I don't care for paranormal books, especially when they are mixed up with romance. Well, I didn't until I read this Barbara Metzger.
Coryn Ardeth has been one of the many Grim Reapers, serving the Devil, for hundreds of years. He can see, now that it is too late, how he should have lived his life. Coryn's a thinker, though, and he's had plenty of time to plan for the possibility of having another chance at things. He is able to bargain his way back into life and given six months to find his humanity; if he doesn't, he'll spend the rest of eternity doing the Devil's bidding, and it won't be pleasant. Plunked down in the aftermath of Waterloo, Ardeth uses his strange powers and his immense desire to do nothing but good to assist the injured and dying. One of the injured turns out to be a young woman, a woman who is injured not outwardly, but inwardly.
Ardeth finds Genie Macklin doing her best in a terrible situation. She's been left with no husband, no money, no one to help her, and yet she does what she can to help the injured soldiers. Genie is reluctant to accept Ardeth's help, especially when it consists of a marriage proposal, but somehow all her reasonings and objections are overcome. She finds herself well and truly married, to a man who won't take her to his bed. Truthfully, her new husband is a bit of an oddity. He has some strange habits, a crow for a pet, and seems to be a bottomless pit of money. But still, Genie feels cared for and respected in a way she has never felt before, and she is grateful to her new husband. Genie also starts to feel something else for her husband, and there is more to it than just being grateful. If only her husband would make her really grateful to him!
Ardeth was such an interesting character, a man who just plans to spend six months doing whatever good deeds he can, in the hopes that he might have a shot at spending eternity someplace other than hell. He can see very clear-sightedly that his life in the Crusades wasn't a good one, and he tries his best to be a truly Good Man. He spends his money freely, but always with good purpose. He makes choices based on thought and reason, not emotion, and plans not just for now, but for long in the future, since in all probability he won't be around to see many things come to fruition. He is nearly completely selfless. The struggles Ardeth has with his human conscience and his perfectly human desires were interesting and sometimes amusing.
Genie has not had an easy life, but she is not one to repine. She has always done what she could to make the best of things, and she vows that her new marriage will be handled in the same way. Genie knows that her husband is a little odd, and there are many things about him that confuse and almost frighten her, but she doesn't let that overpower the many goods things she sees in him. Genie sees him more clearly than Ardeth can see himself. I liked her immensely.
Ardeth's pet crow, Olive, adds the humor to many situations, but there were a couple times I thought the scenes could have done without the over-the-top humor. This book is more profound than some of Metzger's others, and sometimes it felt like the humor was out of place. The characters are great, though, and the story, despite my initial unease with the paranormal aspects of it, just swept me away. I enjoyed seeing the relationship develop between Genie and Ardeth, and couldn't wait to find out how it would all end.
I can't say I'll be branching out into paranormal romances anytime soon, but you can bet I won't have any trepidation about trying another Metzger romance with a paranormal bent!