A widower and widow, both pastors touched by tragedy, find new love and faith together in this first of a planned angel-themed romance series.
In 1997, pastor CJ Aldermann returns from the deathbed of his pastor father in nearby Paradise, Wyoming, to discover that his wife and two children died overnight in a fire. Ten years later, CJ lives with his mother in Paradise, is no longer a pastor, and works as a rancher. He finally sparks to life again after meeting Shannon Hutchins, the new pastor of Paradise. She, too, has experienced great loss. Her first husband, who was abusive, shot dead her second spouse and young son several years earlier. Shannon’s daughter, Julie, now 19, survived the rampage, but was left disabled. Shannon, a flame-haired beauty, has taken the Paradise job because Julie wants to set up a service-dog training facility near town. The place they acquired, however, is in bad shape, so they stay at the Aldermann farm during its repair. Attraction builds between Shannon and CJ, who share their stories and soon get engaged. Some townsfolk don’t want a female pastor, however, and some of CJ’s horses are shot dead as a warning. Luckily, this couple is literally on the side of angels. Debut author Spar leavens what could have been heavy-handed spiritual romance/drama with folksy comedy, including having his angels gibe each other (“Okay—‘Grumpy-Gabby’! Get up on the wrong side of the Nebula?”) and a running gag about avoiding the local diner’s lunch special. This narrative is ambitious with subplots, however, and the motives for the horse killing are puzzling. Overall, however, Spar sets an engaging, expansive world in motion, consisting not only of angels but also, given Julie and the clients who arrive near the end of this novel, a commendably diverse array of romance-seeking individuals.
A funny, heartwarming introduction to a heaven-watched town.