Christmas morning. Gabe Valance, a notorious gunslinger, is walking down a street in Random, Colorado, and a young boy calls him out to draw. Gabe briefly considers letting the kid kill him. He feels nothing, his life is nothing. He welcomes death. Almost. At the last second, he draws on the boy and kills him but not before a bullet finds its way to Gabe's heart and kills him. He got his wish. As he lays dying in the street, his one regret is that there is no one to mourn him. For the first time, he feels lonesome and realizes all he ever wanted was to be loved and to have a home. But it's too late now.
Gabe wakes up in a rickety shack, standing on a cloud, with two men speaking to him. The men introduce themselves as Gabriel and Michael, two angels sent to give Gabe a second chance at redemption. He is given a choice of 3 lost souls - an old man driven to drink after losing his entire family to influenza; a beautiful woman on the run from a murder charge who has shut herself off from feeling anything, and a homeless boy hiding beneath the stairs of a brothel. He's allowed to choose which one he wants to save in order to obtain redemption and gain access to the Pearly Gates. If he fails, he's doomed to live in the Lake of Fire for eternity.
Gabe chooses the beautiful woman, Nan. She has determined she has no need of a man in her life, and has no desire for a man. She runs a dress shop and is raising her little sister as her daughter. He has one month to marry Nan and make her fall in love with him. BUT there are stipulations: he cannot divulge his mission to anyone; he cannot change any events that don't directly involve him and his mission, regardless of the circumstances. Gabe agrees, and he's placed in Random on Thanksgiving, giving him one month to accomplish his mission.
Gabe coerces Nan into marrying him by threatening to turn her in to the authorities. Nan, frightened at the prospect of facing murder charges and having her little sister forced to return to their cruel father, reluctantly agrees to marry him. He tells her that he only wants to experience a real family and have a real Thanksgiving dinner. He ensures Nan he has no other reason for forcing her to marry him. Thus begins this sham of a marriage.
Gabe's mother was a 'lady of the evening' who died when he was young. The only thing she left him was her gift of laughter, and that gift serves Gabe well with his new family. Gradually, Nan and her sister, Laney, begin to relax and learn to laugh and have fun. Slowly, ever so slowly, Nan learns how to trust and begins to fall in love. Gabe is already head over heels for her.
Along the way, Gabe undergoes changes in his life as well. His heart thaws out when his new found family begins to worm its way into his heart - and he into theirs. He begins to notice the injustice in the world and wants to change the lives of some of the people he has encountered in Random. He knows doing so will condemn him to eternity in the Lake of Fire. Gabe decides to try to change their fate by setting in motion changes, but doing it behind the scenes so as not to gain the attention of those pesky angels! But he just cannot stand by and not try to help!
What follows is a heartwarming, feel good story that will linger in your heart long after the last page has been turned. The outcome on Christmas morning plays out as before, but with a twist. Of course, we know it has a happily ever after ending – doesn't it? Just when you think the story ends, it takes a delightful twist and continues to an ending you wouldn't expect!
This newest book by Catherine Anderson is filled with her trademark warmth, humor and family values. It goes a step beyond by instilling a strong sense of faith that is woven throughout the book. It's not preachy; rather she shows how faith has gotten the characters where they are today, and how faith plays an important role in their everyday living. Even Gabe learns that even he has faith he thought had left him, as it begins to manifest itself in his life, shedding its layers one by one until he's staring the very core of it and has to embrace it fully before he can find redemption.
I finished the book, but the characters and the inspiration are still warming my heart and filling my thoughts. Catherine Anderson has managed to weave a story of redeeming love and inspiration into a story that will stand up to the tests of time. It will stay with you for a long time, and will make you believe in love again. This is a book I will read again and know I will take away something new each time. It has found its way to my keeper shelf.