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Ashes to Ashes: A novel of romantic suspense Paperback – April 29, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Ashes to Ashes Series

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A myriad of things that go bump in the night -- not your common romance, but then, who said romance should ever be common? -- Heartland Critiques, 1991

A real page-turner of a story -- the reader is drawn into the mystery as well as the love story that unfolds. -- Ohioana Quarterly, 1991

Gothic fans will be overjoyed -- all the trappings of that subgenre but the setting is decidedly modern. -- Rave Reviews, 1991

This is a fantastic mystery in more ways than one -- a novel of gradually intensifying tension. -- Fosfax, 1991 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From the Author

Ashes to Ashes was inspired by the actual castle in Scotland, Craigievar. When I visited there again, right before the books was published, I found young Oklahoman named Rebecca acting as tour guide. She's probably wondering to this day when I kept staring at her. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1461079829
  • ISBN-13: 978-1461079828
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,251,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A child of the American heartland, Lillian Stewart Carl graduated from grade school in Missouri, from high school in Ohio, and from college in Texas. She should have a Bachelor of Arts in History, but inadvertently found herself with a Bachelor of Science in Education. Either way, she's now pursuing one of the few jobs that can be done with a background in history and English--writing fiction that invokes a legendary past, even in contemporary settings.

It's no surprise that Lillian and her long-suffering husband have wandered countless British single-track roads, from Orkney to Dover and back again. Also, just for variety, she has excavated the Biblical city of Gezer in Israel, worn a pink and mauve sari to a wedding in Hyderabad, India, searched for Middle Earth in New Zealand, and sung "Waltzing Matilda" in a haunted cottage in the Australian outback.

Being generally a mild-mannered individual, Lillian has yet to throw anyone across the room with her tai chi skills. Nor has she stabbed anyone with her knitting needles or slammed anyone's fingers except her own in the cover of her piano keyboard.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
When historian Rebecca Reid heard about the chance to help catalog Dun Iain's treasures, she jumped at the chance. After all, how often does a historian get to visit an exact replica of an ancient Scottish castle in the middle of Ohio? She knew that James Forbes, the castle's owner who had just passed away, owned the Erskine letter - a letter which just might prove that Mary, Queen of Scots' son was switched at birth for another woman's. It was just what she needed for her Ph.D. dissertation. It also gave Rebecca a chance to get away from Ray, her cloying fiance, whom Rebecca was slowly falling out of love with.
When Rebecca arrived at Dun Iain, she immediately was embroiled in old feuds and shadows of the past. Nothing could have prepared her for the ghostly presences that stalked the halls clunking loudly up and down the stairs, throwing dishes in the kitchen, turning on and off lights in rooms, moving crystal bottles from floor to floor. And nothing could have prepared her for the living people at Dun Iain: Michael Campbell, the Scottish professor sent from the museum to separate out the Forbes' family treasures and decide what would go to home to Scotland and what would stay with the historical society; Eric Adler, the charming, handsome executor of the Forbes estate; Dorothy, the eavesdropping busybody of a housekeeper who had been cleaning Dun Iain for thirty years of more; Steve Pruitt and his girlfriend Heather who always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; James Forbes, who, even after death refused to leave his beloved castle and stumped up and down the corridors and stairways; and Elspeth, James' beautiful mother, who threw herself from the 5th story window when she lost her daughter...
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This book needs some heavy editing. Ms. Carl piled metaphor on metaphor and used analogies to explain analogies.

I think the author must have written this book with a thesaurus close at hand. She used the word "empurpled" not once but twice. I was thankful for my Kindle's app that lets me look up unfamiliar words as I read.

Although she cites Ocam's Razor at least twice, Ms. Carl did not followed the philosopher's advice. This book made heavy reading out of a ghost story coupled with murder and greed.
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If I could, I'd give this 2.5 stars - between 'I don't like it' and 'It's OK'.

My first concern about the book was that it showed up on my Kindle in very dated looking Pica type, which was hard for me to read. For the entire time (I stopped at about 55% through the book and skipped to end to find out whodunnit. I just couldn't slog through anymore.) I felt as though I was reading someone's college writing course project, typed on a Selectric in 1985.

I see (now) that it's original publishing date was 1990. I tried to appreciate the book as 'historical fiction', set about 25 years ago and before cell phones or Google could have been helpful with all of the ghosty goings-on at the estate, when a Walkman with cassette tapes was cool, marijuana was one of the worst things parents worried about in the mid-west, and the Joy of Sex was still considered a slightly risque guide for couples.

And the basic story had some interest. There were plenty of characters to act as red herrings when mysterious or scary things started happening, and the author was clearly very well versed in Scottish history.

Admittedly, it was refreshing to read something where the characters weren't having to responsibly worry about STDs or HIV when they considered having sex (because of the time period). The wars in the Middle East are peripheral, there are no drive-by shootings to worry about, and the world seemed much simpler in general.

SPOILER ALERT:
But EVERYTHING just took too long, and was too repetitive. Eric and Rebecca went on several dates before they got anywhere near sleeping together (in spite of Rebecca's bravado about being a 'modern woman' who is emotionally ready for recreational sex after the first date.
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A Scottish castle in the middle of Ohio? It's big as life and twice as scary, built by the late John Forbes who was recently found dead at the bottom of the stairs and still hangs around. The characters in this novel have good reason to remember the old Scots prayer: "From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us."

We meet Rebecca Reid from Dover College in Missouri and Michael Campbell from the National Museums of Scotland. As academics and historians, Rebecca and Michael have a deadline for cataloguing the castle's artifacts. James Forbes and his father, John, scooped up Old World treasures with both hands. The castle, top to bottom, is crammed with them.

Michael's job is to choose which among the Forbes' family treasures should go home to Scotland. He's a bit snotty about the whole setup and Rebecca suspects he has a hidden agenda. She has an agenda of her own. Eric Adler, James Forbes' executor, has assured her she can do her own research on the side.

She is eager to find "the Erskine letter," a letter which might prove that the son of Mary, Queen of Scots, died at birth and was secretly replaced by another woman's baby. The letter was written by Arabella Erskine, Countess of Mar, to her sister, and is said to confirm that she traded her newborn child for Mary Stuart's dead one. Mary's son, to whomever he belonged, became James VI of Scotland and James I of England.

The castle--Dun Iain or "John's Fort" in Gaelic--is so real it's hard to remember that it sits in Ohio, not in Scotland. Part of the charm of this book for me is the contemporary setting for legends of the ancient past. Periodically a scene pops up to keep a reader grounded in present time.
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