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Those Christmas Angels
by Debbie Macomber
(Harl. Super. $5.25, G) ISBN 0-373-71164-6
Holiday stories definitely have their place in romance circles and this is a fine one. Those Christmas Angels is a story about opening your heart to love with a little help from the heavens.

Goodness, Mercy and Shirley are three angels assigned by Gabriel to answer the prayer of Anne Fletcher. Anne has been through some tough times. Her husband of 20+ years decided to leave her and marry his son’s fiancée, Aimee. In the process, he swindled money they had saved into offshore accounts so she got little or nothing from the divorce. Heartbroken and relatively poor, Anne has moved to the San Juan Islands near Seattle to be near her son Roy. She is now back to her first love, painting, but she is hurting for Roy.

Her prayer is to bring love into Roy’s life. Full of pain and anger from his father’s actions, Roy is convinced that women are just out to get his money. Aimee was living with him and enjoying all he had to give, but “fell in love with his father” and off she went – ready to spend all of his money and live high on the hog. Roy is angry that his mother didn’t fight for more and is completely disillusioned. He has poured himself into his business for the last five years and shows no signs of changing now - until he meets Julie Wilcoff. And to do that – he has a little help from the angels.

Roy is looking for a new head of security for his building. He interviews many men, none of whom are totally impressive. He puts the top three names in a hat and draws Dean Wilcoff’s name. Dean is a widower who is not quite ready to retire, but worried that he will not find a job at his advanced age. His wife died just a few months ago after a long illness. He lives in his home with his 30-year-old daughter, Julie.

Julie is unmarried and moved home to help care for her mother. Now she is worried about leaving her father on his own and figures her income will help him keep the house. She is not a beauty in the classic sense, but she is tall and athletic, which is helpful in her job as a physical education teacher.

On Dean’s first day, Julie is riding her bike from school to Fletcher Industries to meet her dad and has an accident. It is a strange accident, however. Her bike is mangled. She was heading for a tree and actually hit head first, but she has no injuries and the impact almost felt like she hit a pillow. There is no damage to the car, and the driver swears he never made impact with her. That driver is none other than Roy Fletcher.

What follows is a delightful and almost silly story of two people who need some extra intervention to fall into love. The angels are the fun part of the story. They try to intercede without breaking any of their rules, and of course, they do bend them a lot.

Roy is a disgruntled man and it took a little while to warm up to him. He is so caustic at times that he isn’t likable. Once he starts to relax, he starts to show some sides that are warm and fuzzy. Julie wears her heart on her sleeve and is basically open and honest. She is stubborn and is no push over. These two are just enough alike and yet, just enough different that their relationship works beautifully. I think most readers will easily engage in their story.

The story is multidimensional too. There is the main saga of Roy and Julie. There is the side story of how Anne is surviving and taking the right steps to full healing. There is also a side plot about a friend of Anne’s whose life seems to be following a parallel path. And there is the insight into Julie’s dad and how he survives his wife’s passing.

Macomber has written a formula holiday story and it works because of her style and those three angels. The humor adds to the narrative and the angst is limited. It is easy to get into the characters’ heads and therefore understand their motivations. This is simple, unadulterated holiday feel-good storytelling.

Need a spirit brightener? Pick up Those Christmas Angels and enjoy a smile.

--Shirley Lyons

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