Beauty for Ashes is the second book in the Hickory Ridge series by Dorothy Love. I did not read the first book, but I had no trouble following the story. Carrie Daly lost her husband in the Civil War while still a young bride. Now a few years older, she believes her future lies with Nate Chastain, but neither seems able to commit to a wedding date. Carrie's brother does marry, though, and the presence of his new wife and her young sons changes Carrie's settled, if routine, life. She is no longer the woman of the house, and it appears that her opinions carry little value. Carrie believes she must find a life apart from the family farm and seeks employment at Nate's tiny bookstore.
Things are made worse when her brother must find work away from the farm, leaving his wife and her troublesome boys behind. As Carrie tries to find her place, a stranger comes to town; we quickly learn that Griff is a Southern gentleman who has his own family issues. Determined never to stay in one place too long, his plans change as he commits to training a horse for an upcoming race (a precursor to the Kentucky Derby). And of course, the spunky Carrie catches his eye.