Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
So this girl loves a good second chance romance. And Ana Ashley’s Stronghold, another Vino & Veritas story in the World of True North universe offers up a solid, emotional romance between childhood best friends.
This is the story of Judson and Skyler, childhood best friends since birth. Judson has been living in Paris for ten years, estranged from his friend, Skyler. While in high school, Skyler spoke against his friend which causes Judson to run away. While gone, Judson changes and becomes a popular chef, leaving it behind when his boyfriend cheats on him. Now home, Judson tries to avoid Skyler; however, their town is small and it’s impossible. On meeting, these two are instantly attracted to each other. Yet, before he left, Judson was the only one who had come out and endured bullying. A decade later, he realizes that Skyler has also come out. All of the feelings he felt for Skyler in their youth cannot be contained, these two journey forward, looking for forgiveness and love.
Ana Ashley’s Stronghold hits on some interesting messages. The most predominant is finding forgiveness. This is the most overt focus of the book, as Judson and Skyler have past wrongs to overcome. Until they do, they cannot find a future together.
Secondly, Judson’s character development is an interesting one as he deals with body dysmorphia. I thought Ashley wrote him responsibly highlighting his constant body issues. Additionally, I love seeing this story wrought through a male character. Even more, the bullying of his youth has skewed perceptions of himself. Of the two main characters, his is the most interesting characterization.
Beyond that, Skyler and Judson’s story feels easy. Ana Ashley’s Stronghold has its moments of tension, but overall, there is a sweetness between Skyler and Judson that you can’t help but love.
In love and romance,