I’ve looked forward to reading this book from the moment I closed the cover on author Marilyn Pappano’s previous Bethlehem book, Getting Lucky. For those of you who’ve missed the earlier books in the series, the Bethlehem I’m referring to is Bethlehem, New York. An idyllic little town, populated by warm, loving individuals. The type of cozy hamlet that only can exist in fiction. And then there’s the angels.
In each book in the series, matters are nudged along a bit by a few angels. As a reader who doesn’t do cutesy very well, this fact alone could have put me off the series. But it actually works here, helped by the fact that there’s not a dollop of cloying sweetness in this angelic group.
Melina Dimitris is a successful private investigator and close friend to Lynda Barone, the heroine of the previous book in the series. While visiting Lynda, Melina has a brief, but intense affair with local carpenter, Sebastian Knight. Melina is certain she’s finally found "the one." That is until Sebastian dumps her without warning or explanation. Heartbroken, Melina retreats to her home in Buffalo, hoping to never set eyes on the lout ever again.
When Heaven on Earth opens, Melina is back at work in Buffalo, nursing her wounds. The actual dumping takes place in the previous book. While this one can be read independently, I think the previous book should be read to really understand the impact of Sebastian’s actions. I read so many books that individual scenes are often forgotten. But I can clearly recall Melina’s anguish at the abrupt end of their affair.
Melina’s desire to forget about Sebastian is short-lived when Lynda asks Melina to return to Bethlehem, in her role as private investigator. It seems three of the local children have run away and Melina’s reputation as a top PI makes her the logical choice to find the kids. Melina agrees to help, something she probably wouldn’t have done had she known one of the missing kids was Sebastian’s young daughter, Chrissy.
Sebastian refuses to leave Melina’s side while she searches for the kids and the time spent on the road gives each the opportunity to really learn about the other. While this draws Sebastian closer to Melina, she finds it nearly impossible to leave her anger over his actions behind. Since I read the previous book and was there when he dumps her, I can’t say as I blame her. But as the book progresses, I found myself warming up to Sebastian and understanding how the puzzling end of his marriage caused him to act as he did.
While the book is filled with tried and true romance plot elements, in this author’s capable hands things sparkled like new. Helped along by strong characters, particularly Melina. She’s fiery, capable and intelligent. A woman who enjoys sex and isn’t afraid to say it. At times she nearly overwhelms the character of Sebastian, who is much more tentative about that sort of thing.
While the writing and the characters are terrific, things did drag a bit for me in the final third of the book. When Sebastian decides he needs Melina in his life, she holds on to her anger a bit too long and I found myself telling her to get over it already. But when she does and things reach their logical conclusion, I defy anyone to close the book with a dry eye.
It’s been my experience that a book by Marilyn Pappano is generally a safe bet and Heaven on Earth is another winner. If you’ve enjoyed the Bethlehem series, this is a book you won’t want to miss.