Friday, July 10, 2015

Review + GIVEAWAY: Beyond the Ashes

Beyond the Ashes
By Karen Barnett
The Golden Gate Chronicles, #2
Abingdon, 2015


Where better to rebuild and face one's fears than in 1906 San Francisco, a city rising from the ashes?

Ruby Marshall, a young widow, is certain she'll discover new purpose assisting her brother Robert with his cancer research, but she doesn't anticipate finding new love.

Dr. Gerald Larkspur dreams of filling his empty home with family, but he'd always hoped it would be a wife and children. In the aftermath of the great earthquake, the rooms are overflowing with extended family and friends left homeless by the disaster. When Robert's widowed sister arrives, the close quarters seem close indeed.

Ruby and Gerald's fledgling romance is put at risk when Gerald develops symptoms of the very disease they're striving to cure. Together they must ask---is it worth a second chance at love when time might be short?

My thoughts

I chose to read Beyond the Ashes because I had never read any of Karen Barnett's novels, and I'm very glad that I did. Readers will find a lot of realism in this story, dark themes contrasted with spiritual insight and the promise of hope - all elements that I appreciated. Although a sequel to Out of the Ruins, this story can stand alone.

This historical romance, set in 1906 shortly after the San Francisco earthquake, has a lot going for it - one of the main things being the historical detail. The city was coming back stronger than ever, great losses overshadowed with new life. Karen's writing is solid and the depth of her research shows, especially when it comes to the medical knowledge in the early 1900s. It was a time when researchers hoped that X-rays would be the miracle cure for cancer, not realizing the costly danger that overexposure to radiation would bring, and many scientists died from the very disease they were trying to cure as a result. From the squalor of refugee camps, to Cliff House's grandeur, to the realism of medical procedures and treatments, Karen did a great job at vividly conveying the realism of the time - even through the humor of Ruby's driving lessons! Be sure to check out the excellent Pinterest board that Karen put together for this book.

Cliff House
It's funny how, once Gerald opened his house up to family members in need, the number of guests keeps growing - Robert and Abby from the previous book, among others, and now Ruby, Robert's sister, a young widow seeking a fresh beginning. The characters are well developed and very human in their weaknesses, fears and hopes, but it took a while for me to warm up to Gerald and Ruby. My favorite character was Patrick, a minister with a pastor's heart for people, who worked in the refugee camps and spread the gospel through serving people's needs. I hope we see more of him in this series.

Another strength is the medical element and I found Gerald and Robert's joint X-ray research into the treatment of cancer fascinating, as they worked with "long hours, limited funds, and dying patients." For me, the best parts of the novel are when Ruby and the other characters were actually working with patients, and the narrative outside of those sections sometimes seemed a little slow. One of my favorite scenes was when Ruby read from the book of Job to the dying Dee, who commented, "That's my God."

I love the truthfulness of this quote:  "God doesn't always choose the easy road for us. But He always chooses the best path."  Past experience made Ruby strive for control, fearing that God wouldn't answer her prayers for protection if she trusted Him completely - and that is something to which many of us can relate. Eventually, through Gerald's influence, Ruby realizes that her only need is God. A spiritual journey like this is what I love about Christian fiction, but I longed for more insight as to how Ruby reached that point.

At times the plot seemed a little uneven, slow in places, certain things not fully explained or developed. However, the plot picked up speed toward the end. The conclusion was a little abrupt, but the way for book #3 is obviously paved. Gerald and Ruby still face trials and their future is uncertain - but isn't that reflective of life? I'm fully and emotionally invested in their story and look forward to the next book. Recommended to fans of historical fiction.


Karen Barnett is the author of Beyond the Ashes, Out of the Ruins, and Mistaken. Named the 2013 Writer of Promise by Oregon Christian Writers, Karen lives in Albany, Oregon, with her husband and two kids. When she's not writing novels, she loves speaking at women's events, libraries, and book clubs.

Connect with Karen online at, Facebook, and Twitter.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Litfuse landing page:

To enter the drawing for Beyond the Ashes . . .

1) If you're on Facebook, please visit ThePowerofWordsBookReviews and "like" my page (not required, but very much appreciated).

2) Answer the following question:

The characters in Beyond the Ashes are involved in cancer research, seeking a cure. Have you or your loved ones
been touched by this disease in any way?

[Note:  I imagine almost all of us have been touched by cancer in some way. I'm not going to comment on every entry, but please know that what you share is meaningful and appreciated. Best wishes to all in the giveaway!]

BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Wednesday, July 22.

Eligibility: US residents, 18 and older


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Brandy! This was a story that grew on me the further I read. Can't wait to see all that happens next.

  2. Fantastic review! Karen is a new-to-me author. I look forward to reading her books.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment, Caryl. Karen was new to me also and I look forward to more from her. You'll have to come back and enter the giveaway.

  3. I saw a movie once, a fictionalization of the making of the X-ray machine. The man who created it was testing it over and over and his hands and forearms were a burned and blistered mess. They had no idea the power that they had or the precautions that they needed to take.

    I'm not a big fan of stories about the San Francisco Earthquake, but adding in the medical point of view makes this story sound a bit more interesting. I will put it on my wish list.


    1. Kim, what you described in the movie is similar to what one of Karen's characters experiences. So sad that X-ray wasn't the miracle cure they were looking for and they had no idea of the dangers.

      You would probably enjoy this story because it takes place after the earthquake, during the rebuilding. Thanks so much for visiting, Kim.

  4. This book sounds fascinating and I would love to read it along with the first novel in the series.

    I thnk a lady that goes to my church had cancer. She has been wearing a wig for a while, but her hare is growing out enough that she doesn't wear the wig anymore. Yay!

  5. Yes - I lost both my Dad & my Mom to cancer - tough, but I will see them again one day!!

  6. Yes, cancer has touched our family in several ways. One way was bittersweet: my grandfather was given up for adoption by his unwed biological mother and taken in to be raised by one of his relatives. About ten years ago, my grandfather got a call out of the blue from a man who thought he was my grandfather's brother. After checking birth certificates, they found out that they were indeed brothers! Unfortunately, the reason he reached out to my grandfather was because he had terminal cancer, and since he was adopted too, he wanted to meet his biological relatives before he died. He and my grandfather had a great few months together before he passed away. I've never seen my grandfather cry as hard as he did at his long-lost brother's funeral. Even though it hurt to lose the brother he had only just met, he wouldn't have changed finding out about him and the time they had together for anything. ❤️ Morgan Parson

    Mdp94 (at) bellsouth (dot) net

  7. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law.

  8. Thank you for your fantastic post. Cancer, one of the scary words in the English language, no, any language, touches far too many people. Young and old, rich and is no respecter of persons. It has touched my family with one being a survivor and three fighting but running out of strength to win. My prayer, my hope, is that one day we don't know or remember what that word means.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

  9. My online friend has liver and breast cancer. I have known her for a long time. She is doing a little better now which I am so glad of. My sister in law passed away from breast cancer at age 33 after her 4 year diagnosis. She left behind 3 very young children. Through it all she continued to be a ray of sunshine. It was a very hard time for us all ! I have always wanted to visit San Franciscoand I am interested in the history there! I know I would be very much enjoying to read this !

    Deanne Patterson
    Cnnamongirl at aol dot com

  10. Yes, it took my mother & father-in-law, my sister-in-law is a survivor & my mother-in-law has been treating for skin & breast cancer.. Terrible thing, I pray for a cure & for those struggling with it.. This book is in my wanted list :)
    dkstevensne AToutlookD OtCoM

  11. Great review! Yes, cancer has touched several members of my family. Probably the one that effected me the most was that of my mother-in-law, as I had helped with her care and companionship in her final months. The other that is that my elderly, closest uncle has lymphoma, and is not a believer. My mother-in-law and I grew very close through her final days, and I saw that cancer could not steal her joy and faith. This sounds like a very interesting book; I very much like historical fiction! jeaniedannheim (at) ymail (dot) com

  12. My father has been in stage 4 prostate cancer for over 2 years now, my mother had a skin cancer removed with no problems. I had kidney cancer in 2000 (with a kidney removed), breast cancer in 2014 (with a breast removed), and have undergone numerous tests (involving radiation) and a biopsy for a couple of months now (for numerous issues in my neck, spine, lung and abdomen - which CT and PET scans turned up). The growing neck tumor proved to be non-malignant (after a biopsy), the next step is probably open surgery to remove a growing abdomen mass which can't be biopsied by other means, due to it's location - I'm praying it will be non-malignant also, although the chances for another cancer are possible. Whatever the results - God is in control, and working all things to my good!! I need only concentrate on that.

    Thanks for your wonderful review, Carole - I haven't read any of Karen's books, and would love to read "Beyond the Ashes". Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!!


    Shared post!!

  13. No, no one has gotten cancer. Thank you God. mommystuck1(at)optonline(dot) net

  14. Grandma died of breast cancer she waited too long for treatment
    God bless you Have a blessed week

  15. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find any one person who hasn't been touched by cancer. There haven't been many in my life, but the most profound is that of my best friend of 30 years. Her now 13 year old son was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer at 10 years old. It is a very rare form of cancer and the family has sought the best care giving him the best chance at a longer life.


  16. Hello Carole. I have already liked your page and get your newsletter. We have had many in our family who had cancer. First I lost a sister when she was 43 with cancer. She has a breast removed and lived the 5 years that says you are cured, but later it attacked her in different places. Lost a brother who had Lymphoma and a large tumor in his tummy. He also had a bad heart so not sure what they put on his death certificate. Either one would have killed him for he couldn't have any surgery. He and my sister were so brave and good examples of faith to so many. Another sister died with 3 rare kinds of cancer in her lower stomach. (And four of my siblings had skin cancer.) I just lost my baby brother with cancer on March 4th. His cancers were on his face and in his jaw. Had several surgeries, but couldn't get it all. Then in 1996 I lost my husband with prostate cancer.Later my son had prostrate cancer but had the surgery and they say he's ok There have been some with other relatives and close friends. It is a very scary word. There is only me and my 90 year old brother left. I would sure love to win Karen's book. Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

  17. Thank you for the chance to win. My 88 yr old WWII vet Daddy was just diagnosed with Non Hodgkins Lymphoma. He was diagnosed with prostrate cancer13 yrs ago. We are believing for healing in the name

  18. I lost both my grandfather and my Golden Retriever to cancer.


  19. This book is one of many at the top of my want-to-read plie! I loved more insight to the book and your take on it. I appreciate when an author does thorough research for the historical aspect of a story. I think this would be a fantastic read!!
    And yes, cancer has touched my family just recently with my uncle's passing 4 months ago. He had liver cancer and because he also had Hepatitis C, he was not eligible for a liver transplant. He wasn't long for this earth when Doctors discovered it. There have also been church members who've passed on due to some kind of cancer. Also our neighbor in the city we used to live in passed on almost 2 years ago and our next door neighbor we have now is battling cancer. It's a disease that has touched many lives & I am praying that there can be a cure found soon. It's devastating for families and friends to lose loved ones due to this.
    I follow and like your FB page already. Thanks for the chance to win "Beyond the Ashes"
    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

  20. Unluckily I have been touched. One of my best friends wife got brain cancer and went into remission and then unluckily it came back and she died earlier this year.

  21. I lost a friend and high school classmate at 22 to cancer.


  22. I lost my mother, an aunt, my grandmother, my husband of 46 years and I. Am 7 year survivor
    mcnuttjem0(a) gmail(dot) com

  23. Thank you for the review and the giveaway. Looking forward to reading both books in the series.

    1. So glad you're interested in this series, Jennifer. Please be sure to follow the instructions so I can enter you in the giveaway!

  24. Have a friend who had breast cancer...she's doing better now

  25. My moms best friend and my "adopted" grandmother died of pancreatic cancer. It was heartbreaking, but glad to know I'll see her again. Ewe_r_merritt(at)yahoo(dot)com

  26. My dad, but he has been cancer free since surgery and radiation treatments.

  27. My father-in-law died of melanoma cancer. It was heart-wrenching to see this wonderful, sweet man wither away with this disease, but he radiated Jesus, & so thankful he is with the Lord now.

    Beyond the Ashes has been on my wish list! So glad for the opportunity of this giveaway! Thank you!!! nj[dot]bossman[at]gmail[dot]com

  28. As always, you presented an excellent review of Beyond the Ashes, Carole! I've liked your Facebook page for a long time, and have followed your reviews for as long as you've been writing them, I believe. My mother had cancer and it took her life at the age of 65, far too young to lose someone who was active, healthy in every other way, and lived life to the fullest. She was well loved by the community as she impacted numerous lives through teaching school and eventually becoming principal. I'll always miss her presence in my life. Than you for offering this contest and the opportunity to share a difficult time in our lives.

  29. My family has been affected by cancer as it certainly runs in our history. Cancer types being melanoma, breast cancer, uterine cancer --- I think that is enough "cancers" to have in ones' family! :) But, in all the medical trials we have, God is still good as another fan wrote in their comment too. Thanks for the giveaway. ----Diane Buie ,

  30. Carole, Thank you for taking the time to read and review Beyond the Ashes. These characters are very dear to my heart. And everyone's moving! I find myself wishing we could just eradicate this awful disease. Both my grandmother and mom fought lung cancer and my brother struggled with thyroid cancer. As I was finishing writing the first book of this series, Out of the Ruins, we lost a young friend--just 12 years old--to bone cancer. After spending so much time researching cancer treatments in this era, I came away with a growing respect for the work of doctors and scientists. Their devotion borders on heroism. But as my characters learn--God has a plan for each of us.

  31. Yes, I had a diagnosis of Barrett's Esophagus, but Jesus has healed me up. I only have a few suspicious cells in there now. My dad had colon cancer, several feet of bowel removed. My aunt had breast cancer.

  32. Yes, I had Barrett's Esophagus, my dad had colon cancer, and my aunt had breast cancer.

  33. I've not heard of this author before, but this book sounds great! It reminds me a bit of Elizabeth Camden's With Every Breath. Thanks for sharing this post at Booknificent Thursday this week! Always glad to have you!

  34. I have known a few people with cancer but none of my immediate family have had it luckily.