Maggie Brock has everything under control. Even her divorce, though painful at the time, registers only as a minor blip in her carefully constructed universe. Her life in Prairie Oaks has once again returned to a smooth, predictable pace…until an angel shows up in her bedroom.
The angel is just as bewildered as Maggie about why he’s been sent to her, but their unsuccessful efforts to gain understanding of the mystery fade to the background as their relationship grows. Soon, Maggie’s biggest problem becomes the angel himself, as her feelings for him develop into something less than saintly.
While Maggie struggles to keep her desires pure, a nefarious being lurks in the shadows of Prairie Oaks, watching and waiting for the opportunity to fulfill his ambiguous purpose. Preying on her conflicted emotions, the demon manipulates her at every opportunity, but the one to deliver Maggie directly into his hands is the last person she’d expect.
It’s impossible to give an in-depth review of this amazing book without spoilers but I will try my best. This isn’t the usual angel falls for the daughter of man story that fills the young adult shelves. (Not that I don’t love them.) For a start, Maggie is a woman of faith in her late thirties. She’s recently divorced with two kids and questionable self-esteem at times. Her life is the cliché, her husband had an affair and now she finds herself replaced by a younger model in the form of her husband friendly girlfriend at the same time she’s facing her daughter about to enter the world of dating.
But it’s not all bad. She has a job she enjoys as an office administrator in the local parish, She’s got her own place, she has a fairly decent relationship with her kids and her ex-husband. So why is she dreaming about a beautiful young man appearing in the corner of her bedroom, a man she instinctually knows is an angel in human form?
Her angel is no help in that department. When the two finally speak, he doesn’t know why he’s there or why Maggie can see him. He only knows it’s his job to protect her from an evil circling her and he wants to take her emotional pain.
There are some parts of the story I struggled with. It was difficult for me to identify with Maggie at times. She is a good person at heart, an unselfish person. She’s open to forgiveness and has a strong faith. These are things absent in me. These are also things that made Maggie and her emotional pain seem real to me. She didn’t come across as a cardboard cut out because she struggled with these things, but ultimately her innate goodness shone through. There was a moment of self-pity where she looked at what her actions might have done to prompt her husband’s affair. This is my hard line and I wanted to shake her. Fiction books with a traditional concepts of a benevolent, all seeing, all knowing, perfect God can sometimes put me off reading. Those books where God= all good and Satan= all bad.
I make no secret of my complete lack of faith in a higher power. However, the God in Divine Temptation isn’t off-putting for a non-believer. On the contrary it’s a believable God. Not in your face and not preachy despite the strong Christian themes. It’s a little more shaded in that Satan was God’s creation too. This complicated things for me because didn’t this mean the good guys could be bad?
Evan is a complex individual. He’s existed forever but in a way that’s too difficult for a human to truly comprehend. His devotion to his heavenly father is absolute. To me, he seemed to possess an almost childlike innocence about the world while at the same time being extremely wise. Even in his more human moments of interaction, it is impossible to forget Evan isn’t a human man. He has known loss and pain, something Maggie doesn’t initially take on board. When this side of him is exposed it brings a new intimacy to the friendship. Evan is there for Maggie through the ups and downs of every day life as well as being there in moments of spiritual crisis , but not in an invasive way. Maggie makes her own decisions throughout. There is never a sign of Evan telling her what to do. Sometimes he advises, when his advise is invited.
From the beginning there are sinister undertones and a few clues to why Evan is there, but nothing Maggie can put together with any reasonable certainty. As a reader, I was never sure where the evil was coming from or if what I thought was evil was good in disguise, so I could easily understand how Maggie was confused too. There were moments I suspected absolutely everyone.So when the purpose of Evan in Maggie’s life was revealed, I wasn’t expecting it. The last chapters were both shocking and satisfying.
There is romance in this book and enough hotness to keep the reader on their toes. It’s a love story but not necessarily romantic love all the time. There are all kinds of love and frailty, and all kinds of intimacy. Divine Temptation explores them all, friendship, parent and child, lover, husband and wife, sibling. All this is tied up with a unique perspective on the mythology of angels and other religious mythology.
On to the writing, the thing about Nicki Elson is she is not consistent as an author. In a good way. What I mean by consistent is every piece she produces is completely different but as enthralling as the last. Divine Temptation is another revelation to what this chameleon has to offer readers.
The descriptions are detailed but move along so quickly the reader can feel immersed in the location without being drawn out of the storyline. In particular the descriptions of Somme Park, the art gallery and the other encounters between Evan and Maggie are wonderful. Also, the subtle and yet insightful writing means quotes from the book are stuck in my head and never likely to leave.
When it comes down to it. Divine Temptation is simply a great solid read for adults, which will capture the reader’s imagination from first to last page. It’s perfect for those seeking subtle romance, a deeper exploration of human relationships or a meaty supernatural element. Highly recommended.
Writing wasn't something Nicki set out to do; it just sort of happened when she realized writing reports was by far her favorite part of her investment consulting position. She traded stock allocation and diversification for story arcs and dialogue and now weaves her creative writing time in with the other activities of her busy life with her family in the Chicago suburbs.
Nicki writes with two goals in mind: #1 to keep the characters realistic, even when their circumstances are anything but, and #2 to make the reader feel. "The comment I get most often from readers of Three Daves is how well they relate to the characters, how genuine they seem. And the greatest thing is that it doesn't seem to matter whether they went to college back in the 80s or are there now---they say the experience is genuine. I love hearing that."
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Look out for more from Nicki in the Omnific Angel Event this august.
More details coming soon