Although ridiculously happy at first, things become difficult Dean's position involves a great deal of traveling, which makes Madeline a single parent a good deal of the time. As a result, she's constantly exhausted and the house is constantly a shambles. Dean, who never used to be bothered by an untidy home, is suddenly very critical of Madeline's housekeeping. She knows no one in Boulder except a few of Dean's co-workers, and her exhaustion and loneliness is wearing on her.
She's elated when she's offered a job reviewing restaurants for the local paper; even though it's not terribly exciting, it's a break from house and toddlers. But when a series of arson fires break out in the area and Madeline becomes drawn into the investigation, she naturally becomes more involved than is safe.
Madeline Dare is an amazing character: she's an intelligent and strong woman. Until the move to Boulder, she was also fiercely independent, with a merciless, caustic wit. Read writes Madeline in the first person, so it's always been easy for the reader to identify with her, especially women.
With the fourth book in the series, empathizing with Madeline is even easier. Part of it is because we know her better, but Read's communication of what she's experiencing is absolutely masterful.
I read Valley of Ashes in its entirety on the long flight home from Montréal. Consuming the whole book in one sitting certainly enhanced the sense of being in the story, since there was no real emerging from it until the end. For almost five hours, I was Madeline Dare.
If you've read the first three books in the series, you'll understand, and you should rush out and pick this up immediately. If you haven't read the earlier books, it can stand alone. Rush out and pick it up anyway.
FTC Full Disclosure: I purchased this book.