From Ashes to Honor by Loree Lough is a love story about a police officer and a therapist who meet under difficult circumstances. Memories of 9/11 traumatize police officer Austin Finley, affecting his work until he is sent to therapist Mercy Samara. Austin is angry and prejudiced from the beginning, and Mercy seems cold and unsympathetic. Austin becomes an EMT and moves to Maryland., and when Mercy’s father dies, she, too, moves to Maryland. There, eight years after their first meeting, Austin and Mercy meet again -- this time as an EMT and a school counselor. Austin is a changed man having found Christ, conquered alcoholism, and gotten his life back in order. Despite how much they disliked each other before, the two seem to fall in love immediately after their reunion. Mercy and Austin struggle to maintain their relationship as they face death and life’s disappointments.
Austin’s story is one of redemption. Guilt and fear ran his life until he became a Christian, and then his faith formed a strong foundation. Mercy lost her faith in God when her father died, and now struggles to reconcile that God would allow so many bad things to happen to good people. Austin loves Mercy, but worries that his faith is not strong enough to survive marriage to a non-believer.
Mercy’s character is comparable to many people, as her suffering causes her to doubt God’s love. Austin’s faith is a model for others, remaining strong throughout the various trials of life. Austin waits for Mercy to come back to God, the same way God waits for us to come back to Him. The story reminds readers that God provides comfort and relief from the guilt and turmoil of life, and good things can come from the worst tragedies. Lough gives readers a poignant look at the aftermath of 9/11 in a personal way, showing the effects on survivors’ everyday lives.
Whereas Austin and Mercy’s relationship is deep and meaningful, the story seems to lack drive at times, as its characters develop. However, the love between them is so real and complex, readers will be touched by their experiences.
Romance lovers will truly enjoy From Ashes to Honor. Its deep characters give it a strong emotional connection that will hopefully be present throughout the rest of Lough’s coming First Responders series. – Susan Vandagriff, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Minutes before two jumbo jets changed U.S. history, New York police officer Austin Finley ignored the call from his brother, who’d been bugging him for days. Trying to live with his one regret causes hatred and bitterness to consume Austin, and when counselor Mercy Samara recommends desk duty, Austin resigns. Haunted by her own memories of 9/11, Mercy takes a job as a school counselor in Baltimore. When Austin, now an EMT, responds to an emergency at Mercy’s school, both are stunned and wary.
Finally their common—and painful—memories turn suspicion into friendship, then romance.
But hard questions linger: Can they truly move beyond their past harsh judgments and harsh words? Will their past finally bring them closer or—as the tenth anniversary of 9/11 draws near—drive them farther apart?