Aden is an emotionally-damaged, out gay man who goes to a concert and finds himself waiting for his final judgment. He has no idea how he died, but his angelic companion in line assures him that he’s in the Hereafter. Aden expects to assigned to Hell. He’s not a good guy, and yet, not all of that is his fault.
When he arrives in front of Dante and Raphael, it’s clear that they cannot decide where he belongs either, so they make him a bargain: thirty days on Earth and if he does right and learns about love, he can go to Heaven. Continue living as he had, selfish and narcissistic with no one to even mourn him? Hell for sure.
Aden arrives in Caterham, a rural community south of London, with only the clothes on his back. He must find a way to survive without stealing or scamming if he wants to go to Heaven. He’s also granted seven extra lives, in the event things don’t go right. And, they don’t. He meets the hood of Brody’s car before he meets the driver. Yep, struck by a vehicle while walking down the unlit country lane.
Brody is a veterinary surgeon with a bad past. He’s back in Caterham living on his family’s horse farm with his brother Des’ family. Brody’s hiding from his abusive ex, Matt—a man who really ought to be in prison. Brody hasn’t gotten over Matt, but he’s also tired of his abuse. I’m not going to explain their complicated history, but it’s nasty and I was so glad Brody escaped. Still, Brody’s whole life has been shaped by Matt’s abuse, and it leads him to dark places, and more trouble. Hitting Aden wasn’t part of the plan, but he’s grateful when he and Des discover Aden hiding in Des’ horse barn. At least he can try to help the man he thought he killed.
Aden proves to be indispensible, saving Des’ son from a bad fall, fixing farm equipment, and gentling Brody’s own horse. All the while, the tension builds between Aden and Brody. Aden gains some insight into his final hours while he learns to be a good friend, and a good partner for Brody. He doesn’t want Brody to fall for him, but he also doesn’t want to abandon Brody when he learns about Matt and recognizes who he is: a dangerous, obsessed man who Aden fears will try to “possess” Brody in whatever way he can.
This is a redemption tale, and it’s well-told. Trigger warnings: I hadn’t expected the level of abuse that was present for both Brody and Aden in their respective lives. That was startling, and sad. Expect a rape. Also, some recollections of vile child molestation. The circumstances of Aden’s death were also shocking and poignant considering the recent spate of mass shootings in the world. While Aden struggles to do right, he’s beset by Dante, who wants his soul in Hell, and aided by Raphael, who sees the innate goodness that a young, neglected and abused Aden learned to hide away. There’s a lot of torment right here on Earth, and part of that is Aden finding love just when it’s too late to grasp.
Because there are spiritual elements present, readers should expect miracles to occur. And they are the best miracles, really. I had a bit of terror with some alternate endings that were rolling in my thoughts, which caused me to read all the faster. I knew that Matt was big trouble, and had been trouble for a very long time, so I feared he’d do serious harm. Spoiler alert: he does, just not in the heinous way I had been acutely fearing. I really felt a part of this story, and ached for Aden’s soul to find peace, and Brody’s life to be safe. The end is the best example of hopes realized that I’ve read in a while. It *might* seem a bit far-fetched, but this is a story about angels and demons and redeeming a lost soul; so, yeah. Miracles happen. Life goes on. Sexytimes for the right reasons. HEA on the horizon. If I didn’t actually cry in reading this book, it was because I had no tears left.