Our Comfort Reads: Ashes in the Wind

Our Comfort Reads
Our Comfort Reads is our own blog feature that Cait and I use to highlight and recommend books that we read when we need a little pick-me-up. Whether we’re overwhelmed with our TBR pile, need a break from a bad run of books or just want something familiar to read that we know will deliver a good story and a happy ending, these are the books we turn to and we hope that you’ll enjoy them too.

While my mom and dad really nurtured my love of books and provided them to me whenever I wanted (and there was always the library), I didn’t really grow up in a house where new sources were just a bookcase away.  That all ended when I was old enough to appreciate romance novels and my grandmother introduced me to her never-ending stash.  She had subscriptions to all of the Harlequin lines, had all of these strange gothic romances that I barely understood and had piles and piles of pirates, landowners, Yankees and Rebels, wenches, cowgirls and spunky heroines of all varieties.

Ashes in the Wind was the first Kathleen Woodiwiss that she ever let me read, at the semi-tender age of thirteen.

Ashes in the WindAshes in the Wind

By Kathleen Woodiwiss
Published: January 1, 1979
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Historical Romance

Alaina MacGaren is forced to flee the devastation of her homeland in the guise of a young boy, only to find sanctuary in the arms of an enemy. Cole Latimer is a dashing Yankee surgeon who has served the Union faithfully, and his tender heart compels him to help a ragged, innocent “lad” in need–never suspecting the rags conceal a bewitching belle suspected of being a rebel spy.

But Alaina’s masquerade does not fool Cole for long. And the strength, courage, and breathtaking sensuality of this woman whom it would be treasonous to love sets duty and desire at war within him. Yet Destiny has joined them for good or ill–and they both must follow where their hearts would lead them, if they are to build a glorious new life together out of the ashes of the old.

Goodreads Summary

This is not Woodiwiss’ best and like most of her early books, it’s horribly politically incorrect. It’s not even really my favorite (the even more egregious The Flame and the Flower gets that honor). But as the first, it’s become a book that I still find myself drawn to, like a pair of fuzzy socks that you know has a hole near a toe that bugs you, but they’re so soft and one of your favorite colors. So I keep taking it out and while I skip some passages, I still love most parts and I love the ending.

Alaina has to disguise herself as a boy to get away from Yankees who think she’s a Rebel spy but finds herself caught by Yankee Dr. Cole Latimer and put into service for him, working at his hospital. Eventually he figures out she’s not a boy and sparks fly, but then he’s called off to war. When he returns, he’s changed – injured and bitter. After being “compromised,” Alaina and Cole are forced to wed, definitely against his wishes and he takes her home to Minnesota, a bleak change from her home in New Orleans. There are lots of nefarious goings-on, a dead wife who may be haunting his house, a dastardly villain from New Orleans who is after Alaina and a nasty cousin who wants to come between the couple before they can unravel the misunderstandings that are keeping them apart.

As horrible as it is to the characters, I just love the last section of the book. It has a creepy gothic feeling, almost Rebecca-esqe. My favorite scenes are when Cole and Alaina are dancing and he begins softening towards her finally and when she finally has the courage to go to him. After an entire (long) book of these two just passing each other, a very simple and almost chaste love scene gives me shivers.

Nope, this isn’t a perfect book, but it holds a place of honor on my bookshelf next to all of the other Woodiwiss books I collected long after my grandmother reclaimed her copies. When I’m feeling nostalgic or when I miss my grandmother, this is the book I reach for every time.




  1. Wow.. that is old school! Well, the cover is I mean. I think it's so great that your grandmother and you shared the same taste in reading. I bet that makes it extra special!

  2. Ha, all of the original Woodiwiss covers are totally old skool, and the books are big, not MMP-sized. I was amazed Goodreads even had the image of the one that I have, it's so old. Gram was a nut for romance novels. She drove me nuts though – no bookshelves, she had them all in boxes. It was positively sacrilegious.

  3. i have read a lot of Woodiwiss's novels. It's cool seeing such an old cover 🙂

  4. Those covers are so funny – even when they just came out, the people were yellow and had funny looking hair and stuff. The art departments back then must have been working for lunch money. 😀

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