Amaranth and Ash by Jessica Freely
Publisher: Loose ID
Length: Full Length (150 pgs)
Other: M/F, M/M, Multiple Partners, Anal Play, Fetish
Rating: 4 cherries
Reviewed by Anemone
In a world where everyone has their place, Amaranth and Ash belong together.
Amaranth is a vasai, born with both male and female characteristics, and a soul that can reach out and touch the souls of others in order to heal them. But a vasai’s services are only for the Elai, and they demand sexual satisfaction as well as healing from their beautiful servants. Frustrated with these constraints, Amaranth wants to use his talent to help those who really need it.
Ash is a chel. Considered devoid of souls, chel are the lowest of the low. Not content with his lot, Ash steals from the middle class pel. One night he’s caught and brutally punished.
A soul in agony calls out to Amaranth from across the city. When he discovers that it belongs to a chel, it only confirms his worst suspicions about the lies of the Elai. Amaranth takes Ash home and heals him, an act of rebellion that could cost both their lives.
Amaranth's compassion for Ash soon turns to passion. Ash treats him like a person, not an instrument of sexual gratification. Neither of them have much experience with mutual pleasure but together they embark on an exploration of intimacy and desire that carries them to the heights of passion and love -- and shakes the very foundation of their world.
Jessica Freely takes us to a whole new world with her romance, Amaranth and Ash. Amaranth, an intersex vasai healer, is instantly a character I felt curious about and drawn to. Amaranth's world rocked when he reaches out to help a soul in need of healing, one belonging to Ash, a chel. Everything he knows about his world is shattered because he has been told up until now that chels have no souls.
When I first read Amaranth was a character with both male and female gentalia, I was curious about a romance and the sex between the two main characters. This wasn't just a romance but a heartfelt tale of healing after a brutal attack on Ash (there is a mention of rape later on but the act isn't shown). The characters fall deeply in love, even though them being together is forbidden. When Ash realizes the two of them can't be together because of their differences he leaves, only to have Amaranth chase after him when Amaranth realizes Ash is his one and only love.
After a slow start, this book dug into my soul with a love I felt jumping off the pages. At times I wanted to yell at Ash for being so stupid and I wanted to hold Amaranth as his heart broke when Ash left. That was how real the characters seemed to me. At the beginning of the novel, there is a foreword explaining the intersex words “sie” and “hir” but it confused me before and it still confuses me now. Amaranth identifies as a male, that was enough for me. The sex scenes were very well written but Ash is a man and Amaranth does have male and female bits. So I can't put it in the either the gay or heterosexual category.
In a nutshell, this isn't your mother's romance novel. Jessica Freely has created two beautiful characters that live on in my heart. Amaranth and Ash have an unusual love that left me wishing for more from this universe. This book was a different take on your average romance, even though it gave me the happily ever after I was hoping for.