When I was very kindly offered this chance to appear on ‘Guys Like Romance Too’ the brief was to pick one of my stories that had a life changing event. Things like that happen in a lot of my books!
After deliberating for ages I decided to pick A Slow Process of Understanding because I’m proud of the story and I think it has a truly dramatic life changing event.
Have you ever felt like you’re doing the right thing, the good thing, and everyone else around you isn’t necessarily wrong but you are definitely more virtuous than they are? Go on, admit it, have you ever felt a tiny bit smug? That’s how Jimmy feels in the story. In his world slavery is common and completely accepted. But he doesn’t want to be one of those nasty owners he’s seen around. No, he’s different, better. He might not have wanted a slave but now he has one he’s going to be good to him and treat him decently.
He’s basking in his own righteous glow when something happens that throws him into complete confusion. This life changing event makes him stop and re-evaluate everything he thought he knew. He questions his own family, the world around him and, the most difficult of all to do, himself.
Who is he? What is he? What type of man does he want to be? It’s not easy to be put in a position when you question everything. It would be very easy to ignore it, turn away and stick to what he knows, what’s commonly accepted. It would need an exceptional man to take the tougher route.
Can Jimmy be that man? He’s not sure. As for romance? That’s just a distant dream.
Blurb for A Slow Process of Understanding:
How does a world that accepts slavery affect both master and slave? Can two people build a new life for themselves with a start like theirs?
It’s a world like this one except for the all-powerful State that’s very firmly in control and the fact that slavery is legal. Jimmy had never really thought about it or the fight for freedom going on around him. He was too busy enjoying his privileged life as an actor on a sci-fi show.
But what is he meant to do when he’s forced to permanently bond to a slave he doesn’t want just because he made one silly, drunken mistake? Does it change who he is, what he is?
Trouble is, Jimmy isn’t sure who he was to start with. He’d never thought about it.
And what about his slave, Nate? Can a slave force Jimmy into learning something about himself?
Reader Advisory: This book contains a scene of rape and references to dubious consent.
Excerpt from A Slow Process of Understanding:‘It’s not fucking fair,’ was all that kept going through Jimmy’s mind. Over and over on repeat. It wasn’t fucking fair—not fair he was here, not fair he’d be here for weeks, not fucking fair he was being forced to bond with some guy he didn’t even know. How could something like that ever be fair?
Okay, so maybe he’d stepped out of line and said things he shouldn’t, to people he shouldn’t. Said them long and loud. But he’d been drunk, and everyone knew he was an arsehole when he was drunk. He’d just kind of assumed they knew he was he was a friendly, didn’t-mean-it kind of arsehole.
And okay, maybe he had hit someone, but he hadn’t meant that either. He was the kind of drunk that did stupid things they wouldn’t normally—things they didn’t mean. Hit people they didn’t mean to. It wasn’t personal. He hadn’t known who the guy was. Just some random kid, who just happened to have a powerful mother.
Was it such a crime to get drunk and say things he shouldn’t, in front of people he shouldn’t? And hit people he shouldn’t?
Yeah, actually even he knew it was a crime, but shit, this was a hell of a punishment.
He was a good guy really, only the authorities hadn’t seen it like that, and now he was fucking stuck here. Even the minor celebrity that came with being on a TV show with plastic spaceships hadn’t bought him any leeway. But he should have known that, known what a hard, unforgiving bastard The State could be.
Now he had to pay for his stupidity. Nothing else to do now but suck it up and pay his dues.
But it might not be all bad. They’d told him he was going to be bonded with this guy—which was as near as damn it to fucking marriage—but the man would still be Jimmy’s slave. Jimmy would own him, be accountable and responsible for him. That was supposed to be part of his punishment. To teach him to be responsible, so in future, he’d act that way toward The State.
Owning a slave. That was a weird concept, but there could be positives.
He wasn’t about to treat a slave the way some people did. He’d seen it—at parties, around, hell, on the streets. Slaves bent over and fucked, passed around for anyone’s pleasure. Treated as slabs of meat. He wasn’t about to do anything like that. He’d be fair, protect him from the perverts. He’d be responsible, just like they wanted, even if it wasn’t fair.
They both knew the score, knew there’d have to be sex, but he knew how to treat a person right. Slaves were people, no matter what The State said. He’d take the free, no-strings sex as a bonus. But people, anyone, deserved to be treated right.
He might not have understood the freedom movement, but he could help one man live an easier life. He’d be doing his small part to make the world a more decent place. He’d be responsible and accept his punishment like a man. Once he got through prison.
That made him feel a little better about everything.
He just hoped the guy didn’t look like the tail end of a rhinoceros.
Two-and-a-half hours later, just as Jimmy was beginning to think that nothing would ever happen and that the silence would eat his brain away, his cell was unlocked. Three men held the door open for him, the first one pointing to the door. “It’s time,” he said.
Jimmy was led along numerous corridors, his hands sweating, his belly rolling every step of the way. He knew what was coming. He’d be all right, but still, shit. He rubbed his palms on the back of his jeans but the moisture was replaced as soon as he wiped it away.
On into a court room with more people, all the equipment laid out ready. Hell, this was real. This was really going to happen.
About Faith Ashlin:
When Faith was clearing out her attic many years ago, she found a book she'd written as a ten-year-old. On rereading it she realised that it was the love story of two boys. Over the years her fascination with the image of beautiful young men, coiled together as they fell head over heels in love, became a passion for her.
Since that first innocent book—written in purple sparkly pen—she has written many stories, set in varied worlds, but always with two men finding their way to happiness.
Still nothing much has changed because now she can be found in a daydream, wandering around the supermarket, or sitting in a meeting at work still dreaming up stories.