Reading Karen Barnett’s newest release in the Golden Gate Chronicles, Beyond the Ashes, is like eating gourmet ice cream served in a crystal goblet with a demitasse spoon. Each page is well-crafted and should be savored, letting the richness of the characters linger in the mind, just as every bite of the sweet dessert remains on the tongue.
Ruby Marshall, a young widow who has had enough of grieving, decides to don her nurse’s cap and join her lonely, bachelor brother as he practices medicine in what’s left of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake. When she arrives, though, her happy brother introduces not only his fiancée, but his handsome, unattached senior partner who can’t mask his attraction to the beautiful newcomer. Since Ruby has sworn off romance, that’s a problem.
This story contains everything a good novel should. There’s devastating loss met by the promise of love. There’s despair conquered by hope. There’s laughter, especially the scenes where Ruby conquers her fear of automobiles by learning to drive a Model A.
The characters feel like friends. Barnett has not only clearly defined each player, but has crawled inside their minds, showing the reader exactly what that individual is feeling. When their pulse races, so will yours. In one poignant scene where Ruby flees, afraid of facing a new life and possibly a new love, she steps off a trolley car and pauses, “gazing up at the depot clock tower encased in scaffolding. If this city could put itself back together, so could she.” (pg. 134)
This is Karen Barnett’s third book in as many years. Her first, Mistaken, released in 2013 and she was awarded the “Writer of Promise” Award by Oregon Christian Writers. Out of the Ruins, the first novel in the Golden Gate Chronicles, released in 2014.
What I appreciate about Barnett’s writings is that each book in the series introduces new characters, so if you haven’t read the first novel, you can read the second one and not be lost or feel like you have to get “caught up” to the story. Former characters make cameo appearances, but they don’t interfere with the new storyline.
Beyond the Ashes is published by Abingdon Press and will officially release Tuesday, June 16. Those who pre-ordered, like me, already have their copies and I am sure are enjoying the read. Get yours before they’re gone.