Title : No Angel
Author : Daniel A. Kaine
Publisher : Dreamspinner Press (BUY HERE)
Genre : M/M, Paranormal
Length : 200 pages (e-book)
Published : August 26, 2013
Rating : ★★★★
Born with a birth defect called Devil Syndrome, it is impossible for Josh Harper to hide the two small stumps of hornlike bone atop his head. If people also knew about his ability to create force fields with his mind, they’d lock him up for sure. Left to fend for himself on his eighteenth birthday, Josh tries to make it on the streets. When he’s attacked, he’s rescued by Sam Mitchell, who has an equally strange power—and a set of pure white wings.
Sam ran away from home a year ago, and the new life he’s built for himself includes living in an abandoned house and looking after three younger kids, all with Devil Syndrome. Then along comes Josh. After a rough start their relationship grows and the two young men find a haven in each other’s arms. But when tragedy strikes their newfound family, Sam’s hatred of regular humans spirals out of control, and Josh will have to make Sam see sense before everything he’s worked so hard to build is destroyed.
At eighteen, Josh finds himself homeless and utterly alone when his aunt and uncle give him £50 and a door in his face. Happy Birthday. When his mother died of cancer five years earlier, he was reluctantly taken in by his drunk uncle and uncaring aunt as fulfilment of his mother’s dying wish to them. The reason for their disdain of him is the condition he was born with – Devil Syndrome, a birth defect that results in two horn-like bone protuberances on the head. A condition that is met with fear and superstition by a large portion of society, thus often leaving those with it as outcasts. Now, after five years of drunken beatings and verbal and mental abuse, on his first night on the streets, Josh is aimlessly wandering the streets looking for a place out of the rain when he beset upon by two homeless men intent on stealing his meagre possessions and beat him senseless. Just as he’s losing consciousness Josh sees what appears to be an angel with pure white wings coming to his rescue. But when he wakes, it’s to find not an angel, but Sam, another homeless young man. Sam, his rescuer, has brought Josh back to the derelict house that he calls home and shares with three kids, all of whom suffer the same Devil Syndrome as Josh.
Although Sam was born with Devil Syndrome, he had his boney growths removed as a teenager. Unlike Josh, whose mother was loving and supportive of her son until the day she died of cancer when he was thirteen, Sam’s mother has been out of the picture his whole life. Feeling neglected and unloved by his father, Sam left home about a year ago believing he could never be good enough to gain his father’s love. Now he calls the small group of kids he cares for – Becca, James and Robbie – family. Along with the ‘horns’ they possess, it seems the condition also comes along with special powers that develop as those with it grow older and each power is different from person to person.
Sam is the only other person with Devil Syndrome that Josh had ever met. He is happy to have a friend at all, but to have one that is the same age and understands him like Sam does is a blessing that he is more than grateful for. Josh is remarkably idealistic and the question is, will his idealism cause him grief and disillusionment or will it motivate him into finding a way to survive without compromising himself? Sam, on the other hand, has become completely disillusioned with the way the world treats people with Devil Syndrome. Even with the telltale ‘horns’ removed, he feels ostracised and separated from the rest of society, “It didn’t change anything. Doesn’t matter what we look like, Josh. People still know we’re different. The name-calling didn’t go away. My dad still thought I was some piece of dirt. We are who we are, whether we look the part or not. We’ll never be the same as them, and that’s why we gotta stick together.” What he does have is a protective streak for those he cares about that is a mile wide. Perhaps between the two of them they can balance each other out and find a way to fit.
Josh finds himself attracted to Sam. He’s never really experienced a draw to anyone else before and it takes him awhile to accept how he feels about Sam and the overwhelming need he has to kiss him and touch him. “Sam had been a good friend to him so far—overly protective perhaps, but a friend all the same. Finding someone like him had lifted a weight off his shoulders, one he’d been carrying since his mom passed away. His stomach churned. When she was around, Josh had been happy. She was everything he had ever needed, until the day she was torn from him and the world grew infinitely bleaker. And then Sam came along. For the first time in years, he had someone to talk to and laugh with. Someone who cared about him.” Josh’s mum was such a big part of his life that, even after her death, the memory of her love for him was still so vital to him that, in a way, she became a part of the story.
When a group of bullies bring down an event that impacts their little family, Sam agrees to Josh’s insistence to let the authorities handle it. After there looks like there will be no justice given, Sam gives in to his darker side. Can Josh’s balancing influence be enough to show Sam that those he is harming the most is himself and others like him? Sam has a lot of anger in him as well as his protective streak, and that anger sometimes leads him to make some decisions that aren’t very wise and take actions that are not necessarily the right thing to do. Josh could understand where that sometimes bleak outlook and wish for vengeance on a society that was oppressing them came from. That understanding made Josh determined to break Sam free of that darkness and show him that he deserved happiness, just like anyone else.
By the end of the first chapter I was already completely invested in Josh’s story. Josh was pretty naive and idealistic for someone who’d been through what he’d already been through before he even turned eighteen. I wanted to hug Josh so hard. His mum was awesome. Supportive and kind, she loved her son with everything she had without any consideration for what others thought of his birth defect. I adored Sam as well. He was very caring and protective of his charges. He only ever wanted the best for them and would do anything to make sure they were okay. His relationship, or lack there of, with his father defined him in some ways, “There was once a time when he knew his father loved him. What had happened to all those memories? They’d probably been crushed under the weight of the bullying and ridicule of his teenage years, and the bitter resentment of rejection at his father’s hands as he put his business first.”
It may have taken a while to get past Josh’s denial and some misunderstandings, but when they do, they were incredibly sweet. The continuing denial and misunderstandings got a little frustrating at times, but then again, the are eighteen year old males. And eighteen year old males aren’t exactly known for their communication skills! I loved their kissing, they were so gorgeous in their care and affection for each each other.
I’m not sure exactly what period of time the book covered as there there are a few inconsistencies in the text that showed a bit of a sliding timescale from a few weeks to a few months. The timeframe of only a few weeks seemed too short. So much has happened it felt like a few months fitted the story better.
These boys had already gone through so much before they had even met each other. Life, and society, continued to throw obstacles in their way and I couldn’t help but hope they would somehow manage to overcome them all. Sam’s anger at the world was so intense at times that it seemed it might consume him. Once Josh faced his attraction to Sam and the typical eighteen year old contributions to misunderstandings, their relationship was so very sweet. They balanced each other out, with Sam’s practicality and Josh’s idealism, Sam’s need for retribution and Josh’s insistence to not do the wrong thing, Sam’s belief that there was no possibility of a better future for them and Josh’s belief that they could find a way to make one. I really felt for these guys, and their young charges. The kids were absolutely integral to Sam and Josh’s story and were great secondary characters. They supported the plot and the MCs without ever taking over. It was very much Sam and Josh’s story. Although there was no sex, the kissing was both sweet and passionate. I loved the ideas used in this book, and the growth and development of the characters. Josh, and especially Sam, went through some life-altering realisations and came out the other side an even better person.
Rated 4 stars by BookSmitten