Author: Laura Lee
Cover Artist: Anne Cain
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Itineris Press
Buy Link Amazon:
Genre: Religious, M/M romance
Length: Novel (196 PDF pages)
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by Tj
Summary Review: While I enjoyed the philosophical discussions about religion and homosexuality, the romance seemed to take a distant second place.
The Blurb: Since the loss of his lively, charming wife to cancer six years ago, minister Paul Tobit has been operating on autopilot, performing his religious duties by rote. Everything changes the day he enters the church lobby and encounters a radiant, luminous being lit from behind, breathtakingly beautiful and glowing with life. An angel. For a moment Paul is so moved by his vision that he is tempted to fall on his knees and pray.
Even after he regains his focus and realizes he simply met a flesh-and-blood young man, Paul cannot shake his sense of awe and wonder. He feels an instant and overwhelming attraction for the young man, which puzzles him even as it fills his thoughts and fires his feelings. Paul has no doubt that God has spoken to him through this vision, and Paul must determine what God is calling him to do.
Thus begins a journey that will inspire Paul’s ministry but put him at odds with his church as he is forced to examine his deeply held beliefs and assumptions about himself, his community, and the nature of love.
The Review: Angel is a selection from Itineris Press, the new faith based division of Dreamspinner Press. Each chapter begins with what I felt were inspirational quotes from various sources, all with some reference to the mountains. A little odd you might think, but they do tie back to the main character of Paul, who drives a tour bus of Mt. Rainier in Washington state. We quickly learn that Paul’s previous employment was as a Protestant minister. After an initial introduction to Paul’s present life, the remainder of the story is told in flashback to Paul’s time as a minister.
At the point that we jump to, in Paul’s past, he is living a very muted existence since the death of his wife Sara. With Sara gone, Paul is simply going through the motions of his ministry, but is completely uninspired, until one fateful day when he sees what he believes must be an angel from God, enter his church. Paul quickly realizes that not only is this just a human being, but it is surprisingly a young man named Ian, not a woman as he originally thought.
Paul is drawn to Ian, who he learns is there for anything but angelic reasons – namely to attend an AA meeting. After their initial introduction Paul thinks about Ian obsessively, begins fantasizing and even masturbates to thoughts of him at night. Paul is confused about his desire since he was sure that he was straight, but admits to himself that he has had bizarre fantasies in the past, which he had no desire to practice in real life. So perhaps this is an indication that Paul was bisexual all along? Paul convinces himself that God sent the angelic vision so that he would notice Ian, and realize that he should help Ian in his recovery from drinking, not lust after him.
Paul does get Ian into rehab and they form a platonic friendship, which starts my favorite part of the book. During this phase of their relationship, Paul and Ian have long daily phone conversations about life and God and religion. I found especially interesting, Paul’s views on the church and homosexuality, and sex in general.
“My personal feeling about why the church tries to promote sex only within marriage is that ideally it preserves the real life-affirming kind of sexuality. It’s not just about sensation and your own pleasure, it’s about connecting to someone else on a deep and serious level. Maybe churches are clumsy in how they express that sometimes.”
So Ian asks Paul about his feelings on the oft quoted passage from Leviticus:
“You don’t believe that?”
“Oh, that again.”
“You think two men can have “life-affirming” sex?”
“Yeah, I do. Of course they can.”
Paul goes on to explain why Leviticus isn’t meant to be followed verbatim:
You don’t keep a kosher diet, right? You can mix cotton and linen. That’s all Leviticus. It’s the rules on how to be a good Jew. We keep the Old Testament to understand our tradition and heritage.
“…Why are so many churches anti-gay?”
“It’s from culture and tradition. There is a lot of the Old Testament that is worth holding onto. Churches try to pass along the best of the traditions. So there is a lot of interpretation in that. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Paul and Ian eventually embark on a romance, with little thought as to how this will work in the real world of Paul’s ministry. I found this part of the story a little predictable, especially in the light of knowing that Paul ends up as a tour guide. The focus of the story was far more on Paul’s journey of self discovery, his questioning of his religious beliefs and his ministry duties. And for me, the romance storyline suffers because of this. There were just too many other things discussed or thought about at length, which I felt had some of those pages been used to bring the romance to life, would’ve packed a more emotional punch. And I’m not talking about adding on-page sex (as there was none). I am fine with (and sometimes prefer) little or no sex in my books. It was more a simple lack of exploration of their relationship that left me wanting more.
Angel may not fit the bill as a typical M/M romance, but it succeeds as an interesting discussion about religion and sexuality.