The Angel of 13th Street by Eden Winters
The Angel. That’s what the young hustlers call Noah Everett, the man who’ll help them get off the streets. Once a hustler himself, Noah doesn’t take his own good advice, which is, “Don’t let this ruin your life.” Haunted by the past and those he couldn’t save, Noah carefully keeps others at bay until his self-imposed loneliness is shattered by determined, ambitious, but homeless eighteen-year-old Jeremy Kincaid.
A ruthless pimp has targeted Jeremy, but if Noah will fight to get anonymous young men out of the life, he’ll fight harder to keep Jeremy from getting in, even if it means a return to old stomping grounds to make a deal with the devil. To save Jeremy, Noah risks more than just his body. He risks his soul as well, because Willie Carnell, pimp, was once Billy Cordell, Noah’s lover.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have a soft spot for the whole rent boy turns good with help angle and Winters plays it like a master. She’s written a beautiful, haunting story filled with light, dark, and infinite shades of gray. I continue to be impressed with the writing from this author and if you haven’t picked up any of her work.. do so now please. You won’t regret it. This particular offering is filled with sympathetic characters, nuanced villains, seedy underbelly of crime, a gritty urban setting, a lovely romance, and some hot sex. This is a story I’ll read again and I can only hope we see more of these characters in the future.
Jeremy is one of those unfortunate foster children that fall through the cracks. He’s 18 so no longer provided a home, food, and basic living but he’s still struggling to finish high school. He lives in a damp, abandoned warehouse basement struggling to cling to the few cents he manages to scrounge and the one meal a day at school. He is being hounded by a former boyfriend to turn into a rent boy and they won’t take no for an answer. When Jeremy meets Noah, an ex-rent boy himself determined to help boys get off the streets, he can’t believe his luck.
Following Jeremy as he struggles in the beginning, alone and penniless, sets the scene vividly against a gritty urban background. You can’t help but feel for Jeremy who is doing everything he can to provide himself with opportunity and a better life. In some ways Jeremy is slightly too good to be true with his intelligence, moral standing, and ability to bounce back even after what he’s been through. But I can’t say that bothered me at all while reading and in fact Jeremy is a great, younger foil for the older, more cynical Noah. Together they have solid chemistry and it’s easy to see why the two click but circle around each other for an extended time before giving in.
Noah is perhaps the real star of the novel as a wounded, cynical older man giving his life to helping others if possible. He’s not a total saint or an angel and he has help. He keeps Jeremy at a distance for longer than necessary because of Noah’s issues and fears. His relationship with Billy/William the pimp is subtle, nuanced, and filled with shades of gray. William is a pimp and has no problems exploiting others but he’s not an inherently bad person. He has reasons, flaws, and his own strengths that play on Noah’s emotions in both good and bad ways.
The writing is exactly what I expect of Winters. There is not much dialogue but instead careful character studies with a wealth of setting and detail. The pace can be slower due to this but the story builds slowly, layer by layer. It’s a journey rather than a race when reading one of EW’s books. Some times the resolutions feel a bit too easy and the characters edge into one extreme or another but each story I read just gets better so these issues aren’t enough to bother or decrease your entertainment. Angel on Thirteenth Street is a lovely, thoroughly satisfying story.