From Ashes  - Molly McAdams This is way too long, but it could have been MUCH longer. And I know some of you love it, but it failed for me in a big way.

Again, this was a rec from a friend who said she read it in four hours, that the female lead endures terrible abuse at the hands of her mother, and that this book dealt with something other than the "normal" YA issues. So I was actually looking forward to reading what I thought would be a book in which the intrepid heroine overcomes all sorts of tragedy to be a better, stronger person and find someone who truly loves her. That's not what "From Ashes" turned out to be, however. Far from it. Can you hear me banging my head against the desk? Ow. Now I have a headache. And then there's the fact that I may never get my eyes to settle back into a normal straight ahead position. Oh yes, much eye rolling also ensued during this long, tortuous reading experience.

I'm a pretty fast reader, but "From Ashes" was difficult to finish. It took the better part of three days to get to the end of this train wreck because I had to put it aside again and again or do something totally uncharacteristic of me like throw it against the wall.

My biggest problem with "From Ashes" centers around the Big Mis, total lack of communication between Gage and Cassidy, and Tyler's lies that continued for 177 pages of a 405 page book. What misunderstanding, you might be wondering, could possibly be dragged out for so long? Well, Cassidy (the not-so-intrepid heroine) thinks Gage (our hot studly hero) doesn't like her or only thinks of her as a sister, and this breaks her heart because she's pretty sure he's "The One" for her. And Gage thinks Cassidy is dating Tyler, Cassidy's best friend, and not interested in him at all which breaks his heart because she's "The One" for him. After all, this must be "twu wuv" because their hands actually tingled when they touched, they both lost the ability to breathe apparently, and both of their worlds just...stopped when they see each other for the first time.

How, you might ask, could these two lovers birds be kept apart for so long? The worm in the apple or serpent in Eden is Tyler, Cassidy's supposed BFF and Gage's cousin. You see, Cassidy really did suffer a horrible childhood from age 6 to 17. Her father died when she was six, her mother became an alcoholic, re-married, and then Mom and the stepdad got their jollies by beating Cassidy with stilettos, vases, pocket wrenches, golf clubs, anything they could get their hands on. Her mother would be sexually rewarded by dear old stepdad when she hurt her own daughter, and Cassidy was the not only a victim but a witness to their really sick behavior. This happened every day for 11 years. Cassidy lived next door to Tyler, and he was the one who bandaged her up each time. So Tyler became Cassidy's rescuer of sorts and best friend.

You may ask, as I did, why Tyler never reported Cassidy's mother and stepfather. And the answer to that just flummoxed me. Apparently, Cassidy made him swear not to report it because she feared being separated from Tyler forever because he was all she had. This was just so whacked. So it was OK to patch her up, cover the bruises and cuts, have his Dad sew her up a time or two at the kithen table, pat her on the head and send her back to hell, right? How did Tyler not see that he enabled continuous abuse by NOT reporting it? Why couldn't he have persuaded Cassidy to report it? At any rate, I digress. Because at some point Tyler's love for Cassie as a friend changes. He's "IN LOVE" with her now, is determined to make her "his", decides to take her with him to Texas when he leaves for college, and finally gets her away from the abuse. Well, alleluia for that, but Tyler then proceeds to lie to both Cassidy and Gage in order to keep them apart telling Gage one thing and Cassidy another. Worse, Cassidy and Gage not once in 177 pages ever has one meaningful conversation that would clear the whole thing up. Not once. Never. (Head banging here.)

So my big problem with a Big Mis, especially one as extended as this one, is that I have to wonder if these two aren't perhaps the two most stupid people in the entire world. Having to question the intelligence of characters doesn't make me like them or pull for them to find a happy ending. This is not the way to build tension and conflict. This is the way to get a book thrown against the wall. Gage questions (to himself) whether Cassidy really is in love with Tyler because she reacts to Gage as if she's more than a little interested. But he easily dismisses his doubts because once again Tyler schemes, lies, and manipulates both of them. So, there was no conflict based on different aspects of Gage's and Cassidy's personalities clashing, just a long stretch of both acting like mindless puppets on a string and Tyler as the puppet master.

To say I didn't like Tyler is an understatement. If he truly cared for Cassidy, wouldn't he have gotten her some help when her mom started whaling on her? If he truly loved her and wanted her to be happy, wouldn't he have graciously stepped aside when it was clear that Gage and Cassidy were in love. If he loved her, would he have tried to push her into having sex with him because his "needs" weren't being fulfilled? If he loved her, would he have stormed out, ignored her frantic calls, brought home another woman several hours later who would see to his needs, and then kicked Cassidy out of the apartment?

His character was just so strange to me. Tyler seemed to have an almost pathological need to continuously rescue Cassidy. So by throwing her back to the wolves (Mom and stepdad), he could play the knight gallant who saves the damsel in distress. That's kind of sick, really. And then his actions to keep them apart were so vicious and underhanded that I felt a bit disoriented wondering where this came from. Equally perplexing was the point at which he turns around and tries to make amends to Gage and Cassidy. It felt completely inadequate. Too little, too late.

And then there's our unhappy, star crossed lovers, Gage and Cassidy. Cassidy is described as "beautiful", likes to cook, likes photography, has no plans to go to college or become a chef or a photographer which would have been a pretty reasonable goal. She appears to be waiting for the right man to "take care of her." She likes that a lot. That's it. Gage IS going to college, plans to return home to work on the family ranch after graduation, has a pretty violent temper, and is good with his hands. I think we've already established both are not the sharpest knives in the drawer or else the Big Mis wouldn't have taken up almost one half of this book. Oh yeah, he has muscles that look natural not steroid induced. Cassidy notices this right away and is completely enthralled.

As for the these two being in love, I doubt that, too. By page 51, Gage has decided he loves Cassidy, and she follows soon after on page 57 despite little or no interaction between the two of them. I was so startled by their admissions (not to each other, of course) that I had a real WTH moment. I had to go back and read these parts twice.

The best I can figure Gage "loves" Cassidy cause she's "the most beautiful girl "he's ever seen", she's "sweet and fragile" and he seems to really like her "smallness" because he mentions that a lot. It brings out his protective he-man side apparently. And when she laughs, it sounds like angels singing. Also, any male around Cassidy either wants to tap that or bring her home to Mama or both. Besides Gage and Tyler, there's Jake, Connor the cop/detective back in California, and Jess her co-worker at Starbucks. The rest of Gage's buddies always make sure he knows what a lucky SOB he is every other page. You know, 'cause she's beautiful and,um, likes to cook.

Cassidy is much deeper than Gage, and her reasons for loving him reflect that. First, he's beyond just attractive. He practically screams "masculine" with this bright green eyes, thick lashes, strong jaw, toned abs, "kissable" lips. And don't forget non-steroidal muscles. In fact, he's (whispering reverently)....god-like. Her words. But even better is his Texas drawl and how she loves to hear him call her "Darlin'" in his "deep, gravelly" voice. And there's his "messy, just-got-out-of-bed" jet black hair. And he's tall, taller than even Tyler. And Cassidy says that he's "incredibly sweet" when they talk. I wouldn't know since those talks were off screen.

Besides it had to be true love because their hands sparked electricity when they touched, both forgot how to breathe, the world stopped revolving, and body parts were tingling. Whoa. Wait. Isn't that attraction? Or good old fashioned lust?

Two last problems with "From Ashes" and then I'm done. First, very late in the book, there is a surprise added romantic interest for Cassidy that was so jarring I actually jerked. I guess this was another attempt at stretching out the tension, but all it did for me was make me think perhaps Gage would be better off without Cassidy. Secondly, throughout the book, Cassidy refuses to talk about her past with Gage. She's good on broad sketches of the abuse, but she's still very tentative and noncommunicative. She closes up and shuts down when there's even a hint of confrontation. But a short two-week interlude in California to settle family matters seems to "fix" her so that she can go back to Gage. Two weeks. That's all it took. Go figure.

I'm done. My head hurts, and my eyes won't ever be the same. I could also use a drink.