Angels at the Table (by Debbie Macomber)

I’ve only read one book by Debbie Macomber before, and wasn’t hugely impressed. It was pleasant enough in a low-key kind of way, and the plot worked well; but I found the conversation rather unrealistic and trite, and didn’t really empathise with the characters... although they did eventually get under my skin. I didn’t feel inspired to read any more of her books, yet I know they’re extremely popular, so when I saw ‘Angels at the Table’ in a charity shop recently, I thought I’d give it a chance.

The story opens on New Years’ Eve in Times Square. Three angels (Shirley, Goodness and Mercy) are showing the sights to their apprentice angel Will. The place is crowded as everyone waits for midnight. The more experienced angels try to explain the concepts of time to their protegĂ©, and also let him know that while it’s fine to observe people, and sometimes to protect them, they’re not supposed to interfere in human affairs unless specifically instructed to do so.

This does not stop Will from letting two rather lonely people bump into each other. Aren and Lucie are both wishing they were with someone else... and they look into each other’s eyes as the clock strikes. Without thinking they kiss - and something clicks. They spend hours talking, then wisely agree to think about whether or not they want a relationship. Aren is just getting over a messy divorce, and Lucie is working all hours in the restaurant she and her mother are just starting. So they agree on a venue for the following week, which either of them is free to go to - or not.

Events conspire to stop them meeting, but the angels feel that they really should be together. By chance Aren - who writes restaurant reviews under a pseudonym - visits Lucie’s restaurant but does not actually see her. The angels decide to take a hand in making his meal extra-special, with disastrous results...

It’s a good idea for a book; a classic romance where two people are attracted to each other then pulled apart by circumstances and eventually brought back together. A plot which is apparently tireless as it’s so often repeated - and in this case, the bumbling (but well-intentioned) angels add a light-hearted touch that mostly works well. Apparently this is one of a series about these particular angels, but I haven’t read any of the others, and it wasn’t necessary to do so. This novel stands well on its own.

Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that the characters had much depth. The conversations all seem rather stilted, and I never felt that I knew what was going on in their heads, despite the author describing their feelings regularly, sometimes more than once. I was certainly interested enough to keep reading - I wanted to know how Lucie and Aren would eventually get together, and also what Lucie would do when she finally learned who Aren was.

It was all rather predictable, and while I liked the inevitable happy ending, it was difficult to see how it happened: one day Lucie’s heart was hard and she could never forgive Aren. Then they happen to meet (with a little angelic help) and everything is rosy again.

I don’t feel inspired to read any other books in the series, although it was comfortable enough bedtime reading over the past few days. And these books are very popular - so don't take my word for it.

Recommended in a low-key way to anyone who enjoys very light, innocent fiction; but it’s not one I shall be reading again.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 17th August 2013

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