An Ordinary Girl - Barbara Elsborg Holy moley. I thought the characters in Strangers were damaged. They have absolutely no issues compared to these two! But my, what a beautiful, if tragic, story. Well... I suppose ultimately it wasn't tragic, but for a while, it was touch and go. God... so much guilt from so many different directions!!

We have Ash, who has lived her life basically helping others. She had a horrible (I don't think I can make it bold enough horrible) childhood, yet she's constantly trying to make others' lives better. She tries to fly under the radar with all her do-good activities. She really does not want any acknowledgement for the things she does... she just tries to make people's lives better.

And we have Noah. He's a freelance photographer who volunteered a while back to go to Afghanistan to take photographs of the war there, to personalize it for the people back home. Only he ended up getting captured and mentally tortured by a faction of escaped Afghani convicts. He's been screwed up for months. Lots of PTSD and a massive load of guilt.

Noah begrudgingly takes a wedding photography job for a photog friend who has fallen ill at the last minute. He meets Ash, who is there as a last-minute fill-in for a server, when he backs into her and she drops her tray of hors d'oeuvres. And they meet again when the fireworks go off and trigger a PTSD episode for Noah. She attempts to help him, he suggests she fuck him, she refuses, and he's baffled. Nobody tells him no. But he's in no shape to continue taking pictures, so Ash ends up photographing the fireworks as well as a few more key moments for him.

Through some trickery, because Noah can't stop talking about Ash, Noah and Ash are in the same place a few days later, and this time, she goes home with him. And after some great fun, he's an asshole and she bolts. A few more times like this happen... I can't imagine trying to live with PTSD. I can only imagine feeling like nobody around you has a clue what you've been through. And it must be just as hard to watch someone go through it. But Ash is forever patient with him. And they find love.

But then something happens. Ash went through so much as a child and now her past has caught up with her but in a much bigger way than she could have ever anticipated. OMG my heart broke for her. When she was relaying to Arkady the explanation her mother had given her, I was bawling. I can't imagine living with that kind of guilt. And it should never have been hers. God, her mom was a bitch.

Ultimately it was an incredibly sweet HEA. Noah, although definitely damaged, was such a great guy. I thought the sentiment behind his actions at the end was so heartfelt. I sort of knew it was coming, but I still cried. And Ash was as far from ordinary as a girl can get. She was remarkable in her ability to see the bright side of life... for everyone else. For herself, she only saw the solitude that she thought she deserved.

I thought the side relationship between Ronan and Ilya was nice. Ronan seemed like the best kind of friend to have, so I was glad to see him find a bit of happiness himself.

I think I'll remember this story for a long while. I think the fact that it was born from wondering how children of demented, evil people end up made Ash's situation that much sadder.