Catch a Fallen Angel
Reading this book was a lot like putting on an old well-washed pair of blue jeans. Maybe there were a few small holes, and story may have been a little worn, but overall it fit well, felt very comfortable, and was just the thing I felt like reading at the time.
The story begins in a way that is very reminiscent of Sharon Sala’s Annie and the Outlaw. Gabriel Donovan is being hanged by a lynch mob for cheating the town out of some investment money. Problem is that although he’s not actually guilty of this crime he’s no innocent either, so he’s looking at spending eternity in a not-so-pleasant place. He is hanged, and the mob dissipates, but before he can go on to the afterlife that awaits him, the Devil appears to strike a bargain with him. The Devil will give Gabe two more months of life in exchange for the soul of the man who should really have been hanged this day – Henry Whittaker, Gabe’s erstwhile partner in crime. All Gabe has to do is find this guy and bring him to an appointed spot in two months.
Of course Gabe agrees, and goes off to find Henry in the town of Regret, Nevada. But instead of Henry, he finds Maggie Benson, a single mother with a young son who is trying in vain to run a restaurant business. Problem is, Maggie can’t cook to save her life and everyone in town knows it. Her only business comes from the stagecoach passengers who pass through town and other itinerants like Gabe, who also needs a job. Maggie hires Gabe and with his help begins to turn her restaurant and the town’s opinions around.
Ms. Kane does a beautiful job with the developing relationships between Maggie and Gabe, and between Gabe and Maggie’s son Jake. There are very few false notes and several moving scenes. All the characters in this story – major and minor – are well drawn and make you care about them. Even the mean-spirited and vindictive woman who makes Maggie’s life miserable in town is given depth and motivation. The only problem is that most of the conflicts are resolved rather easily. This is not really a bad thing, but it does make me wonder why it took Gabe’s coming to town to make everything work out.
It’s not hard to see where this story is going. The only way to have a HEA ending to this story is for Gabe to somehow cheat the devil out of their bargain and be allowed to stay with Maggie. Given the Judeo-Christian morality at work here, we know this can only be done if he somehow changes his ways and becomes a selfless person. Along the way he, of course becomes a better father to Maggie’s son Jake, and a better lover to Maggie than her no-good husband had been before he left them.
And that’s where one of the small problems in the book comes in. All we know about Maggie’s husband is that he left her years ago. Why, then, is Maggie free to marry Gabe? My understanding is that until her husband is declared dead or she is granted a divorce, she is still legally married to him and can’t marry anyone else. That, in fact, was one of the central conflicts in Pamela Morsi’s The Love Charm. However, truth be told, this didn’t really occur to me until after I’d finished reading the book, so it really didn’t spoil my enjoyment. But what was distracting were several of the plot points involving the Devil. Why does the Devil need Gabe’s help in finding Henry? And what good will it do to find Henry anyway – doesn’t a man have to die before the Devil can take his soul? The final confrontation with the Devil is intended to answer some of these questions, but created enough nagging questions in my mind that complete enjoyment of Catch a Fallen Star was limited.
However, up until that point, this was a very enjoyable read. Ms. Kane has a very easy-going writing style that allowed me to slip into this book as easily as I slip into my favorite jeans. I enjoyed it while it lasted, but unlike my jeans, it’s not something I need to use over and over again.