by Michelle Rowen, fantasy (2006)
Warner, $6.50, ISBN 0-446-61699-0
Angel With Attitude is an accurate title for this most charming story. Our heroine Valerie Grace, a fallen angel, is indeed a heroine with an attitude, although in this case, she's feisty and probably a little ditsy in a good way. Unlike other angelic heroines who often come off as too dim-witted for words, Valerie displays a refreshing ability to learn, adapt, and deal with smelly stuff dished her way with an often unexpected sense of humor. The only downside to this story is the limited point of view from the hero Nathaniel, which means that he is nowhere as well-developed a character as the heroine.
Valerie has no idea how or why it happened to her, but she's been booted from Heaven and stripped of her rank. She's now human, ugh, and worse, she has to become a maid in a run-down motel in order to make a living and keep a roof over her head. Still, life isn't that bad - Valerie is sure that if she does a lot of good deeds like helping old ladies cross the street, she will eventually rack up enough brownie points to get back to Heaven one way or the other. Also, she meets some adorable, if often eccentric, people and her employer is a kindly old man. The only thing she has to watch out for is the Tempter Demon assigned to lead fallen angels like her astray. She has been keeping an eye on any possible attractive man that could be that Tempter Demon... but when he does show up, it's when she least expects him to. How like a man, really.
Nathaniel is a flop when it comes to being a Tempter Demon because he doesn't have the heart or temperament to corrupt and lead formerly divine beings right into Hell. In fact, he became a Tempter Demon due to a slip-up in the recruitment process, let's just say. He really doesn't want to seduce Valerie. In fact, he plans to stay away from her. It is Valerie that seeks him out.
You see, Valerie comes to realize that there is a key that will allow one back to Heaven. It's a long story, but the Key has fallen into the hands of Nathaniel's enemy, Julian, and Valerie needs someone to help her venture into the dark unknown to retrieve the Key before Julian destroys existence as we know it. That fellow is, of course, Nathaniel.
I have to tell you, it's the Tempter Demon here who is the angst-ridden lovelorn emo boy here. Valerie can be sweet and vulnerable at times, for she is, after all, an angel, but she can also hold her own very well in this story, much to my delight. She's no helpless damsel, although she's not a superhero either. She's just a sweet young lady who, under duress, can surprise folks with how tough she can be. Poor Nathaniel doesn't stand a chance and I can see why. Nathaniel is nowhere near as memorable a character as Valerie, which puts a damper to the romance developing between him and Valerie, but still, he's alright.
The story is pure fun from start to finish. The author does an excellent job in making her setting as vivid as possible. The fantasy aspects of the story are vibrant and confidently presented. I have this impression that Ms Rowen genuinely has a passion for the fantasy genre instead of being merely another bandwagon-hopper who believes that all you need to write a fantasy romance is to have everyone's name containing the letters X, Y, and Z. The secondary characters are a riot, especially the demon who moonlights as a RITA-winning romance author.
What really makes this story work like magic for me is how even when Ms Rowen has her tongue pressing firmly against her cheek, she never loses sight of the story. The story has some scenes of heartbreaking poignancy despite its strong element of humor. When Ms Rowen wants to stomp on my heart and break it into pieces, she can do it so well and she does it without mercy as well. As a result, this story is funny and cathartic. I laugh, I cry, and I sigh.
Okay, I wish that Nathaniel wasn't such an obvious cipher of the mysterious tall, dark, and brooding character and the last few chapters leading up to the happy ending hadn't been so predictable and even clichéd. Still, I can only wonder why the story has to end because I am having such a good time. Angel With Attitude is an exhilarating and entertaining read that I could have sworn that Ms Rowen had written it just for my keeper shelf.
This book at Amazon.com
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