From Ashes by Molly McAdams

Cassidy Jameson's life changed forever on her 6th birthday when her father suddenly dies from a heart attack. Not only did she lose her father, but she lost her mother as well as she drowned her sorrow in alcohol. After her mother remarries, Cassidy becomes the victim of daily physical abuse at the hands of both her drunken stepfather and mother. Through it all, Tyler Bradley has been Cassi's rock and best friend. He was the one who patched Cassi up, the one who kept her secret. He was the only one that Cassi could count on and trusted. When Tyler leaves to attend college in Texas, there is no way that he is leaving Cassi behind, and the two of them head to Texas where they will be living with Tyler's cousin, Gage Carson.

Gage Carson was not what Cassi expected, knowing that his family owned a ranch in Texas. She had been expecting a Stetson-wearing cowboy, but she wasn't expecting the instant and electric connection between herself and Gage from the moment they met. Gage is instantly drawn to Cassi and desires nothing more than to make her his. The problem is that Tyler has staked a claim. From the outside it would appear that Cassi and Tyler are a couple, but Cassi has never felt that way about him. For over a year, Cassidy and Gage dance around their feeling for each other, as Tyler does everything in their power to keep them apart.

When Cassi and Gage do get together, their honeymoon phase doesn't last long. When an accident and a family tragedy sends Cassi running back to Tyler and California, it looks like it might mean the end for Cassi and Gage's relationship. Cassidy will have to face down the down the demons of her past if she ever hopes to have any type of future with Gage. The question is...will Gage be waiting for her when she returns?

I have to admit that I was hesitant to pick up this book after experiencing complete and utter emotional turmoil at the hands of Molly after reading Taking Chances. I just wasn't sure I could survive another book like that! While From Ashes was not emotionally devastating like Taking Chances, it was still an emotional roller coaster. Molly McAdams is a master at creating love triangles and she has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary romance writers. Although this triangle turned into an unnecessary (at least in my opinion) rectangle at one point, I was happy with how the story ended.

From Ashes does deal with some series issues, including domestic violence, so if you are not into that, don't pick this book up. I find it interesting that most of the contemporary romance novels I pick up lately deal with such heavy issues - rape, abuse, cutting, suicide, alcoholism. However, I find myself continually drawn to these characters that are so tragically broken and so beautifully redeemed by love. I'm not sure why these stories appeal to me so much, and it goes deeper than the guy's god-like perfection. Perhaps it's the light driving out the dark? Or maybe it's how truly loving someone and letting yourself be truly loved by someone makes you vulnerable, and through that vulnerability allows you to trust someone else with every flaw, every imperfection, everything that you keep hidden from the world, and accept the beauty of it all. I'm not sure, but as long as authors like Molly McAdams write books like From Ashes, I'll keep reading them (and probably re-reading them).     

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