After losing her husband in the Civil War, Carrie Daly has almost given up on finding love. She's placed her hopes for the future in her relationship with local bookseller Nate Christian. It's not a passionate relationship, but affection and genuine friendship seem enough--almost. But after Griff Rutledge rides into town, Carrie's life takes a sudden turn. Her fiance turns to another woman, and Cary has to take on the responsibility of caring for her brother's shrewish wife and two spoiled step-sons. When everything she loves seems to have gone up in smoke, is there still hope for true happiness?
If you enjoy historical romance, this is a good read. Beauty for Ashes is the second book in the Hickory Ridge series, and I would recommend reading the books in order. The first book in the series is Beyond all Measure. This book functions decently as a stand-alone, but there's enough continuity of characters and plot details to warrant reading the series in order.
I appreciated Carrie's character. She's human, with very real flaws and doubts. Even Mary--Carrie's shrewish sister-in-law--has more depth to her than it might first appear. It was also nice to see Griff's genuine kindness and generosity unfold over the course of the novel. Where the novel really shines, though, is with Carrie's spiritual struggle: can she trust God enough to surrender everything? Can God really be trusted with her happiness? Those are questions many of us face. Walking with Carrie as she faces her struggles can help shed clarity on ours as well.
Overall, it's a good book with a decently paced plot and well-rounded characters that also deals honestly with tough questions of faith. I'm looking forward to seeing more from this author.