Debrah Morris shows a decided flair for the quirky in her latest book, When Lightning Strikes Twice. What if a man returned to Earth from Heaven to find his lost love, but the only body available for him to inhabit was that of the town bum?
Will Pendleton is hanging around Heaven in a bad mood, as he’s been doing for the last hundred years. A Texas Ranger, Will died unexpectedly and as it turns out, at the wrong time. His fiancée (and soulmate) was left to live out her life as a lonely spinster. But now his beloved Molly has been reborn as Mallory Peterson, and is all grown up. In fact, Mallory is a doctor in the little West Texas town of Slapdown, where Will met his untimely end, and Will wants to get back to her. It’s his destiny to find her again.
Mallory Peterson has no use for her neighbor, Joe Mitchum. Joe is handsome enough, but he’s also lazy, sloppy, has no ambition, and neglects his little girl, Chloe. Mallory arrives home one day to see Joe jury-rigging some wires on an electrical pole in order to steal power. In no time flat he’s managed to electrocute himself. Mallory saves his life with CPR and restarts his heart, and when Joe comes to in the hospital, he’s a changed man.
Yup, it’s Will in Joe’s body, and now all he has to do is convince Mallory that a no-good bum can change and be the man of her dreams. Mallory, for her part, finds she’s having unsettling visions of a man with Joe’s eyes.
The story plays out in an interesting fashion, with lots of quirks. The normal time-travel romance has a character going back into the past. Here Will/Joe is alive again in the future, and there are huge gaps in his knowledge. Cars, microwaves, even historical events like World War II are unknown to him, but Will/Joe is smart enough to keep his mouth shut and absorb as much as he can. If this isn’t enough, a little girls needs her daddy and apparently Joe hasn’t been much of one.
The attraction between Mallory and Will/Joe steams nicely. Mallory is horrified to find she’s actually intrigued by Joe, but as she gets over that and begins to believe he may sincerely want to change his life, the romance moves forward, helped along by the plot points. Joe’s job – when he felt like working – was tinkering with cars, something Will can’t do. Will would like to put his hat in the ring for the county sheriff job, but that requires a high-school diploma, and Joe dropped out. (Apparently no background in law enforcement is required, which I had a hard time swallowing.) Add to this the relationship with Chloe, and Mallory and Will/Joe were sometimes struggling to grab their share of page space.
The author throws a nifty twist into the plot near the end, and it’s resolved in a rather hilarious fashion. There are many light touches of humor throughout, too. Heaven as portrayed here has everything from inter-office memos to a Receiving Department where prayers are sorted. And when an angel has to be sent down to earth to deliver some news, it’s in whatever body is available at the time.
When Lightning Strikes Twice is a cheerful, charming romance that definitely breaks from the standard formula. Debrah Morris has a knack for lighthearted, unusual stories and this one really shines.