Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy, three mischievous angels with a penchant for getting into trouble are once again sent to Earth at Christmastime to fulfill the prayer requests of three individuals in need.
Shirley must help divorcée, Maureen Woods, whose daughter, Karen, is having terrible nightmares. Maureen is so mired in hate and animosity toward her ex-husband, she can't seem to move forward in her life. When Karen begs for a horse for Christmas, Shirley steps in to lead her mom to a possible compromise. She sends Maureen to rancher, Thom Nichols, who offers riding lessons. Thom is attracted to Maureen from the start. He has a daughter the same age as Karen, and the girls become fast friends. But Maureen must learn to let go of the past before she can find a better future with Thom and help her daughter find peace.
Goodness is sent to help Paul Morris, a widowed minister, who lost his wife two years ago. He's struggling with depression and having a parishioner who's dying of the same form of cancer that took his wife isn't helping matters. Still angry with God over his wife's death, Paul doesn't feel like he has any sage advice to give to the woman's husband who'll be left behind, and he also feels like he's no longer making a difference in the life of his church either. The one thing he's been looking forward to is his son, Joe, coming home to spend the holidays with him, but when Joe shows up with a surprise fiancée and an announcement that they'll be spending Christmas with her family instead, Paul is crushed. Goodness will have her work cut out for her, helping Paul see the future awaiting him that's been obscured by the pain of grief.
Meanwhile Mercy comes to answer the prayer of Catherine Goodwin, who worries that her grandson, Ted, might be about to marry the wrong woman. The way she sees it, Joy Palmer, the resident service director at her retirement home would be the perfect fit for Ted, but getting Joy and Ted to see that might be a challenge until Mercy engineers a little "accident" and a winning contest entry to bring them together. After one date, Ted is all in, but Joy is concerned that he may simply be getting cold feet about committing to Blythe, the woman he was already seeing. Then just as Joy is beginning to fall in love and come around, Blythe drops a bombshell that could ruin everything.
The three angels help each other as they all try to find the best ways to answer the prayers of the people they've been sent to assist.
The Trouble with Angels is the second book in Debbie Macomber's Angels Everywhere series that follows the exploits of Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy, a trio of prayer ambassador angel friends who have a penchant for getting into trouble. In this one, their boss, the archangel, Gabriel, is reluctant to send them to Earth to help humans because of all the mischief they caused the previous Christmas, but he's overruled by a higher power. Each of the three angels are sent to help three different people for whom many prayers are being said, but they occasionally try to help each other with their respective assignments as well. This time around, they're a little more grounded than before, trying their best to stay out of trouble, but they do still engineer a few events that they fear Gabriel might frown upon. In the end, though, all is well, and since there are more books in the series, I'm sure they'll be back for more high-jinks and heartfelt assistance in the next volume.
Shirley, the oldest and most experienced angel, is sent to help Maureen, a woman who is so mired in hatred and resentment for her ex-husband, it's causing stress in both hers and her daughter, Karen's lives. Karen wants more than anything to get a horse for Christmas. Knowing that isn't feasible, Maureen brushes off her daughter's Christmas wish, until Shirley works a little angelic magic to gently drive Maureen toward the compromise of Karen getting riding lessons instead. It just so happens that Thom, the owner of the stable, is a widower whose daughter, Paula, is the same age as Karen. The two girls hit if off and become instant best friends. Thom is also instantly attracted to Maureen and begins pursuing her almost immediately. Of course, Maureen is slow to warm up because of what her ex put her through which has soured her on men in general. Thom is maybe just a teensy bit too pushy in the beginning, but I grew to like him as their part of the story progressed. He's a great influence on Maureen, encouraging her to forgive her ex in order to relieve some of the bad feelings that are causing Karen to have terrible nightmares. He also has a gentle and supportive side that is very much unlike Maureen's ex, and despite my slight misgiving early on, Thom ended up being my favorite of the male leads in the book.
Goodness is tasked with helping Paul, a minister whose faith has been wavering ever since his wife died two years earlier. Now he's being drawn into the life of one of his congregants, who is facing losing his own wife to the same form of cancer that took Paul's. This sends Paul into a downward spiral of depression as he tries to balance his ministerial responsibilities with taking care of his own emotional health. He's also looking forward to spending Christmas with his son, Joe, but Joe comes home with a surprise fiancée in tow and the announcement that they'll be spending the holiday with her family instead. Paul is a man at loose ends with whom I could relate. After going through something as traumatic as losing a spouse to cancer, he's understandably feeling betrayed by God, and then having to watch yet another woman succumb to the same disease is devastating for him. This part of the story was by far the darkest one, and at times, came close to being a tearjerker of a read for me. The reader can palpably feel the heaviness on Paul's heart. He eventually receives a message that gives him the closure he so desperately needs, but it doesn't come until the very end. This is also the only one of the three story lines that doesn't really contain a romance.
Last but not least, Mercy is sent to help Ted, whose grandmother, Catherine, has been praying that he'll find the right woman for him. Everyone, including Mercy, seems to think that the perfect person is Joy, the resident service director at Catherine's assisted living facility. The only problem is that Ted is already involved with Blythe, a co-worker who it seems he's close to proposing to. However, one "arranged date" with Joy reminds Ted of all the things he doesn't like about Blythe and proves to him that Joy is the better choice for him. But Joy is reluctant to get more deeply involved with Ted when he was so recently close to getting engaged to Blythe. She thinks it's just Ted having cold feet about making a commitment. Ted is pretty sure that isn't the case, but Blythe may still hold sway over him in an unexpected way. Although it wasn't perfect, this was probably my favorite of the three sub-plots because it's the closest to a traditional romance. However, the characters gave me cause to question their actions a couple of times. Like Thom, Ted is a tad pushy, saying he won't take no for an answer once or twice, which isn't really my cup of tea. Also Joy was crushing on Ted until he went out with her, and then she suddenly didn't entirely trust him. The feelings that Ted and Joy develop for one another come about a little too quickly to be entirely believable, too. But the angelic intervention and their obvious rightness for each other helped to make it more credible.
Overall, The Trouble with Angels was a heartwarming book that was a nice conclusion to my holiday reading this year. I liked all three of the story lines and felt that each of the people the angels were sent to help experienced admirable growth throughout the book, especially Maureen and Paul. Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy are also a treat. They care so much for their charges and always try to do their best to help even though they sometimes feel like they might be messing up or occasionally get a little off track. Due to a small amount of mild bad language, I wouldn't really categorize this book as an inspirational, but it does have a pretty overt faith message that might not be for everyone. However, I felt that it was handled with a pretty light touch that should resonate well with anyone who believes in God and angels. While it might not have reached the heights of perfection, The Trouble with Angels was still a very pleasant read that already has me looking forward to finding out what new mischief this angel trio might get into in the next book, Touched by Angels.
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