I don’t know what I expected from Mrs. Nash’s Ashes by Sarah Adler, but a whirlwind of tender emotions and immense heart in the form of a book I can’t put down wasn’t one of them. (Though there’s no surprise considering the world of romance with brilliant writers pouring their souls into these stories.) Still, this one is special. The novel is overflowing with wholesome junctures in every corner and the kind of love stories that’ll make the heart soar. It’s a rare treat with its intricate plot, pacing, and witty dialogue, bringing a stunning version of the grump and sunshine trope to life.
Mrs. Nash’s Ashes is a bit of a bonus with two love stories for the price of one, and while one tragically ends with heartbreak in the past, it’s still brimming with immense longing in a way that delivers what lasting adoration looks like. The story follows Millicent (Millie) Watts-Cohen traveling to Key West to reunite her elderly best friend’s ashes with the one true love of her life, the one that got away—Elsie. Travel plans go awry, and a road trip ensues, resulting in the use of every glorious trope fans of the genre could think of. Further, while readers experience Millie and Hollis’ story in real-time, we go through the events of the past through story recollections and letters, bringing Rose (Mrs. Nash) and Elsie’s romance to the forefront gorgeously.
While I know many readers appreciate jumps from the past to the present, like Emily Henry’s latest novel, Happy Place, I’m generally someone who prefers consistent timelines. And though I love the second-chance romance trope more than most, such jumps often take me out a bit. However, that’s not the case with Mrs. Nash’s Ashes by Sarah Adler, since the past tells one story and the present tells another while the two effortlessly weave into something enamoring together. When we’re in the past with Elsie and Rose, we’re enveloped in new beginnings that exhibit why finding the right person matters. And when we’re in the present with Millie and Hollis, we experience the importance of unveiling true, consistent understanding.
There’s profound heartache tied to this novel because Elsie and Rose don’t have the chance to live their lives together to the very end. When they meet during World War II, laws aren’t in favor of LGBTQ relationships—their chances of a happy ending are marred from the start. Yet, there’s a warmth in the detail that their love brings colossal, gentle light into their lives, even when they part ways. The longing is palpable, even as Millie continues to tell the story to Hollis, inadvertently healing his cynical heart with it too.
Though readers never meet Elsie or Rose in real-time, they come alive to us beautifully through Millie’s point of view, which is also an achievement in Mrs. Nash’s Ashes by Sarah Adler because while I usually feel the frustration in single-point-of-view stories, I was too absorbed in this story to even realize it. Millie’s headspace is a darling place to be with a whole lot of love that shines a light on all characters. Whether past or present, there’s a tenderness to how she encapsulates the essence of romance and keeps it alive with her persistence and resilience despite the personal heartaches she’s endured.
It’s difficult to describe the tangible warmth in Mrs. Nash’s Ashes by Sarah Adler. It’s a story that envelops you from the start and takes hold of you. Its descriptions don’t do it justice because even after reading, it’s a story you can’t break apart into parts. It shines fully and wholeheartedly. Perhaps, its only flaw, depending on the reader’s preference, is how the third-act breakup is handled. While it’s entirely understandable how it happens and why, I tend to feel uncomfortable when someone reads something they shouldn’t. There’s a tricky breach of agency that occurs, but this is a minor issue compared to the stunning love, light and witty humor that’s etched into every page of this book.
Mrs. Nash’s Ashes by Sarah Adler is now available wherever books are sold.