This book marks Ms. McCarthy's second foray into more serious, 'darker' paranormals, on the theme of the seven deadly sins (cool!). I didn't read the first one (lust), titled My Immortal, but this second title (gluttony/addiction) is a stand alone story.
From the back cover:
New Orleans, 1840s. Sent to watch over the decadent city, the angel Gabriel loses himself in the liquid pleasure of absinthe. So when his mistress, Anne, is murdered—and all evidence points to him— a foggy Gabriel cannot be sure he didn't do it. His penance: to be forever denied love. Should he seek pleasure with a woman, she'll know the depths of despair.
New Orleans, today. Hoping to unlock that unsolved mystery, forensic scientist Sara Michaels, Anne's great-great-granddaughter, meets the ageless, tormented Gabriel. To work together would mean suppressing their mutual attraction—he can't allow himself to touch Sara, for her own sake.
And for Sara, already familiar with the dangers of addiction, Gabriel poses the ultimate threat to her self-control. But can the desire burning between them turn into their salvation—or lead them both to destruction?
So - let's see here: We have a fallen angel, recovering addict piano player-slash-painter who hasn't had sex for eighty years. And a self-conscious young heroine fleeing the tragedies of her past while trying to unlock the mystery of a family curse and related murder. And yes, it was just as angsty as it sounds. I loved it.
"Eventually, we'll both lose interest."
"Oh, really?" She had to admit, that infuriated her. "You have it all figured out, don't you?"
"Absolutely." He nodded with confidence.
"They why the hell did you kiss me?" She wasn't sure whether she regretted it or not. It had been a fabulous kiss, and she had been curious what it would be like, but on the other hand, now she knew their chemistry was real, yet he was telling her they couldn't do a damn thing about it.
"Because I'm an idiot."
Which was the male answer to everything. They seemed to think if they just admitted their stupidity, somehow it exempted them from responsibility for it.
Other reviews for this story have consistently had two issues. First, they think it's slow and don't like the internal angsty monologues and expositions. Secondly, they find the ultimate conflict and resolution (i.e. antagonist) too wimpy. I strongly disagree with the first, and only sort of agree with the second. If you try to read this book as an urban fantasy, or anything other than a romance, it won't work. To me, the main antagonist in the story was Gabriel's all-consuming guilt. There is enough of a story and mystery surrounding the death of Sara's ancestor to keep the plot moving along, but this one is truly a character journey. Each of them are hunting for the truth, wanting each other, but unwilling to 'take the plunge'. I enjoyed the depth of both characters, and Ms. McCarthy did a successful job of interchanging viewpoints without confusing or annoying me - a real feat.
Stylistically, I enjoyed the interspersed newspaper clippings and court reportings, which added depth to the story. The tension was great, the angst better. If the climax was anti-climactic, I didn't notice. The ending was supremely satisfying (since the author held over the *actual* love scene until the second to last chapter!). If you want an emotionally engrossing angst-filled romance, this one's for you. Four bleeding hearts.
PS: Extra points for cover awesomeness.