Story Rating: 4 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Gomez Pugh
Length: 6 hours, 50 minutes
Harry, Edward, and Francis were young boys born into, or left at, the Golden Child whorehouse near Sacramento during the heyday of the 1860s California gold rush. Harry and Edward had been pressed into service in their early teens, but they strove to protect each other and the younger ones, like Francis, from their pox-ridden fate. On the night 15-year-old Francis was going to become a money-earning member of the house, Harry and Edward planned a daring escape with Francis, only a few steps ahead of the dangerous and brutal enforcer of the house: Big Cass. Big Cass took great pleasure beating and raping unwilling whores until they complied.
While escaping Big Cass, the three young men took refuge on the edge of a clearing near the railyard where they hoped to stowaway on a freight car. There they witnessed a woman bringing her lover back to life with the help of her angel acquaintance, Suriel. It turns out Emma was a centuries-old sorceress and she’d fallen for Leonard, who was a demon. She knew a powerful spell that could save him, if she could convince Suriel, to lend a wing.
In making Leonard a human, Emma stored some of her magical power within Edward, Harry, and Francis, immediately turning them into her cat familiars. While this solved their pox problems, it didn’t make everything perfect. Emma needs to keep her familiars nearby in order to maintain her power, and the boys, who learned to change form from cats to men, would physically age about five years for every hundred human years. In the intervening century and a half, the Youngbloods: Emma, Leonard, Harry, Edward, and Francis, live an idyllic life. Emma and Leonard even take some of their magic to have a child and imbue him with powers. Edward, Harry, and Francis are able to cast off their magic, by choice, if any finds a partner with whom he wishes to live a normal mortal life. The boys take lovers from time to time, but none are so special for them to cast off their paranormal powers.
In recent times, Harry has come to find a new purpose: breaking up human trafficking rings centered in and around the California/Las Vegas metro zones. He’s been lonely a long time, pining for the angel Suriel, with whom he’s always had a special affinity. Whenever Suriel visits, Harry follows him around, in both human and cat form, looking for whatever connection they can make, and he’s often despondent when Suriel must leave.
Suriel has visited with the Youngblood family every few years or so. He’s had a special bond with Harry, for whom Suriel used his avenging powers to rid the world of Big Cass all those years ago. Suriel might be convinced to face the pain and suffering of falling if only he knew that Harry would be there for him when he landed. Harry having been a loner and fickle about love for decades isn’t a good sign, though, and Harry’s penchant for nearly getting killed while rescuing the trafficking victims leaves Suriel with few options. Actually, his superiors have made it clear this visit to the human realm will be his last. And Suriel’s determined to make it count.
Familiar Angel is an interesting friends-to-lovers romance. Little time is spent discussing the decades that have gone by from the moment Harry and Suriel meet, to the modern times in which the main story takes place. Harry’s family all see that he’s smitten with Suriel, and they suspect the feeling is mutual. Still, Suriel must be sure of Harry’s love before he can fall from grace. Harry’s love will be a beacon for Suriel, if he can make the transition. Complicating matters is the trafficking problem, and the perpetrators coming for retribution. It’s some of Harry and Edward’s nightmares come true, especially when they come face-to-face with evil.
The narration was steady and engaging, with good tonal quality for male and female ranges. I didn’t have trouble setting it down, however, though I think that was more due to a lack of plot conflict than an issue with the narration. See, while there was a lot going on, I didn’t think it connected well to the romance, which I would have gladly traded for some serious development of Harry and Suriel as both men and lovers. Pretty much everyone told Harry he needed to settle down and get to loving Suriel, and well… guess what happened. To be honest, I was a little disappointed that Suriel wasn’t a bit more enthralled with his first brushes of physical love.
To that end, the sexual tension felt a little forced, though the ending was exactly what each man was looking for. There’s a bit of tension near the VERY end, when Suriel must face his punishments, but it never felt as if a reunion wasn’t imminent. I was also unclear if Harry had to give up his paranormal powers in order to love Suriel—it was such a sticking point in the book, but when the time came for such a choice it got a little wiggly. All in all, I liked the story, and liked the creativity of it. I never would have anticipated the cooperation between angels and demons, which was a nice twist. It’s clear that Edward will find his true love in the next book, and that seems like an intriguing one, as it might bring us to the gate of hell. That’s a journey I would take…if I knew I could come back!
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.