My Beauty for Your Ashes
Traci Wooden-Carlisle
Christian/Romance

My Beauty For Your Ashes is the first book, of a Christian-fiction series, that leads you through the lives of four people striving towards different marks with unexpected connections.
Though they hail from backgrounds that are worlds apart, it only takes one fateful accident to rearrange their priorities and set them on roads that intersect, forcing them to acknowledge the relationships they can’t do without. 
Elder Paige Morganson has worked hard to overcome the anger, hate, and abuse of her past; Mason Jenson is a self-made man who has been able to create his own fortune and build a home life with his wife and child void of God’s help…so he thinks,; Elder Brandon Tatum’s, new in town, has prided himself on not making a move until he’s heard God; Victoria Branchett has ruthlessly survived the death of her only daughter by fierce determination, but is the strength she has relied on enough to see her through a failing marriage and an ailing grandchild? 
This novel merges colorful characters facing one untimely circumstance after another, and mixes in a serious spin on how one views God, both inside and outside of His will. Of course, this is just the beginning. More people emerge from behind the scenes; some to help and others, to hurt. With everything happening simultaneously, one would almost question if God is able to truly fix and heal everything, and the readers will see just how far each person’s faith (or lack thereof) will carry them. As they sift through the debris of past dreams and hopes left by the wayside, they are offered a lifeline and given an opportunity to receive God’s Beauty for their ashes.

Excerpt

“I never expected it to go on this long between the two of you. I thought for sure Mason would give in first, what with Vivian and I working on him. Who knew he was even more stubborn than you?” There was a sigh, like Rachael had finally gotten something heavy off of her chest.
“You know, most women marry men that remind them of their fathers. I messed around and married one just like my mom.”
Victoria knew the comment was meant to lighten the air. Rachael did that often to help discharge the tension in the atmosphere, but it stung nonetheless.
“Rachael, I love you. I am proud of the strong, resourceful, and loving woman you have become. I am sorry too because I have missed you, but let’s not talk about Mason. We have so much more we can speak on.”
Rachael conceded, not wanting to continue distressing her mother, but she did have one last thing to say. “I need you to hear me out, no matter how hard it is for you. Regardless of how you feel about Mason, please don’t take it out on Vivian. She loves you and she needs her grandmother in her life. When I go, she is going to need you even more. I need an affirmative answer from you. On this, I will not waiver.”
“Baby please, don’t talk like this. I don’t like it one bit.” In fact, it was scaring the hell out of her.
“Mom, I want an answer,” Rachael went on, as if she hadn’t heard anything her mom said.
Victoria couldn’t catch her breath; it felt like she had been punched in the stomach. She worked hard to regain her composure. In what seemed like a haze she heard her daughter call her name, this time insistently.
“Victoria, Mom, I need an answer.”
“Yes. Honey, yes. I will always be there for her.”
“Wonderful. Thank you, Mom. Thank you. So, Dad’s coming back out tomorrow. Will you come with him?”
“Oh yes, honey. Are you sure you want me to come?”
“Yes.”
They spoke for a little longer, and when Victoria heard Rachael yawn for the eighth time she told her she would see her the next day and talked her into hanging up the phone.
With a knot in her stomach she packed quickly, rescheduled some meetings that were set for the next day, wrote out specific instructions three times, and on the fourth attempt gave up and decided to just call an emergency meeting with the immediate staff.
By six the next morning, she was ready and waiting at the private airport with Richard, watching as a sudden and violent rainstorm delayed her flight. It rained consistently for four hours, not letting up until just before the afternoon. Seeing her agitation grow, her husband whispered in her ear just as they were leaving the small terminal, beginning to board the aircraft.
“Well, at least you won’t have to water the roses when you get back.”
She turned to him with a quick retort ready on her lips but was defused by the smile on his.
“Oh, you almost got it that time. Thank you for trying though.” She touched her hand to the side of his cheek, a form of endearment.
Once they arrived at the hospital, all thoughts of her hopeful reunion faded when they exited the elevator and came face to face with a sobbing Vivian. Richard bent down and tried fruitlessly to console the child. Victoria raced passed them to her daughter’s room where the doctor was talking to Mason over her daughter’s body, now covered by a sheet. She was too late. Her legs threatened to give away beneath her so she sat down in the chair just inside of the door. The sound of the chair scraping the floor caught Mason’s attention. He came towards her, arms reaching for her with the purpose to comfort.
The slap resounded through the room. Victoria watched as Mason’s head snapped to the side. When he straightened she came at him again, catching him across the other side of the face and throwing him off balance. Reaching out to stable himself, he caught hold of the bed Rachael’s body was laying on, pulling the sheet as he stumbled back.
Victoria would have hit Mason again, but the sight of Rachael’s body momentarily paralyzed her. She watched as Mason righted himself again, and all she could think of was causing him as much harm as he had caused her daughter. Her daughter was dead. Her daughter was dead, and he killed her. He killed her with his inability to listen to anyone due to his selfish pride. “Rachael is dead” kept ringing in her ears until the volume drowned out every other thought or sound.
She stood there, staring at the arm that had been uncovered. It was unfair. It was so damn unfair. The anger built up in her, quickly turning to rage.
She charged at Mason with a sound coming from her, foreign to her ears. All she wanted to do was cause him bodily harm. She hit him with all of her force once, then twice. Why wasn’t he defending himself or hunching to protect himself like the coward he was? He wasn’t fit to even be in the same room as her daughter’s body.
She couldn’t control it anymore. She hit him a third and fourth time before he went to one knee, and the doctor that had been standing in shock on the other side of the of the bed grabbed her from behind, holding her arms to her sides. She cried out in frustration, using whatever part of her that was free to reach Mason.
She kicked at him, catching him in the shoulder once and the chest on the next try, but neither one of those blows was satisfying. They felt superficial, like she was slightly off target. She struggled to kick him in the face but was pulled out of reach by the interfering doctor. She screamed and cried out again, the anger and frustration causing tears to spill from her eyes.
“No!” she screamed. “He killed her. That man killed my daughter! Don’t let him get away. He has to pay. He has to!”
Two nurses came in to assist the doctor in holding her away from Mason. Then Richard was in front of her, holding her face in his hands so that he was the only thing in her line of sight.
“Victoria!” He shouted, shaking her almost violently.
He came into focus. His hair tossed, eyes red and wet. The energy drained from her body. She didn’t think she could hold herself up any longer.
“Richard,” she whispered as if she were afraid to hear what she was about to say. “Our baby’s gone.” She felt his hands tighten on her face, but it wasn’t enough to keep him in focus. She sought the peace of the dark she was slipping into.

Uncaged Review

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I’m not a religious person in the least, and don’t doubt that this book is religious, it’s VERY religious, but it’s also more than that. Healing, forgiveness, love and hope are center stage and are what most people strive for in their life, whether religion plays a role or it doesn’t. In this setting, the promise and love of God will grace the lives of each character in unique ways.

This is a nicely written and engaging book, but there are quite a few characters to keep track of, and the author jumps from chapter to chapter between them, so at times, I had to pause and let my brain play catch up from a couple chapters ago, for example, just as I was really engaging with the story, the story shifts to a different set of characters in the next chapter. It’s also a longer book by today’s standards, and some of it was a bit drawn out. All in all, this is a well written book, and even the non-religious readers can find something to relate to. This is a book that definitely ticks all the boxes in its genre. Reviewed by Cyrene

4 1/2 Stars