He shook his head grimly. As if it troubled him greatly that her life had fallen apart. As if he would take away her sorrow if he could. Margaret was one small weed among a hillside of heather, yet the way he looked at her just now made her feel like a rose.
Lady Margaret Grey of Hartfell wants for nothing. The daughter of a knight, she has a loving family, wealth, and even a secret romance with the blacksmith's son. But all that is torn from her one fateful night when her home is attacked and her family killed. She is left with nothing but bitterness, an unwavering mistrust of men, and a strange and mysterious curse that allows her to feel the thoughts of anyone who touches her.
Now, after six years away, Margaret is returning home for one reason: revenge. She hopes that by avenging her family's deaths, she will somehow be freed from her curse. But it won't be easy. The identities of the raiders are still unknown, she has little left to her name, and traveling alone in the Northumbrian hills during the border wars is dangerous. Matters are further complicated by handsome Angus Robson, a Scotsman whose charm threatens to distract her from her plans. But the raiders are closer than she knows, and Margaret soon realizes that what she believed to be a curse may be the key to finding those she seeks. One thouch will reveal the truth.
Thoughts & Feelings
Have you ever forgotten how much you love an author until you pick up one of their books again? I had one of these moments when I read From Ash and Stone by Julie Daines. I have loved every single book that I've read of hers and I don't know how I forgot that I absolutely love her novels.
One of my favorite things about Julie's writing, in general, is how she weaves just a hint of magic into her historical fiction stories. Not Harry Potter magical, just a little hint of magic. Just enough to make things interesting and put an unexpected twist on the story. The magical element in From Ash and Stone is that Margaret is cursed. Again, not like Beauty and the Beast cursed. Rather, when Margaret makes skin-to-skin contact with someone she can "hear" their thoughts. However, hearing another's thoughts has a price and a painful one at that. I love how we see Margaret avoid contact and we get to see her weigh the price against the possibility of knowing if someone is being honest with her. The curse adds a unique and interesting thread into Margarets story.
I also love our main men/brothers Gillis and Angus. Don't worry, only one of them is the love interest (no love triangle here) but we do see the brothers together quite frequently throughout the novel. Their relationship goes far beyond being brothers and we, the readers, get to see the deep and honest friendship that they share. I loved that their personalities were so different but played off of each other so well. Angus is often our serious and protective hero while Gillis adds a bit of sunshine to some otherwise bleak moments. These brothers round each other out perfectly and the moments we get with them are so much fun.
Lastly, I love Osanna. She is a somewhat of a background character that enters the story a little late but her entrance is memorable and I loved her immediately. Osanna is a witch...kind of. She's a little unsure of it herself. However, she does have a few witch-like tendancies such as "asking the bones." The bones are a somewhat random collection of items that she consults daily, sometimes a few times daily, about various things. I just love how casual Osanna is about the bones telling her things. I love that even though she has had a tough life she is not ashamed of who she is and doesn't try to hide things that might have people charging after her and calling her a witch.
Content & Trigger Warnings
This story is focused on the border wars and reivers and the damage and loss that they cause in the Northumbrian hills. There are a few fighting scenes and mentions of the damage/destruction that the reivers cause. However, the details are kept to a minimum.
Margaret loses her family during a reiving one night. Again, we are given the jist of what happened without any details that would make you uncomfortable. The loss of her family and the grief that Margaret still feels is mentioned several times.
Title: From Ash and Stone
Author: Julie Daines