Catherine Anderson surprises me–again!
Title: Walking on Air
Author: Catherine Anderson
Series: Valance Family
Genre: historical with spiritual/paranormal elements
Format read: paperback
A few years ago I borrowed a Catherine Anderson ebook from the library–My Sunshine. I can’t remember exactly why–did I read about it somewhere? Find it on a search somehow? My motivation is lost to the sands of time. All I do recall is that the idea of a main character in a romance with a disability (she’d suffered a traumatic head injury and would be affected by it for the rest of her life) intrigued me. Could the author pull it off?
Oh, boy, did she. I. Loved. That. Book.
I became a Catherine Anderson “fan” on Goodreads, found her website, and subscribed to her newsletter. Due to my massive and ever-growing TBR pile (because seriously, I really loved the book and have no other excuse for why I would do–or more accurately NOT do–this) I didn’t read any more of her books.
But then I got an email from the author (as did everyone else on the mailing list, it wasn’t specially written to me, or anything. Sadly.) saying she had a new book coming out–Perfect Timing–and the first 200 readers who responded to the email would get a free copy in exchange for a review. Since I am on the computer almost any time I am not reading (and okay, I’ve been known to do both at the same time too–and not just when I’m “reading” on audio) you’d better believe I got that email off almost as soon as the original hit my inbox.
The book came. I did a happy dance. A school break was approaching, so I put it aside to read it then. Break time arrived. (Yay!) I picked up the book, and began reading. Did I glance at the back cover? No. Read a blurb anywhere? Nope. I just read.
My Sunshine was a straight-up contemporary. I knew from the author’s site and newsletters that she wrote historicals too–which is what I assumed Perfect Timing was–until the main character traveled through time. Magic was involved. I was completely taken by surprise, but went with it–and it was a charming and fun book that I really enjoyed. Okay, it might have had me a little bit concerned near the end (but not really nervous, because–hello–it’s a romance!) but Anderson pulled it all together nicely. Loved the book.
A year passed. I read 200+ books. None of them were by Catherine Anderson. Seriously, I don’t know why.
But then–hey! Another email. Another book is coming out–Walking on Air. Do I want to read it for review? You betcha! I sent that email off quicker than ice cream gets eaten in the Moe household (if I didn’t buy it, there are times I wouldn’t have known we even had it in the freezer it goes so fast) and yay! I made the cutoff again!
The book came. The cover was pretty. I put it aside, knowing that yes, another school break was coming. (Thank you, George and Abe.)
I put it in my pretty quilted book cover and waited not-so-patiently for break.
Break came. I finished the ebooks I needed to for the first part of the week, and then picked up my new paperback. Did I read the back? No. Had I looked into any blurbs about it? Of course not. (Could I do so now? Nope–it’s snugly tucked into the pretty cover, remember.) I just read. I knew it had to be a historical, because as I was putting it into the cover I’d seen the words “solitary gunslinger Gabriel Valance” on the back, and I didn’t think there were too many solitary gunslingers around today.
Well, not ones that were likely to be Catherine Anderson heroes, anyway.
So I sat down to read, expecting a pleasant historical romance.
What I didn’t expect, was for the hero to DIE on page 13. On Christmas.
Yep, took me by surprise too.
But it’s okay–because he (kind of) goes to heaven. Or a reasonable facsimile, anyway. Okay, it’s nothing like most people’s idea of heaven. But his heavenly hosts (angels Gabriel and Michael) know this gunslinger well, and they give him surroundings he can handle. A rickety shack in the clouds.
(Hence the Walking on Air bit. Because he actually is, at this point. Clever, right?)
The angels are appalled at the number of people Gabriel Valance has–ahem–helped to shuffle off this mortal coil (fourteen) and the number of women he has–well, you know, known (one hundred and fifty-six. He’s sure they’ve left some names off the list)–and tell him that in order to avoid eternal damnation he will have thirty days to go back to Random, Colorado and save a lost soul.
They give him three to choose from. One is an elderly man who lost his wife and children in an epidemic and has lived ever since as a bitter drunk, isolated from the rest of town. The second is a young boy that Gabe had actually seen that morning, crouched outside the local bordello, starving and cold, waiting for his mother who had left town some time before with a cowpoke. The third is our heroine, Nan Sullivan, a spinster who is hiding from her past in Random, posing as a widow and raising her much younger sister as her daughter. Nan is of course who Gabe picks, mostly because she’s pretty and he hopes he’ll get some.
The angels warn him that she’s the most challenging of the three, because she distrusts men, hates the institution of marriage, and has sworn to never have anything to do with either. Her sense of humor is practically non-existent and she had no real friends, living for her sister and her work–she runs the milliner’s shop in town. Gabe has thirty days to marry her, make her love him, see that she’ll be provided for after his death–because he’s still going to die Christmas morning–and heal her so that she can go on to love again and live a more fulfilling life in the future.
He’s dubious, but still game. The angels send him back thirty days before his death–shortly before Thanksgiving. And the clock is ticking.
Walking on Air was a charming, delightful read. Thank goodness I read it during a break, because I really wasn’t good for much of anything else until I’d finished it. I loved the characters–not just Gabe and Nan, but Nan’s sister Laney was so much fun, as was the boy from under the stairs, Christopher (no plot moppets here, they’re actually fleshed-out characters with personalities)…he was like a Mini-Me of Gabe, and the way that the two of them interacted with each other and with Gabe was fantastic.
The time frame was, of course, quick; but Anderson made it all feel very believable. We could tell from the first chapter that Gabe wasn’t a bad person, but that life just hadn’t given him many breaks. Throughout it all, he was upbeat and positive, finding humor in a life that would have made most people bitter. He slowly draws Nan out of the rut she’s created for herself, helping her to lighten up and laugh.
Hanging over it all, though, is the Christmas deadline. Can Gabe complete his mission on earth before he has to leave it again? (And–gah!–does he have to leave? Isn’t this a romance novel? Once again, she had me a teensy bit concerned…)
Walking on Air is being credited as the first in the Valance family series. Book two will definitely be on my TBR, as soon as it shows up on Goodreads–though this time I don’t intend to wait until its release to read another book by Catherine Anderson!
Rating: A-/ 4 1/2 stars
I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.