I’ll acknowledge up front that I’m not usually interested in a Christianity-based religious crisis of faith by a white dude, but I offered to read this ARC after getting to know the author in a group chat. To my surprise and pleasure, Neill immediately gives the reader an explicit and sympathetic reason to care about the immediate cause of Charles’s troubles. Then, she deftly layers in the more complex reasons for Charles to re-examine his entire life, which began long before he finds a demon in his church’s kitchen.
I was also quickly hooked on the trope reversal of cinnamon roll demon and porcupine (soon-to-be) ex-priest. Of course, issues of morality and good versus evil are mainly in the eye of the beholder, so Charles isn’t exactly as “bad” as he tries to be, though Dave is definitely as good as he seems. The characters find kindred souls in each other, not due to their similarities or differences but because of the personal journeys they are undergoing. I may have predicted a significant element of Dave’s character development early in the book, but that did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the story. I was still excited to see everything unfold and learn exactly what part Charles would play in it all.
Though this book does dig into themes of the Catholic church’s views on homosexuality, Charles’ nontraditional characterization significantly lightens would could have been an otherwise heavy-handed narrative voice. That balance keeps this book at the level of sexy romp it promises to be while not shying away from the message it wants to deliver. Despite the themes, this story was low-angst and actually quite sweet—and definitely creates a high bar for any of the other books I read in this shared-concept series.
Disclaimer: I received a digital review copy of this book from the author.