AMBER TO ASHES
by Gail McHugh
Summary: Amber Moretti’s life changes in the span of minutes. An orphaned outsider, she is desperate to start fresh the moment she walks onto campus. In the time it takes to cross the university’s dining hall, she meets two men who bring color, air, and light to her darkened world. Brock Cunningham’s appeal is dizzying, a potent force Amber can’t deny. A green-eyed smooth talker, he instantly attracts Amber. It doesn’t take long for him to consume her every thought, her every breath. Ryder Ashcroft, a blue-eyed, tattooed, and pierced bad boy, turns Amber off immediately—that is, until he kisses her, stealing a piece of her heart, her soul. Never knowing she could be broken down in so many unexpectedly beautiful yet petrifying ways, Amber finds herself falling for both men. But one devastating event changes everything, shattering each of their lives…and Amber isn’t sure she can recover from it.
Amber to Ashes, by Gail McHugh, is a crazy, gut-wrenching, hot as hell love triangle that will leave you reeling-and shaking your head. This is the first book by McHugh that I’ve read (I think she has two others, Collide and Pulse). I had no idea what to expect going in, but, wow, this was a wild ride, made even more intense by the author’s confession in the acknowledgements that Amber’s story is 90% true life pieces of herself, made up of both her past and present. I admit, this made me reconsider my perception of the book, and made this review a little harder to write.
Amber is a tough cookie, raised in foster care after witnessing her father kill her mother in a murder/suicide. She doesn’t hide the fact that she’s promiscous, admittingly using sex to help her forget her tragic past. She meets best friends Brock and Ryder when she literally falls into Ryder’s lap. It’s love at first sight for both men, setting off a love triangle that makes the pages of the book almost too hot to touch. Throw in drug and alcohol use, violence, a sister with cancer, and a brother kidnapped as a child and you’ve got a story packed with enough emotional baggage to fill 467 pages, plus at least one more book.
McHugh never holds back when telling this story, making no secret that the lives these three people live is dangerous, both physically and emotionally. I struggled with her writing style, which I found to be metaphor-heavy with both the plot and people frequently getting lost in the words. Amber enthralls these men immediately, yet it’s not clear, at least to me, why. Likable at first for her grittiness and honesty about who she is, Amber eventually becomes tedious and difficult to connect with. On the other hand, both Brock and Ryder stand out and show great character development, as one slowly spins out of control as the other realizes what’s important in life.
It’s Amber’s first impressions of Brock and Ryder that set the tone for the entire book. She thinks Ryder’s an ass who kissed her without permission in front of a dining hall full of people while Brock is the charmer who sweeps her off her feet. Neither man is what they seem and much of the book focuses on Amber digging deep, determining who she truly loves. Her chemistry with one (not saying because I don’t want to spoil the book!) is palpable, while her relationship with the other really seems forced on the reader. They each make choices that put all of them in danger, especially Amber, leaving the reader with a cliffhanger as the book ends.
Despite my dislike of Amber and the wordiness of this book, I know I’m going to read the next installment as I found myself needing to know how Brock and Ryder manage their way out of the mess they’ve created.
Heat Level: 5