Awakening Alex

Badlands Law

Blackthorne

Briana

Courtship of Izzy McCree

Cover-Up

His Father's Son

Return of the Prodigal Son

Rory

The Sea Nymph

The Sea Sprite

The Sea Witch

Snowbound Cinderella

The Wildes of Wyoming: Ace

 
Ashes Of Dreams
by Ruth Ryan Langan
(Berkley, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-20151-1
****
When one reads genre fiction, one has to expect that thereís going to be a formula. Also, plots have a way of getting recycled. Iíve read Ashes Of Dreams before. Just with different titles and different authors writing the story. But it doesnít make this version any less entertaining. When I settled into the first chapter I knew this story was being told by a pro. Ashes Of Dreams is a pleasure to read.

Amanda Jeffrey is hanging on by a thread. When her husband died the previous year, he left her with a Kentucky horse farm in debt to the bank, a crotchety father-in-law and three young boys to raise. When her father-in-law takes a tumble while repairing the barn roof, itís up to Amanda and her overwhelmed children to pick up the slack.

Like manna from heaven, Colin ďColeĒ Donnelly and his young son, Devin, come riding to the rescue. In exchange for meals and a place to sleep, theyíll take over the farm chores and do repairs on her barn and fences. Having left Ireland several years previously, the Donnellys came to America and immediately started working their way west.

Toss in the disapproving father-in-law, the immediate attraction between Amanda and Colin, Colinís past in Ireland, a neighboring farmer who wants Amandaís land and you have a tried and true story. However, Langan keeps it fresh and lively, throwing in a couple of twists. Itís also very evident that Langan has spent many years writing for Harlequin Historicals. Donít let the short page count (278 pages) turn you off. This story is lean and mean, with no fat mucking up the flow of the tale.

Amanda is a strong woman trying to make the best of an unenviable situation. The horse farm was Shaneís dream. When he died, that dream went up in smoke. Still, itís in honor of his memory that she doesnít sell and move on. She wants to try and make a go of it, not only for Shaneís memory, but also as a legacy for her sons. Frankly, itís nice to read about a widowed heroine who loved her husband, worked beside him, misses him, and actually misses sex. Colinís arrival awakens a lot of buried feelings.

While raised in privilege, Colinís memories of Ireland are not happy ones. He drags his son halfway around the world in order for a fresh start, but is unable to work through his past. Heís attracted to Amandaís spunk, work ethic, beauty and just the fact that sheís a good woman. These are nice people who deserve their happily ever after.

The secondary characters help move the story along and add most of the conflict. Most notable are the children, who actually behave like children. Amandaís sons want to help their mother, but given their young ages theyíre a bit overwhelmed. The real standout though is Colinís son, who adds another dimension to the story and takes on a more prominent role in the second half.

Langan has a tendency to wax poetic during the love scenes, most notably with Colinís dialogue Ė but heís a romantic Irishman, so thatís probably to be expected. And she merely wades in Purple Prose Lake instead of jumping in the deep end. The late 19th century Kentucky setting is drawn well, and should be just the ticket for readers who want an American historical, as opposed to a flat-out western or English setting. For sheer entertainment value, Ashes Of Dreams is a treat. The fact that Langan is a skilled writer certainly doesnít hurt either.

--Wendy Crutcher


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