After a painful divorce, Gabriel Rawlins is on his way to a new life in a new year. Driving from Boston to Cleveland and feeling tired, he stops at a bar late on New Year's Eve, hoping to find a caffeinated beverage. Instead, he unwittingly walks into the middle of a fight that ends in a shooting, taking a bullet. Next thing he knows he's in the town square of a sleepy little village and the only person around who can see him is the most beautiful woman he's ever laid eyes on. As he gets to know her, he begins feeling things that are surely not permitted, especially since she claims to be an angel.
Noelle has been watching over the residents of Bethelem as their guardian angel, when Gabriel shows up in the town square. At first she's baffled as to why he can see her, since no one can unless she wills it. Then she realizes he's dead and something must have gone wrong in his transition between life and death. As they wait for word from on high as to Gabriel's fate, Noelle helps him come to terms with his demise, while also feeling stirrings of emotion she's never felt before. When Gabriel's future is finally decided will she be able to let go or will she make a fateful decision of her own to remain with him?
I loved the first three books of Marilyn Pappano's Bethlehem series, but for some reason, it's been taking me a while to get around to reading all of them. It's probably because I have way too many books on my TBR pile, so something is perpetually falling by the wayside. "Gabriel's Angel" is a short novella that falls between Father to Be and First Kiss in the series ordering. It features Noelle, the guardian angel who has been looking out for the residents of the sleepy little town of Bethlehem, as the heroine. Her hero is Gabriel, a divorcé who is on his way to Cleveland to start a new job in the new year, when he randomly stops by a bar on the way and gets shot. When he awakens, the only person who can see him is Noelle, whom he quickly discovers isn't human at all. Noelle surmises that something unexpected happened during Gabriel's transition from life to death, leaving him in a kind of spiritual limbo. As they wait for divine intervention to work out their problem, she must help him come to terms with his death, and as they spend time together, exploring the town, they develop feelings for one another.
"Gabriel's Angel" is a cute, sweet romance with no explicit elements. I enjoyed it, but it's a little simplistic in it's scope. Of course, as an angel, Noelle is nothing but goodness, kindness, and gentleness personified. Gabriel is a nice guy, too, who's had a run of bad luck with his wife cheating on him, leading to their divorce, and he's also had a troubled relationship with his daughter. It's very hard for him to face the idea of being dead, because he always thought he had much more living to do. I liked both characters, but this is about as far as their characterizations go. Their falling in love happens in a matter of only twenty-four hours, which is a little too quick to be entirely believable. It's mostly presented as them having a "magical" connection. Gabriel finds Noelle extremely attractive but he also feels something for her he hasn't felt for any woman since his divorce, maybe never. Noelle didn't think it was possible for angels to want a human and feel the things she does for Gabriel. Still, despite the paranormal element, it was a little hard to come to terms with Gabriel falling in love so quickly and Noelle being certain she was ready to leave the life of an angel in just a day. However, it's such a sweet story, I couldn't help liking it anyway. It's implied that Gabriel's guardian angel, Norma, is now looking out for the residents of Bethlehem, so I'll be interested to see if that's truly the case in the next book. "Gabriel's Angel" can be found in the anthology Yours 2 Keep.
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