Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
In a word, Catherine Cowles’s newest romance, Falling Embers, is tumultuous. It’s heartrending, beautifully crafted, and layered with heavy emotion. As the second book of her Tattered & Torn series, you leave its final pages having endured an emotional onslaught of edge-of-your-seat suspense.
This story follows Hadley, the sister of Hayes from the first book of the series, Tattered Stars, and his best friend, Calder. Much like Tattered Stars, this romance is rife with the effects of past trauma. In Falling Embers, those effects are meted out on Hadley, and it squeezes your heart. There is a beautiful message in this story about acceptance. Hadley has lived a restricted life due to her sister’s kidnapping. She has been made to feel that her adventure-loving self is wrong. What’s so interesting about this romance is her parents are contrasted to Everly’s parents from Tattered Stars. In that book, Everly’s survivalist upbringing informs her sense of self. Hadley’s parents are loveable and compassionate to everyone, yet Hadley’s mother’s expectations of her figuratively puncture her daughter’s soul. Cowles deftly shows the impact that two different types of parents can have on their children and their futures. Each time Hadley and her mother connect in this book, my soul hurt for Hadley as her mother struggles to “see” her independent, intelligent, and insightful daughter. Cowles takes Hadley’s pain and uses her to wisely encourage Calder’s daughters. These moments tear at your heart as you want everyone to desperately accept Hadley just as she is, but many of the characters, including Calder, take much of the story to move beyond their fears in accepting what makes her unique.
Calder’s love for Hadley becomes the underlying power of the story. Thankfully, Cowles doesn’t make her readers pine too long for their coupling. But I think the true focus of Falling Embers is Hadley’s journey. Calder is the typical Cowles MMC: handsome, powerful, compassionate, and initially acutely lacking in understanding. However, as they fall in love with their FMC, they grow and become better versions of themselves. For me, though, Hadley is key to the success of this story. Unfortunately, Cowles doesn’t hold back from the afflictions of her heroine. It makes her resilient, and it causes you, the reader, to fall in love with her as a powerful female figure.
I started Falling Embers, intent on reading a few chapters while reading another book. The consequence of this was the inability to set it aside. Catherine Cowles weaves magic into her stories, and you simply get lost in them over and over again.
In love and romance,