Neches, Karen. 2008. Earthly Pleasures.
I rarely read Amazon reviews these days. I typically don't second guess my opinion. (And for the record, I'm not second guessing it here either even though I did look the book up on Amazon. The only thing I'm second guessing is whether to give it 3 stars or 3.5 stars or 3.75 stars.) But I have to say that Publishers Weekly's phrasing of "appealingly unorthodox" is just right in describing this fun, often light-hearted debut novel, Earthly Pleasures. Set both in heaven and on earth, it follows the lives of many characters--some living, some not so much. The story lines are seemingly unconnected--unconnected but enjoyable nonetheless--until the last third of the book when everything begins to come together. It is a romance. An unusual romance, but a romance all the same. The man? A celebrity both in heaven and on earth. Ryan Blaine. The woman? Well, when we first meet her she's a 'greeter' in heaven. Skye Sebring. Where they meet. How they meet. When they meet. I'll leave that up to you to discover.
Expect a sweet, often-funny story of two lovers that seemingly will never have the chance to connect. Don't expect an orthodox vision of heaven. Don't. If you do, if you read it through the mindset of "this is wrong; this is wrong; that's wrong, too" you'll be missing out on a charming story. Theologically weak--at least for Christian believers that may come across this novel--the novel's strength is in its telling. The back cover for instance mentions that the heroine "discovers that all of life's lessons can be learned from the lyrics of five Beatles songs." As a Beatle fan, how could I really resist such a tale?
This book may not be for everyone. Some--myself excluded--might find it a bit too light, a bit too fluffy, a bit too predictable. Romance novels aren't suited for all readers after all. And one person's "best book ever" is sentimental trash to another. But I enjoyed myself greatly with this one. It was fun. Pure fun. Guilty fun.
First sentence: The red light on Skye Sebring's computer blinked rapidly, announcing the arrival of her first client of the day. Within seconds a girl with dark, darting eyes entered the cubicle. She wore spiked leather wrist cuffs and a T-shirt with the logo "Hustle or Die."
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