AJ’s Angel handles the tricky and often misused cheating theme. Some people hate this entirely and if so you should avoid this novella. If you don’t mind cheating or on the fence, this one is still somewhat iffy but could appeal. The story relies on Seb’s questionable forgiveness, which is really him wanting hot sex which translates into memory loss about prior cheating. This isn’t always successful and the tone of the story is morose since the majority of emotions revolve around cheating. It’s not a bad story to read but it’s not really an uplifting one with a strong romantic theme.
The story is told entirely from Seb’s first person perspective as he copes with seeing his ex-boyfriend after four years. When they broke up, Lucas has been cheating repeatedly on Seb without guilt or care and only really started to realize his actions when Seb left him. Now Seb is overwhelmed with his attraction to Lucas and decides to give in while telling himself it’s just sex and no emotions. Of course it’s never as easy as that and Seb’s confused heart has to decide what to do.
Unfortunately the novella is simply too short to really develop the characters or the situation fully. Seb comes across somewhat weak with his constant justifications and rationalizations. He knows that Lucas is likely to cheat on him again but he ignores evidence and his own intellect because he can’t seem to help it. Lucas is pretty shallow and nonexistent since he’s simply the other man in the relationship. We never get his side of the story, never get into his head or heart, and Seb’s view is obviously very skewed. Lucas comes across very plastic and tough to warm to, especially given his cheating past and likely future.
Seb is supposed to be a tough tattoo artist with a troubled childhood that finally straightened himself out. Yet he doesn’t seem to have learned from his past because he is willing to ignore the cheating past in favor of hot sex. It’s not that the cheating was the only issue but it’s the predominant issue and the main tone of the story. Seb constantly tells the reader how hurt he was when Lucas cheated yet jumps into sex again with the man almost immediately. Later on when Lucas apologizes (rather too fast and weak for my tastes) Seb doesn’t even take time to consider, he merely gives in. This is where Seb lost me as a reader and sympathizer.
The writing is pretty good and Witt does a decent job in trying to portray the act as heinous but still forgivable. The story doesn’t make light of the actions nor give any explanation or cop out yet this is also why the forgiveness feels forced. The epilogue then jumps to a year later and the reader is told there were bumps but everything is fine. It feels too forced and manufactured. Just like the conversation between Seb and his father feels manufactured to give Lucas a positive voice.
The tone of the story is rather sad and dark. Since Seb is constantly in his head and talking about how it’s just sex or he doesn’t want to get hurt or how he loves Lucas anyway, this isn’t a lighthearted book. It feels dark and surrounded by pain because that’s the aura of the main character. It never really lets up, even despite numerous sex scenes. This, perhaps even more than the weak forgiveness, is what killed my enjoyment of the story. It’s not bad a story by any means and decently written but will require the right audience to really appreciate it.