There are rules in romance books. Readers who are new to romance quickly learn that based on your genre, sub-genre, and trope, there are things that Should or Should Not Happen in a book, and to deviate from that leaves readers confused or even angry.
In their book Stay, Ash Knight nods to the tropes, the guidelines, and the ‘must-have’s’ of a hurt/comfort story. But she does it in a way that is unique and true to life without losing the little pieces of authenticity and hard-won lessons that can often be missing in renditions of weathered romance tales.
Stay is a heartwarming gay romance featuring a main character on the autistic spectrum, giving light to two minorities that don’t often fit into the mainstream, let alone together. More than that, it’s a beautiful example of what a deep, communicative relationship can be between two very different people, even after the experience of severe trauma.
Our story begins with Madden living a life of routine and normalcy as an ER nurse, a strong juxtaposition to the life of Joe, homeless and making his bed behind a gym. A storm sets the two on the path to each other thanks to the kindness of Lulu, the owner of a local cafe, and we begin our journey towards Joe and Madden finding themselves in each other.
One of the most interesting things I found about Stay is that it delves deep into the thought process and relationship of someone on the autistic spectrum. Even within the book it’s made clear that there’s no one experience of autism, and that Joe’s experience isn’t meant to be the Bible of how people on the spectrum live or behave. It was nice though to see the different ways Joe looks at things explained on the page, and it made me think a lot about my own experience with friends or students I’ve known on the spectrum.
It’s also nice to see another gay romance where the relationship is normalized. There is some mention of past coming out, but the story itself is not about coming out as gay. The people around the characters don’t bat an eye at the same-sex part of their relationship, and it never becomes an issue. It was refreshing.
Should You Read It:
As always, please be aware of any Trigger Warnings that may be relevant to you. I’ve included a list at the bottom of the review. There are some pretty significant ones in the novel, so please take caution if you have concerns.
In a nutshell—if you like gay romance, Stay is a book you’ll want to add to your To Be Read pile. It has all the hallmarks of a good gay romance, but still managed to go above and beyond the genre-typical fare. There is a reason why this book was a Goodreads Member Choice Awards Nominee in the Debut Author category. Ash Knight knows how to balance tension and comfort for a read that is hard to put down, and you’ll be sad to see it end.
If you aren’t someone who’s delved into the gay romance genre, this is a book for people who enjoy reading stories of redemption through love and companionship, of two people becoming better for their relationship. It’s a romance in the truest sense of the word, not just as a vehicle for a physical relationship.
Trigger Warnings: Sexual Assault, Past Rape, Homelessness, Violence, Sexual Situations