Release Reviews: Textual Relations: Cate Ashwood

Textual Relations
Cate Ashwood
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Released August 6, 2017
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Evolutionary psychology professor Henry Hathaway is ready to spend his birthday the same way he does every year: a good teeth cleaning followed by lunch with his brother. But when he receives a wrong-number text confirming the details of a date, he does what any considerate person would—he goes to meet them and explain why they've been stood up. 

Asher Wescott hadn't expected his blind date to go well, because when do they ever? Henry shows up instead, and things are suddenly looking up. Socially awkward and attached to his routines, Henry is nevertheless one of the most charming and kind men Asher has met in a long time. 

Too bad he's not Henry's type. 

An accidental date, an impulsive kiss, and a few conflicted feelings later, can Asher get Henry to see the world—and him—in a different light?

Henry Hathaway is spending his birthday in the same way he does every year. But a text from a wrong number sets of a chain of events he never saw coming.

Henry is an evolutionary psych professor and he values routines and order. He is a reader, loner, and is socially awkward. For someone so intelligent, he is clueless about how relationships and dating work. But he is a nice, kind, and charming guy.

When Henry goes to meet the person behind the text just to make sure they were not kept waiting, he meets Asher Wescott. Ash could not be more different than Henry. He is built, outgoing, spontaneous, confident, and knows what he wants. He is a bit of a playboy and gets bored easily. He loves adventure and is not afraid of taking risks.

These two end up spending the rest of the evening together. Henry starts stepping out of his comfort zone with Ash by his side. But the night ends with a bit of a surprise. And that is enough to get Henry thinking and worrying and scurrying back to his comfort zone. But Ash is not ready to give up on Henry yet. I liked their rapport and easy connection. I enjoyed their building trust and willingness to try new experiences. I liked how these two were opposites, but also could balance each other and push the other out of their comfort zones. 

This is a light, sweet, heartfelt, low angst novella about self discovery, passion, and opposites attracting. It poses the question of is it better to analyze life or actually live it? It is told in Henry's quirky point of view and we get to see his confusion and  insecurities while he begins to redefine his thinking and make some changes. I would have maybe liked to see Asher's point of view. I wanted to really see why he was attracted to the more serious and awkward Henry especially in the beginning. Because I liked these characters, I would have actually enjoyed getting a longer story with these two and getting to see more development and relationship building. But in this short novella, I did like the fact that there were a few time jumps so that the whole story did not occur in a few days or a week. Even though we did not get to see some of the development take place, we at least knew they had real time to get there and could see how they progressed.

They both learned some new things about themselves and relationships, and got a reset on life due to a misdirected text whether it be by luck, fate, or pure accident. And this is just one of those easy, delightful reads that makes you smile.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 
Textual Relations is my first exposure to the writing of Cate Ashwood, and it is a good and quick read with an interesting premise and a story that flows directly from it without pretense. It is a novella, though, so like many short romances, it hits most of the important points without delving too much into issues or conflicts that are not immediately relevant to the story’s set-up or its characters. The result is a largely cute and fluffy read that is perfect for a lazy afternoon or a comfortable evening.

The initial set-up of Textual Relations is the book’s strongest element. Socially awkward psychology professor Henry Hathaway receives a text message from a number he doesn’t recognize which is clearly the details of a blind date. But instead of texting back about being the wrong number like any rational person would do, he decides to meet the person face-to-face. What results is an evening that Henry interprets to be two straight guys enjoying some time together. Until Asher kisses him. The aftermath turns Henry’s world upside down and makes him question everything he ever thought about himself sexually. Henry’s naïveté is rather amusing throughout the story, especially considering he’s a psychologist who is seemingly unable to read social cues at all. This results in Henry depending on routine, keeping as much the same as he can. Asher, however, is the sort of guy who likes doing new things, a characteristic that extends to his dating practices.

As I mentioned before, this is a novella, which means there isn’t a lot of space for the characters or the story to be very complex. The story is written entirely from Henry’s perspective, so as a result, Henry’s character feeling much more rounded than Asher’s. The plot, though, is a good example of one that has a steady focus pulling it forward, Henry’s sexual self-discovery couched within a sweet, unrushed, opposites-attract story. By unrushed, I mean that the author hasn’t tried to squish everything into the span of a week or two the way many novellas do. Honestly, this is another of the book’s best attributes. Instead of being filled with the minutiae of Henry’s life, there are well-documented time gaps that keep the story focused on the relationship’s development. In addition, there is very little angst and conflict to be found, and the writing style is equally smooth and uncomplicated. These facts make this book something that should work perfectly for someone who is looking for a story that won’t require much thinking but not for someone who needs emotional complexity, unexpected plot twists, or heart-rending relationship issues in order to get big feels and satisfaction out of a story.

While I rarely crave books that have the sort of simple, fluffy, and generally conflict-free storyline contained in Textual Relations, there are times that I do. Working under the assumption that this is a good example of the sorts of books Cate Ashwood writes, I definitely know where to turn when the urge strikes, as I enjoyed this little gem. And fortunately, I read it while I’m on vacation, so the timing was perfect for fluffy goodness.

The author generously provided me a copy of Textual Relations in exchange for this fair and honest review.
Cate Ashwood
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Cate discovered her love for books of all kinds early on, but romance is where her heart truly lies. She is addicted to the happily ever afters and the journey the characters take to get there. Currently residing in White Rock, B.C, Cate loves living just a stone's throw from the ocean. When she's not writing, she can be found consuming coffee at an alarming rate while wrangling her children, her husband, and their two cats. Cate loves to hear from readers. 


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