From Ashes to Honor
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Like so many people, I found myself dreading September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the worst-ever terrorist attack on United States soil. I’m a sensitive person to begin with, and I knew that the day would be spent in tears, reliving some of the very darkest days of our nation’s history. My birthday happens to fall ten days after the date, and my husband bought me an early birthday present: a Kindle e-reader. As I was browsing the thousands of free books, I stumbled across From Ashes to Honor, a romance novel set in the present day and centered around two people coping with memories, regret, and guilt from that horrible day. I had hoped to find a ray of sunshine from the shadow of 9/11—love among the ashes—but, unfortunately, I was disappointed.

In the book’s opening pages, we meet Austin Finley, a New York City police officer who’s forced into therapy by his superiors in an attempt to deal with the post traumatic stress syndrome, survivor’s guilt, and alcoholism that have been plaguing him since 9/11. Not only is Austin haunted by memories of the Twin Towers falling and the subsequent rescue efforts, but he wound up ignoring a phone call from his twin brother on that September morning, only to learn later that his brother eventually perished during the attack.

Austin is defiant and combative, and he spars with his therapist, Dr. Mercy Samara. Mercy has her own demons to deal with: family drama, her father’s death, and the guilt that she feels after another of her clients, also a member of the NYPD, commits suicide. Austin and Mercy don’t exactly hit it off, and they wind up going their separate ways after their therapy sessions end. A few years later, they find themselves thrown together again, and they begin to see each other in a different light. Presumably free of the doctor/patient relationship, Austin and Mercy begin to contemplate an entirely different type of relationship. But can they let go of their past demons and find enough common ground to make it work?

All in all, I have to say that I was disappointed by From Ashes to Honor. I had to keep reminding myself of something my dad always used to say: “You get what you pay for.” This was a free e-book, after all, so I couldn’t expect a masterpiece.

I didn’t particularly care for either of the main characters. Mercy Samara is a total Mary Sue—a perfect woman who instantly charms every single person she meets. Austin is, by turns, affectionate and cool, moody and mercurial—and not a little judgmental.

The largest roadblock to their romance is that Austin (at some point after 9/11) has been “born again,” while Mercy is an avowed atheist. As a person of faith, I had a problem with both characterizations. Austin seems to (pardon the pun) lord his faith over Mercy, and he even gets to the point where he wonders if he can even love a “nonbeliever.” Meanwhile, Mercy is hung up on the question of “why does God let bad things happen to good people?” and “He never answers my prayers, so He must not exist.” (I’ve always said that God always answers prayers—it’s just that sometimes the answer is “no.”) Mercy thinks only of what God can do for her, and Austin seems to think he’s better than she is, simply because he believes. Every time the subject would come up, the couple would descend into stony silence, and that was it. So I really could have done without the faith aspect. I felt it wasn’t fleshed out enough to cause any real tension. And, of course, since faith plays such a large role, there are no sex scenes—at all.

To make it even worse, From Ashes to Honor has the most unsatisfying ending that I’ve ever read. So my suggestion for you, dear readers, is to save yourself the trouble and fork over the eight bucks for a better book.

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