“There was good love and there was bad love. There was
the kind that helped raise a person above her failings and there
was the desperate sort that struck when someone least wanted or
THE THIRD ANGEL --- Alice Hoffman’s 20th novel for adults ---
tells of three women in three different times, in the desperate
sort of love that nearly always leads to a bad end.
In the late 1990s, Maddy Heller heads off to London for her
sister’s wedding. When she meets Allie’s fiancé,
Paul, there is an undeniable chemistry. She realizes that acting on
her urges would be a bad idea, but Maddy has long carried a grudge
against her sister. She has always felt that their mother favored
Allie. Besides, Allie seems, well, almost uninterested in Paul.
It’s as though she doesn’t really want to marry him, or
is that just a convenient excuse Maddy tells herself?
Maddy checks into the Lion Park Hotel, a small old inn away from
the rest of the wedding party. She recalls that her mother, Lucy,
told her about a time when Lucy herself stayed there in the early
1950s. Lucy was 10 years old, and her family had come to London for
her stepmother’s sister’s wedding. That love story
didn’t work out too well either. In fact, it went horribly
wrong and she was right in the middle of it. Lucy knows
the story behind the ghost in Room 707. She has carried
that knowledge through all the years of her life. Now she watches
her daughters falling into relationships destined to bring them a
heartache potentially as devastating as that one.
Paul’s mother, Frieda, also has a history with the Lion Park
Hotel. As a rebellious young woman in the mid-1960s, she fled her
rich father’s home to make her way in this world. The Lion
Park provided rooms, mostly shared, for a reasonable price, plus
employment as a maid. That suited Frieda just fine. Her father
would cringe if he could see her working as a maid, which would
suit her quite fine as well. As far as she was concerned, he really
had no say in her life, especially after leaving her and her mother
for another woman. Ironically, she falls hard for Jamie, a man with
a troubled past and a fiancé. She finds out what it’s
like to be “the other woman” --- and also learns about
a desperate love that can kill.
But this is not just the story of the women. The men have their
stories too. As do the mothers. Everyone has made mistakes in their
lives. What can they do to atone for the wrongs they have done to
others? There is always a price. For some, the cost is very
Where, you may ask, does the third angel come in? Dr. Heller,
Lucy’s father, told her of the angel of Death and the angel
of Life, two mythical beings that we all have heard about. Whenever
he went on house calls, he claimed one of them rode in the back
seat of his car. Then there is the third angel, who watches over us
in a quiet, obscure way, almost unnoticed. One of them always rides
with us, but knowing which one can be difficult to tell.
Don’t let the size of this small book fool you. THE THIRD
ANGEL contains a marvelously vast beauty, one worth far more than
the modest cover price. In these troubled times, Alice
Hoffman’s story of love and redemption is a rare gem.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 23, 2011
The Third Angel