"After the Ashes" - Cheryl Howe - 2003

Sometimes things work on what I like to call the 'poached egg principle' - the universe keeps throwing weird little quirks of repetition at you - so, it figures that the next books outside of Mary Balogh's Huxtable series would also have iconic (to me at least) television character names.  The H/H of "After the Ashes" names are (see picture) that's right, "Christopher and Lorelai." It may or may not be on purpose, but when I googled Gilmore Girls 2003, the year this novel was published, images of "Gilmore Girls" Season 4 came up - that's the season where Luke and Lorelai finally kiss and begin a relationship - do we have a Luke hater here?  Or perhaps an early draft was written around the very likable Chris in Season 2?  Or perhaps it has nothing to do with the tv show at all, as the actor who plays Chris, David Sutcliffe is very charming, but in no way does he resemble the hero in "After the Ashes" a West Point Grad, Union Captain and bad ass bounty hunter.   
As for the book separate from my second favorite television show, it was a big let down.  Granted, Howe's debut novel came from my DIK review list of books to look for, so I had high expectations, too high it seems.  Despite a ridiculous setup and an interaction that felt like a scene straight of a "Longarm" novel - I was very much enjoying the first half of the book.  It went way downhill from there.  It felt a bit like the 90's novels of Jude Devereaux, sacrifices for no reason, forced misunderstandings, and relationships built almost exclusively around sex and mistrust.  I found another review on The Romance Reader which only gave "After the Ashes" three hearts, and listed quite a few of the same issues I had, so now I'm going to take some time searching for a second opinion of all those books I'm looking for.