From Ashes to Honor by Loree Lough has excellent characterization, an interesting plot, and a strong, faith-based message. It was an interesting, enjoyable, easy read. It left me with hope for Austin, Bud, and Flora and an understanding of the struggles faced by Mercy, Griff, and Cora. However, though the characterization was excellent, the plot at times seemed very slightly under-developed by comparison, especially considering the main hero was an EMT, the heroine was attacked, and two other minor characters (Flora and Griff) faced similar crises.
In the introduction, Loree explains that she seeks to illuminate and praise the heroism, faith, and strength of the first responders of September 11, and all first responders since. This, she does, and she does it well through her depiction of Austin, one of the two main characters. Hero Austin, though challenged by all he has faced, is invincible, strong, and stalwart--honorable and admirable because of the issues he has overcome. Austin's struggle and strength after September 11th were poignant, heart-warming, touching, and inspiring. They teach the reader much about what it means to be a Christian and face incredibly painful circumstances beyond our control yet to hold fast to our convictions and faith. They teach us about real life issues, such as regrets that cannot be righted, grief, doubt, alcoholism, and burdensome obligations. And Austin's struggle ultimately, with the ending, reminds us that peace and resolution comes only from once source--God.
However, after the tragedy of September 11th, certain elements of this book compound tragedy upon tragedy lacking resolution, especially for Dr. Mercy Samara. Was it a well-written, good book? Yes. But was I satisfied with the ending? No. I was surprised when I realized I was on the last page. I thumbed backwards to see if I had skimmed over a paragraph and missed some essential resolution. I thumbed forward to the preview of the next book in the series to see if Lough would pick up where this book ends (it does not seem that she does). I went back to the introduction to read again what Lough's purpose in writing this book was. And I immediately began to list out in my head all of the elements of the plot that prevented a resolution that spoke of hope, comfort, and love for Mercy. There were many, and the plot seemed a bit unfair to Mercy.
Does the book portray real life, regardless of how things end? Yes. Should ultimately our peace stem from God and our divine romance with Him? Yes. Shouldn't I be accepting of a hero who chooses God above all else? Yes. Was the plot Biblical and full of truth in every aspect? Yes. Yet what would have been a five star read became something a bit less for me. What was lacking was resolution of Mercy's story and hardships. Her resolution didn't have to be happy, it didn't have to be what I would have chosen, but she needed to be given relevance and consideration. Because she was a prominent character, I felt like she deserved a more substantial role in the ending. Her feelings toward her mother and even her attackers were never re-visited in the book.
All in all, however, a good read that lacks a resolute ending.