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I love to explore genre fiction, and while I usually go for books with a romantic thread running through it, I just love great character and world building. And since I can hardly stand to let go of my favorite characters, I like series.

Divinely Ruined - Diane Alberts (Originally posted at Book Lovers Inc:)In the course of three years, Anthony had lost his job, his house, and the mother of his child–and would soon commit a murder. (pg. 2, Divinely Ruined)Some books take a while to hit their stride, needing to lay down extensive plot and lengthy exposition before really hooking a reader. Not so with Divinely Ruined. By page two of this book, I was absolutely hooked. I needed to know more. Knew I’d devour the book quickly. The story’s main conflicts, as well as the nature of each main character…both were set up beautifully and immediately. Truly a treat when reading a story of limited length (in this case, around 40k words), where economy of length can mean potential limitations in effectiveness.Along with that great initial story setup, Divinely Ruined establishes solid character connections very early on. By that, I’m not just referring to the connections between characters. I mean that, personally, I fell hard for all three main characters (Rebecca, Tony, and Miranda, Tony’s little daughter), and quickly at that. ^_^ Why? Because their personalities came across clearly, endearingly. Rebecca’s tart mouth and confused spirit, balanced with a nurturing, selfless nature. Tony, who tries his damnedest to provide for his one joy in life: his daughter. And Miranda’s innocence, her unfettered adoration for her father, her trusting disposition…it’s impossible not to love her too, even as she serves as a mirror and magnifier for all of Tony’s hopes and fears. This book takes such care with these characters’ emotional journeys that their heartbreaks, setbacks, and triumphs are felt keenly by the reader. I swear, my heart ached right alongside them (I won’t lie–I cried on occasion), and I smiled at the little moments of joy and levity.Now, as for the connections among characters–specifically, between Rebecca and Tony. Theirs is an easy attraction, filled with many sweet moments. I enjoyed their repartee, which was clever and amusing, underscoring their differences even as it slowly revealed their similarities. And though they are both scarred individuals, touched by tragedy both past and present, their romance just feels…pure. Pure, even amongst those smoldering moments of longing and desire. I didn’t think I’d enjoy the prolonged state of potential romance (as opposed to realized) , but it was pitch perfect and fit the circumstances well.Judging from the commentary above, you’re likely thinking, “This is totally a character book.” And that’d be right; all three of the main characters are searching for something personal, something internal. That search, wittingly or not, forms the basis of this tale. But the plot progression here is equally engaging. Crisp and purposeful, the story never seems to lag, nor does it feel like it glosses over crucial developments.Which brings me to the concept. It is an angel story, but of a completely unexpected sort. There’s a recognizable thread of humanity in the otherworldly beings of this story, most especially exhibited by Rebecca. They are accessible, beings that strive for purpose like the rest of us. And the fact that there’s an angel training academy…well, I found that cute. ^_^ The scope of the tale is tightly focused, which I think further contributes to the strength of character connections. There’s enough world description to orient the reader in the story, but not so much as to detract from the cast’s journey.Okay, so I’ll end the effusive rant already. ^_^ But guess what? This story is part of a trilogy! Sure, the next book will feature a (mostly) different set of characters, but it’s sure to foster that same easy, effortless emotional connection. If it’s even half as enjoyable as Divinely Ruined, I will be a fabulous tale.Bottom Line: What can I say? Divinely Ruined is a pitch perfect romance that is at once pure and sensual, uplifting and heartrending, hilarious and solemn. The characters are the main draw, as Alberts gets them under your skin and into your heart almost immediately. This book is highly recommended if you crave a quick but robust and satisfying romantic read.