It's always surprising to me when—even after I've read hundreds of romance books—new books come along and make me fall in love with them. Right when I think that I've read everything, I'm proven wrong.

Ashes of You by Catherine Cowles was one such book. I was wary when I saw the hype right after it's release but now I can say that it's worth the hype.

about Ashes of You

ashes of you by catherine cowles book review

Five years ago, I nearly lost everything. But there was a glimmer of hope on that darkest night. There was him—a stranger I could never forget.

Now, I’m finally getting the fresh start I’ve longed for. But when I show up to interview for a nanny position in the small mountain town, the single dad has startlingly familiar blue eyes.

Eyes that have haunted my dreams for the past five years.

Lawson Hartley is everything I know I can’t have. Older, handsome, and my boss. Not to mention the shadows in his eyes that tell me he has demons, too.

Still, he seems to understand me better than anyone I’ve ever met. So gentle and careful of my scars, yet somehow making me believe I’m stronger than I ever thought possible.

And when his lips touch mine, I’m lost.

We find what we've been missing in each other. But the terrors of my past aren’t done with me yet, and this time, Lawson might not be able to save me...

Content warnings: kidnapping, violence, PTSD, anxiety, murder, maiming, forceful branding, active serial killer, torture, near-death experiences, weapons and gun violence, physical altercations.

my review

I've read one of Catherine Cowles' books before and it wasn't my cup of tea. It was actually the 2nd book in the same Lost and Found series called Echoes of You. It had a good premise but I didn't like the execution.

I was looking for a good romance recommendation to pull me out of a slump and saw Ashes of You being praised by Sil soon after its release. I decided to give it a try based on the premise and hoped that it would be good.

Keep moving. Keep moving. Keep moving.

The book starts with a chilling prologue where Hallie, one of the main characters, is running from someone in the dead of winter and collapses when she finds help. Right before she loses consciousness, she is comforted by the blue eyes of the person whom she meets.

Prologues are often too short, make no sense, or are there simply to shock and hook the reader. In Ashes of You, it is used well. The prologue is a good indication of what the book is like. It shows how the book is not light-hearted and deals with heavy things but there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

I liked how the prologue easily showed us what the main characters are like in a few pages. We learn that Hallie is running from someone, we learn that she's brave and a fighter, and her fear bleeds through the words. We also learn that the person she meets is immediately compassionate about her pain and is comforting.

The prologue also makes us so curious. Who is she running from? What happened? Who's this guy? How's their story going to play out?

I may be talking too much about a simple prologue. But I liked how it was written and how just by reading it, I could tell that I would like this book.

Everyone has a battle, an inner war they hide from the world. It's good to remember that.

Cut to a few years later, we are introduced to Lawson, the chief of police and single parent of 3 rambunctious boys. He's looking for a nanny to help manage things and coincidentally, Hallie shows up to be interviewed. He's shocked by seeing Hallie for the first time since rescuing her and hires her as she is far better than other candidates that he's interviewed.

Both Hallie and Lawson try to ignore their chemistry and suppress their feelings. But of course, there's an undeniable connection between them and slowly they bond and fall in love.

Although there was a mutual attraction between them, they didn't fall into a romance immediately. Both of them have things to deal with—from the past and present. They slowly fell in love through the routines of daily life. I really liked that.

We get a lot of simple moments where they cook or wash dishes together, play games with Lawson's kids, and hang out normally. The tension between them simmered until they finally couldn't deny it.

Another thing I liked was how Hallie made the first move. Usually in romance books with a heroine with a bad past, the guy takes over everything. He pushes ahead to take care of the woman, confesses his feelings, and helps her get over her past. It was not like that here.

Sure, Lawson has a soft spot for Hallie but he doesn't act as if his life revolves around her from that moment onwards. He also has some baggage from his past relationship to work through. As the days pass by, they learn about each other and they work through their issues together.

Ashes of You has a couple of "damsel in distress" moments where he rushes to save her when something happens. Both of the scenes were very similar and I felt like just one would have been enough. But okay.

I didn't blame my son for demanding she stick around. Her presence seemed to bring a new warmth to the house, shifting the energy somehow.

I loved the family aspect more than the romance. Romance is comforting but there's nothing more comforting than finding a family. I love how the different relationships are formed in different ways.

Lawson has 3 sons of different ages and very different personalities. The 16-year-old grumpy Luke hiding a soft heart, the 13-year-old Drew whose language is filled with "bruh" and "babes", and the 6-year-old Charlie who loves animals and has a ton of energy. I was charmed by all three of the boys.

It was so nice to see the way the three of them bonded with Hallie. Charlie immediately took to her when she said that she had a bearded dragon as a pet once and Drew pretty much proposed to her because she cooks well. Luke and Hallie got off on the wrong foot initially but it made their relationship much more sweeter when they bonded.

Ashes of You didn't skimp on the boys. Lawson and Hallie are important but Luke, Drew, and Charlie are given a lot of page time and importance as well. I loved reading about the shenanigans the boys were up to. I loved their banter with each other and their dad. I loved how they quickly became protective of Hallie. I loved how Hallie easily fit into their lives and helped them.

At the start of the book, Luke is not happy with his dad and Lawson has no idea why. As the book goes on, their relationship goes through a wringer before getting resolved. So it's not just the romance. We see different kinds of relationships growing in this book.

The bonding between the entire family is what made the book a favourite for me. I really liked that the book was much more than just a romance.

I knew then that I’d fallen for all of them, my heart be damned.

Like quite a few romance books nowadays, Ashes of You has a "danger" element to make the plot more interesting. It helps the romance but is also a plot in itself. And it comes with quite a few hard descriptions and scenes (hence the long list of content warnings I mentioned).

Hallie's abductor and serial killer was not caught earlier and makes a reappearance when Hallie moves to town. As Lawson is the chief of police, he is closely involved with the case and becomes more protective of Hallie. His family and community band together to find the killer.

The case is a focal point in the story so you can't ignore it. We have a couple of happy chapters and the vibe suddenly changes when a new dead body is found. I did not like the abrupt change in vibe. I realize that it's a writing choice but it wasn't for me.

We have really good characters in Ashes of You but the dangerous plot makes the story plot-driven. That was a sad letdown. I wish we could have seen the characters take charge of their stories more without being pushed around by the villain.

We all have scars. Things that we think might make us weak. But, in reality, they’re usually the source of our strength.

Hallie was such a good main character! She has severe PTSD and anxiety due to what she went through and is frustrated by how her abductor changed her life drastically. But she works hard every day to push her boundaries and try new things. She's brave and a fighter.

Lawson was amazing too. He's a very good dad who would do anything for his kids. He figuratively burns the candle on both ends to show up for both his family and job. He feels guilty that he needs so much help from his parents and siblings. But he would do the same for them in a heartbeat.

Both of them thoughtfully care for each other and find comfort in each other's care. They do have a big age gap but they're adults who address the age gap but don't make it a very big deal. They easily fall into a relationship and are supported by the people around them.

Unfortunately, the ending is a little rushed. We had a slow relationship growth for most of the book and then suddenly it skips over multiple steps. We also never actually see them on a date! I didn't realize it initially because of everything that goes on in the story.

The epilogue was way overdone. I know that there's a certain kind of epilogue that romance books usually have. The way to make stand out is to make it different and not give the same thing unnecessarily overdone. I was a little disappointed by that.

overall

The book has quite a few negatives but I still love Ashes of You. It's added to my comfort favs list. I've already reread it around 4 times.

It's a book that I want to read when I'm sick and don't have the energy for anything. It's so comforting and warm to read. Reading it feels like a hug (if you skim the murder chapters). So yeah.

I recommend it if you're looking for a comforting single-parent romance that has another plot as well. I recommend this if you're looking for a book that doesn't have many explicit scenes.

I don't recommend Ashes of You if you don't like a dangerous plotline on the side. I don't recommend it if you're triggered by the things mentioned in the content warnings.

chat with me!

What a book that you like despite its many flaws? Why do you like it so much? Do share the books and your opinions in the comments!

photo of Sumedha

Sumedha spends her days reading books, bingeing Kdramas, drawing illustrations, and blogging while listening to Lo-Fi music. Read more ➔

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