reader in and giving us insight already into these characters and their story.
Next we're introduced to the other half of the romantic pairing. Ash is struck by the look of a man on the dance floor at another friend's stag night, a man whose silver epaulets, among other things, catch his eye. "He was a ridiculous creature. A vulgar, glittering pirate of a man, all jewellery and fake tan, gold glinting in his ears, on his fingers and round his wrists. His dark hair gleamed with product and had been painstakingly teased into a quiff, that defied taste, reason, and gravity. And I couldn't stop looking at him." And that's when we first meet Darian, the wannabe model out of Essex, whose bright smile and brighter clothing, charms his way into a hook-up with the very opposite Ash.
What follows next is a strange courtship, with the open, big-hearted, self-identified shallow Darian seeing something amazing in the dark, struggling, often caustic Ash. It's never supposed to be something for Ash, but he can't help but be drawn to thoughts and then action when it comes to Darian. And Darian, while seeming less complicated than Ash, has a boldness and backbone that pushes these two together as much as Ash's inability to stay away. These two opposites bring a unique equality to their relationship that's wonderful to watch.
There is no straight shot to a happily ever after, a thing maybe that can't even be hoped for, for these two. There are complications and misunderstandings and some may wonder how things could ever be patched up again, but that's the power of Alexis Hall's writing here. Things do come together, in their perfectly imperfect way, and it's real, and it's beautiful. There were tears and sniffling from them and me by the end.
When I said at the beginning that I already loved Glitterland, it was a shallow love compared to how I feel about it now that I've experienced it through Nicholas Boulton's stunning narration. This was the first audiobook of his I've read, and I was absolutely blown away. No way, NO WAY, was I listening to just one person who sounds, as Darian proclaims about Ash, "Omigod, you talk like the Queen. Are you in parliament?" and then also as Darian, with his Essex accent who says things like "There you go, babes. That was ahwight, wunit." (Direct quote from the book.) And it wasn't just the accents that Nicholas does, it's the emotion and personality of each person and line that shine. I wish I could pull little samples to include because there are so many brilliant moments throughout where it's so pitch perfect as to feel like I was actually eavesdropping instead of listening to a performance. Just top shelf the whole way through, and I can't recommend the experience enough.
- Carolyn AKA The Reader "Eclectic reader, from YA to adult. Favorites include romance & mystery, but I'll give anything with interesting words a try. Love diversity."
Great story, ridiculously amazing narration
“Why, in all the vastness of the world, did a sparkly idiot from Essex make me feel alive?”
So, this is my first romance where both of the main characters are male. I'm not going to lie, I don't think I would have read/listened to this if it hadn't been narrated by Nicholas Boulton, who is my very favorite narrator (no surprise that he is nothing short of brilliant in this story (that Essex accent!) Needless to say, I am so glad that I did.
Aside from the ridiculously amazing narration, I was surprised how much I liked the story… how well written it was. The author conveyed the relationship between Ash, a bitter bi-polar writer and Dorian, the “glittering pirate” model from Essex with such poetic vulnerability. I just loved both of them and how well they complimented each other- uptight, messed up Ash and beautiful, carefree Dorian. It was an erotic *cue blushing* heart- warming, funny, soul- laid- bare kind of book.