The Fox And The Angel is a low commitment read for readers new to Danelle Harmon. It’s a short novella that feels… short. Harmon was a 90’s auto buy for me but I was less than excited by this holiday tale. I waited until after Christmas to review it so we could spoil the heck out of it. It’s not a bad story, but it isn’t good either. If you’re looking for a mild taste of something on a cold afternoon, it won’t make you stabby. Eyes may roll, sighs may occur, but nothing is hitting the wall. It’s perfectly fine. I’m sorta crushed. It may be an issue of expectation colliding with reality, but I wanted The Fox And The Angel to shake things up a bit.
Hereafter there be Spoilers! Turn back!
Let’s start with Angela. She’s a widow with income issues. Angela isn’t poor, but she could use a serious cash infusion if she’s going to support her modest standard of living. Traveling by coach to join her ducal cousins for Christmas, she sees a man abusing his horse. (DRINK!) The man, of course, doesn’t appreciate this SPCA intervention and matters quickly take a turn for the worse. Enter a local magistrate, our hero Roger. He’s had it with the do gooding and the not thinking and the entire concept of goodwill and peace toward men. Correctly surmising that she’s got all the foresight of a newborn chicken he quickly puts her behind him. Except not, because of course that’s the meet cute.
Roger is happily (or as happy as he gets at Christmas) situated with his best friend in the warmth of their hospitality when cousin Angela redarkens his door. Turns out Roger is totally delusional. This guy has fallen in love with a painting. His BFF has promised the painting to Angela, because she’s a dead ringer for their long departed mutual ancestress. Let’s stop here a moment. Roger is in love with a painting. He calls it “Her” and discusses it like it’s a Real Doll and he’s Lars. I have serious concerns about Roger that are not going to be resolved in the next 80 pages. BFF the Duke is thinking that since Angela looks just like the painting she’d be a perfect wife for Roger. GREAT PLAN, MR. DUKE!
“Hey Angela, I’ve been thinking of dropping you in a no win situation – what do you think?” Angela thinks it’s swell, because Angela (as we’ve seen earlier) is not big on the thinking, until she has an epiphany and rejects Roger’s proposal. Dropping a giant clue fairy in the stable, Angela tells Roger she’s not actually the fantasy he’s created and perhaps faking it would be a bad basis for a relationship. Being Angela, she’s more concerned with not living up to his ideal than she is with him being six nuts shy of a full fruitcake. Roger then proceeds to make the least convincing argument I’ve ever heard for seeing her as a living breathing person. The. Least.
Fast forward to the end. Roger, unable to convince Angela that he’s totally over that relationship with her great whatever is moping about the house sad and alone. BFF the Duke has secretly hidden the portrait in Angela’s carriage. (Will they notice??) Angela is thinking how nice it is not to be in a coach and how little she can afford her new horse and what a pain it is to be a fixed income widow. Suddenly, a horse overtakes her ride. (DRINK!) It’s Roger! Roger launches into a speech about loving her, and his coming for her proves it. He slips up by letting her know she’s inadvertently playing a game of Hide The Picture. Angela is weighing financial security against marrying a guy who has relationships with portraits when Roger sways her. His revelation of Why He Hates Christmas shows her that he’s just a lost and damaged man inside, not one who thought he could remain true to a fictional love. Swoon and curtain.
Man. Can you even imagine? In the first place, Angela’s going to age. Roger will have some issues dealing with that based on his last relationship. In the second place, his sudden realization that he’s cut himself off from living opens a number of doors. Angela’s lack of foresight and zealous belief in herself drove him crazy when they met – how is time going to make that go down better? On Angela’s side, she’s got the cash but she’s also got a guy who wanted her because she looks like his ex. How long until he gets the two of them hopelessly confused? Like, his ex never talked too much at dinner or knocked over his wine glass or belched in front of the help. She just hung around waiting for him to need her. Pretty sure BFF the Duke secretly hates both of them and set this thing up so he could get them to stop coming to his place. It’s a brilliant plan, I must say.
Final Assessment: Shortsighted Widow meets Willfully Obtuse. Try a different Harmon. C –