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Ruth Ryan Langan: Ashes of Dreams

 

Crescent Blues Book Views Berkley Sensation (Paperback), ISBN 0425201511

Book: ruth ryan langan, Ashes of Dreams.
Ruth Ryan Langan, author of the charming Paradise Falls, brings us another heartwarming novel in Ashes of Dreams. If this novel didn't engage me as much as her previous book did, still it presents sympathetic characters, a thoroughly evil antagonist and enough plot twists to keep you guessing.

In 1880s Kentucky, the widow Amanda Jeffrey struggles to maintain the horse farm that her late husband dreamed of. But with three young sons, an ailing father-in-law and a mortgage to contend with, she falls farther and farther behind -- until Irish immigrant Cole Donnelly and his son show up looking for work.

To Amanda, Cole is a godsend. He fixes her fences and barn roof, and he stirs her heart. But Amanda's father-in-law resents Cole for presuming to take his son's place. Others in town dislike Cole for their own nefarious reasons, and Cole himself harbors secrets he prefers to let lie. The mysteries come to a head one summer afternoon during a horse race at the local fairgrounds.

Langan relies on emotional drama rather than an action-packed plot to propel her novel forward. That is all well and good, except the romance between Amanda and Cole never caught my attention enough to make me want to keep reading. I found the dialog between them stilted and lacking the originality that would define them as a couple. Individually, Amanda and Cole work as characters -- they both come alive in the scene in which they assist in the birthing of a filly -- but Langan failed to show me true romance between them.

My favorite character proved to be Devin, Cole's son. Devin harbors a secret of his own. Alone in the world with a father he believes doesn't love him, Devin begins to come out of his shell on Amanda's farm. Against all odds, Devin forms a friendship with Beau, Amanda's feared stallion. Together the two outcasts will run a horse race that brings mysteries into the light of day and unites two broken families.

Ashes of Dreams contains flaws, yes, but still it speaks to the basic desire in all of us for a family and home. Delightful in its flashes of humor, poignant in its depiction of human characters, Ashes of Dreams makes for a good rainy afternoon read.

Kathryn Yelinek

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