Saturday, February 18, 2012

From Ashes to Honor by Lorlee Lough

From the cover and the fact that this is the first in the “First Responder” series, I was expecting an action book. There is not much action in this book, however. It is pretty much all character study.
Austin Finley was a police officer in New York City in September of 2011. His brother had been bothering him with phone calls for days and on September 11, Austin ignored yet one more call. But this call was the last from his brother who died on 9/11.
Dealing with regret and guilt, anger and alcohol, Austin is told he must see the police psychiatrist. After stormy sessions, Dr. Mercy Samara recommends desk duty. Austin leaves the force and becomes an EMT in Baltimore.
Dr. Samara has her own issues. Unable to cope with all the stories and memories of 9/11, she becomes a high school counselor...in Baltimore.
When a football practice incident requires an ambulance, Austin and Mercy come face to face and are shocked to see each other. It seems Austin had been attracted to Mercy and the two get reacquainted.

For me, this novel just did not work. In the opening scenes, the animosity between Austin and Dr. Samara is clear. That he would be attracted to her when he sees her again, years later, is rather abrupt and out of the flow of the earlier scene.
Austin's gotten his life together and is now a committed Christian. Mercy is a different story. She has given up on the God of her father and is bitter toward Him. She is angry at God for the murder of her father and all the other hurts she has experienced. She has even tried to commit suicide. (I find it hard to believe that a high school would hire her as a counselor with an attempted suicide in her history.)
Nonetheless, Austin pursues Mercy and they have a rocky relationship, trying to move beyond all the hurts each have experienced. Throw in a quirky couple that live next to Austin and Mercy getting attacked and beaten by three teen muggers and you have the story.

The flow of the book is odd. One chapter ends with Austin being sure he cannot pursue the relationship and the next page just continues on as if he never had the thoughts. A few chapters later and Mercy goes through the same thoughts yet the next chapter's opening as if the thoughts never occurred. I felt jerked around a bit.

And the end of the book is unsatisfactory. It just stops in the midst of the two developing their relationship. It could have stopped a hundred or two hundred pages earlier with the same effect. I have started reading the second in this series and was very surprised to read that Austin and Mercy are engaged. I was surprised because at the end of this book, there are so many issues that needed to be resolved before that could happen. Namely, has Mercy become a Christian?
This abrupt transition is typical of the book. The first book ends with what appears to be insurmountable problems and the second book opens with no mention of the problems (at least in the beginning) and the two are engaged and apparently set to live happily ever after.  (It must be the boilerplate Christian romance genre thing.)

Lorlee Lough has written over eighty books.  Many have been for the Christian romance genre. You can find out more about her and her books at www.lorleelough.com.

Abingdon Press, 336 pages.
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