a new novel by Laura Lee

Angel"A challenging novel set at the intersection of religion and homosexuality."-Rev. D. C. Welton, host of State of Belief Radio

   Since the loss of his lively, charming wife to cancer six years ago, minister Paul Tobit has been operating on autopilot, performing his church duties by rote.  Everything changes the day he enters the church loby and encounters a radiant, luminious being lit from behind, breathtakingly beautiful and glowing with life.  An angel.  For a moment Paul is so taken by his vision that he is tempted to fall on his knees and pray.

    Even after he regains his focus and realizes that he has only seen a flesh-and-blood young man, Paul cannot shake his sense of awe and wonder.  He feels an instant and overhwelming attraction to the young man, which puzzles him even as it fills his thoughts and fires his feelings.  Paul has no doubt that God has spoken to him through the vision and he must figure out what God is asking him to do.

    Thus begins a journey that will inspire Paul's ministry, but will put him at odds with the church he loves as he is forced to examine his deeply held beliefs about himself, his community and the nature of love.
Angel is available in print and multiple ebook formats.

Shall Write named Angel Best Ebook of 2011

The best ebook I’ve read this year was Angel by Laura Lee. It told a story that, at first glance, seems as impossible as Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain seemed. Lee manages to talk about religion without being preachy, about homosexuality without being political, and about life’s stages without being condescending. It’s an amazing read and one that I would highly recommend.  
(the site also included Angel in its list of the Top Ten Sex Positive Books)

                       Engaged Sprituality

Angel is a book we all need to read, because it’s more than a story about one man and his ability to love.  Reading it, I found myself contemplating not only issues of human sexuality, but also issues of privacy, issues of prejudice and stereotypes, issues of church politics, and the variety of ways in which love and sexuality coexist in the human experience in ways both new and old.

            The Dubious Disciple

An uncomfortable page-turner... Lee writes with insight and flounce, and you just can’t put the darn thing down... The story ends appropriately, which is all I dare say on that matter, except to promise it will leave you thinking about the not-so-subtle discrimination against sexual orientation in today’s Christianity, and the emotional scars and marginalizing it causes.

                                  The Dubious Disciple (second review)
My primary criterion for ranking is whether or not a book makes me think … obviously, this one does. As such, it deserves additional discussion, and this time around it gets five stars. That the between-the-lines message of the book still grips me is a testament to its importance within its Christian setting... It feels odd to call this “Christian literature”... (but) She tackles an intimidating topic head on, and does so in an unforgettable manner. Five stars, yeah, because this is a Christian topic. Let’s climb this social mountain together.

        Flying Monkey Press

This is a love story.  Written with the depth and insight of  The Prisoner’s Wife by asha bandele or Written on the Body by Jeannette Winterson, Angel is a surprising piece of literature...Angel is an exploration of faith, an exploration of the nature of love, and forces the reader to think about the difference between private and public identity.  I have to admit, this one made me cry a number of times.  The raw emotions, the lyrical writing and the unadulterated adoration Paul felt for Ian was overwhelming at times...Angel is a book that needs to be read a few times.  It should be essential reading for Gender Studies and seminary in dealing with issues of sexuality. It’s deep, it’s thoughtful, its beautiful and evocative.  Angel challenges the reader to look at themselves, their lives and re-examine their preconceived notions.  Most of all though Angel is a love story.  And you should read it.

                                                         The Novel Approach (note: this page has some mature content)

The bond between Paul and Ian is an evolution, a personal and private benediction and a communion of souls... It’s impossible to read this book and not bring personal beliefs and biases into it. Your own personal mythology might weigh either favorably or unfavorably into what Laura Lee has to say. Angel is a book that’s contemplative and provocative, a work of true literary fiction in its purest form...

                                                  Top 2 Bottom Reviews (note: this page has some mature content)

The beauty of this story is that it is unconventional in every way. It tackles several controversial themes including intergenerational relationships, homosexuality within religion, and the fluidity of sexual orientation. Initially Paul does not consider himself gay or even bisexual. I was impressed by the manner in which he discovered that love is love, and when this blessing occurs within one’s life, it truly is a gift from God... I was moved to tears throughout the story, and it reminded me of Brokeback Mountain. This is not to say that it is a light or easy read. It is heartbreaking actually, but very poignant. Ian is my favorite character. He is so flawed and yet so beautiful. He’s cute and charming and self-effacing. I understood how Paul fell in love with him. I think I fell in love with Ian myself...Of course, the villain in the story is homophobia, and it’s truly ugly. This aspect alone makes the book an emotional challenge. This is an amazing debut novel—well written and edited, inspiring, uplifting, and thought-provoking. I don’t hesitate to recommend it highly...Angel is a powerful story, one of the best reads I’ve enjoyed this year.

                                                  Reviews by Amos Lassen

Laura Lee is a brave woman to take this on and if that isn’t enough of a compliment, I will say now that the book is beautifully written... As one reads, it is difficult not to think about human sexuality and privacy, prejudice and intolerance and the power of the church to control lives. We are forced into thinking and we realize that even though this is not a comfortable book, it is a necessary one that should be read by every member of the clergy and every person who has trouble with accepting difference. Is not a man of God still a man with urges and desires? Laura Lee takes the issue and runs with it and she does not shy away from any aspect of religion and sexuality.

                                               Shall Write

GLBT faith-based fiction sounds kind of like a Volvo with a gun rack, but Angel convinced me. This is a fresh story that never veers into the territory of Bible-thumping (for which I was grateful) and features real characters over caricatures...On the outside it looks like it could be a meditation guide or a book of spiritual philosophy, but it’s actually a really touching love story that explores the capacity of the human heart and the unnatural sanctions society puts on natural behaviour...I found Angel to be a moving story, one that I would read again in the future. All the characters are so endearing that before long, you’ll want to visit their lives again.

                                                                                                                     Breaking Bookshelves

Lee writes with a sense of humour... but also with a deep and profound knowing, a questioning and reflection. It is beautiful and somewhat poetic, filled with symbols and metaphors. I loved the reading experience, the sheer believability of the characters, the people’s flaws, everything. This book was a page-turner...There are so many quotable things in this novel that I would love to list down, words and phrases, whole passages and sentences, but right now it will only make this review longer than it has to be...

                                                    Owl Tell You About It

It’s thoughtful and intellectual... I love fun, light-hearted reads as much as the next person, but there’s just something about a book that really speaks to me... It really displayed love in all its beautiful imperfection. It wasn’t all butterflies and sunshine and happiness and I really appreciated that. There was jealousy and insecurity and arguments. Love is messy, but wonderful and this book really demonstrated that... I loved Paul from the beginning. His faith is true and steadfast, but not fanatical. There are several theological discussions between him and Ian, and a lot of those really made me think...I found Paul’s struggles with his church community sad, but very realistic...I highly recommend this book. It was beautiful and its depth really blew me away.

                                                 Coffee Time Reviews

The situation for Paul is undoubtedly difficult as he falls deeper and deeper in love with Ian... Here is a man completely devoted to God and his church, and yet he feels he has to hide something that makes his soul come alive... For all of his faith Paul should be a better man, and yet this story does a superb job of showing just how fallible man really is.

                                                                                                                                                                            Cat's Thoughts

This is not a trashy book by any means - it's stunningly real and romantic, and an amazing depiction of people realizing what really matters to them and their calling in life... I loved it.

                                                      Dark Divas Review

The story is not precisely “gay for you” or even “out for you,” but probably the most genuine expression of “love the specific person” I’ve read. Paul struggles with the categories, not thinking of himself as gay or bi, or even actually heterosexual. He’s never questioned his desires before, apparently since he never needed to, fantasies being only fantasies. By book’s end, he hasn’t quite come to any conclusion but that he cannot stay in the ministry. Ian’s more straightforward; he’s definitely gay and the church he grew up in rejects him completely for it. The men are very complimentary, each teaching the other some important lessons...Approach Angel as a literary quest and questioning of Christian attitudes to homosexuality and love, not as a romance, and it will be a more satisfying read because the story and Ian raise some extremely good points.

                                                      State of Belief (audio)

“The central character, Paul, is someone who is really looking for a transcendent experience and he’s looking for a deep and meaningful kind of relationship that goes beyond the superficial. So for him, his relationship with this young man has a very deep, spiritual element and he is trying to find very deep meaning in it, and this is contrasted by the reaction he is getting from society and how it might seem to other people.”

                                                   Shall Write (print)

"…I didn’t set out to write a controversial book about homosexuality  and the church.  I set out to write about mountains and ministers and beauty…  My  sense  is that if you set out to make a point or be controversial, the  end  product  will  probably not resonate.  On the other hand, if there  is  a  story  you  find  yourself  called to tell, and you find yourself  nervous  about  how  it  will  be  received,  it is probably authentic and you should not shy away from telling it as honestly as you can."

                                                        Christ Englight Podcast (audio)

I wanted (my character) Paul to be attracted not just to the spirituality of Christianity, and not just to Jesus, but to the church, to the community of the church and to the structure of the church. There’s a big movement of ‘I love Jesus but not the church,’ but I wanted Paul to love both. It was important that he loved the church and that the church was not inauthentic, that there was something really important for him there.

                                                          Book and a Chat (audio)

"Whatever points or themes or issues you want to illustrate, you have to focus on telling a story and you have to go where the story goes.  Whatever the themes and the philosophical points, they're kind of like the spice.  You can't make that into a book, not a fiction book."                                  

                                                           WNTI Contours (audio)

"Religion seems to be the area where we seat our problems with homosexuality.  So the idea of someone who is a religious leader who is dealing with these issues has a lot of power for people... I enjoy both (writing fiction and non-fiction).  They're very different processes.  I like the humorous reference.  It's more market driven.  You come up with an idea and sell it and then you have something to hang your humor on.  I've figured out that process.  So with the fiction, I'm still kind of exploring this new territory.  So now I like the fiction (better than writing non-fiction)... It's hard to build a career on writing in all different directions, but I think that as a writer that's what you really want to do."

  Words with Writers (print)

"It is like the concept of faith in religion. Faith doesn’t mean believing a set of dubious intellectual propositions because an authority tells you to. Faith means trust. It means trusting in something that isn’t always apparent or provable. There is very little proof that what you write matters. There is a lot more discouragement than encouragement in general. Only a few blessed writers make a living wage, much less wealth. If you’re lucky you have a few special people who encourage you and tell you to keep going, and that it matters that you do. If you don’t, you have to have faith in yourself."

                                                           Kindle Author

"I’m not a person who courts controversy, and I don’t personally feel as though what I wrote is controversial.  I tried to write something beautiful."

                                                      Owl Tell You About It

 The reason there is a long discussion of obituaries early on in the book is that it sets up this theme of identity as a story other people tell about us vs. identity as our subjective experience of the world. It’s not as easy as saying, “My subjective experience of myself is true and your opinion doesn’t matter.” We are who we are in relation to other people. So it is a balancing act to be authentic to your sense of self while maintaining relationships with other people.  The action takes place in a church community, but any community comes with the same types of dynamics. I may change, but there are other people who are invested in the person they believe me to be or who I have been to them.

                                                                 Love Buffet Style (audio)

"I don’t think it was my job as the writer to tell anyone how to think about anything. It was my job to tell the story of these characters. I tried not to— I don’t want to say ‘take sides’ because I love my characters and I’m on their side. I didn’t come at it saying, ‘here’s my point that I want to make and here’s my political point and I’m going to change your mind about this or that."

                                                                    Books and Other Creative Adventures (print)

"For better or worse, I inherited my father’s belief that I had to write a novel.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that.  So my father gave me both encouragement and drive.  When he passed away in 2004, I had to go through a process of finding the support I had been able to get externally from him within myself.  Some of my process in dealing with that loss informed the character of Paul, who is a widower.  He’s had a hard time finding inspiration for his ministry after his wife’s death.  So the novel is dedicated to my father."

                                                   Top 2 Bottom Reviews

"What is interesting is that it is probably the least autobiographical fiction I’ve ever written and yet it draws on every part of my life. There are a few anecdotes here and there that are true stories. There are aspects of Paul that are more like me, and aspects of Ian that are more like me."                          

                                                Wayward Things

"I inherited the idea that the pinnacle of being a writer was being a novelist. When I was younger I felt a real pressure to write a novel and to make it good. I'm not saying anyone else made me feel that way. I put the pressure on myself. So I worked on it a lot. I was frustrated a lot. Interestingly, after all that work, there came a point where I let myself off the hook and said I didn't have to write a novel. I was good at the non-fiction. I was proud of my body of work. I didn't have to be anything else. Once I allowed myself not to do it, and took that pressure off, that's when it flowed. I was not doing it for anyone else or to prove anything. It was just a joy to write and play. Angel took me out of myself and I was able to just step aside and let the story be told. The thing is, I had to do all of that slog beforehand to get to the point where this was possible. It took years of effort to get to the place of effortlessness."

                                                      Bi Talk Radio (audio)

"Even though it's a story about a minister, and it has an element of him trying to come to terms with his faith and his position, its really more about who we are in society, what roles we play, what labels we give to ourselves and other people give us and how those things impact our lives... I would think all of those things would be relevant to people who come at it through a spiritual door or through a secular door...I think that (Paul) was attracted to a similar energy that Sara (his wife) and Ian (the young man) had... I'm not attracted to men I'm attracted to a particular subset of men.  I'm attracted to a particular kind of person, and I think that's true for all of us... (but) we're not compelled to categorize ourselves socially that way, like 'I'm a red-hair-attracted person.'"      

                                                          Guest Posts
                                                                                               The Good Men Project
When you are sitting in front of your computer thinking, “What would a man do in this situation?” you are already a step removed from the character.  Your character is not a representative of mankind, thinking man thoughts in a manly way.  He’s Paul, and there are many unique things about him.  Yes, his maleness is one, but he has a lot of notable personality quirks, any one of which may be much more defining in the given situation.  He is introspective, spiritual; he shuts down when his emotions get too much for him; he doesn’t like spicy foods, and so on.

                                                                        Jeff Erno's Blog

 The fact of the matter is I don't actually know what it feels like to be a “straight woman.”  I don't know if I am typical of that category or not.  I don't know if my heterosexuality is like other people's heterosexuality or if my femininity is like other people's femininity.  I can't claim to know how it feels to be anyone but myself. 

 It would be terribly boring, though, if I only wrote about myself.  Believe me, no one would be interested in reading that.  So I do what any writer has to do.  I trust that I can combine my observations of what other people do and say with my subjective experience of thinking and feeling and use that material to tell the story of a fictional person.  I know how I feel and I take the chance that feeling things is fairly universal.  Being attracted feels like being attracted-- not gay or straight attracted.  Falling in love feels like falling in love-- not gay or straight falling in love.  Worrying about social status feels like worrying about social status.  Fearing rejection feels like fearing rejection.  Jealousy feels like jealousy, and so on.

                                                         Fighting Monkey Press

What struck me at the time was that there was no explanation of why we needed to grow. Why was a larger membership needed? What could we do with more people that we could not do at our present size? Presumably no one thought such an explanation was needed. It was simply understood that bigger was better. That growth was success and attrition was failure. Of course there might be reasons to worry if you found you had a mass exodus of members. That might be a sign that you were not meeting the needs of the congregation. The question of size, though, struck me as one step removed from the real mission, to serve people’s needs and to give the community a reason to congregate regardless of how many showed up. At the time, I had the impression that our focus on numbers was a symptom of a bottom line business mentality that was permeating everything in life. This is how I framed a similar push for church growth in my novel Angel.

                                                                        Book After Book

Write what you know, yes, if by that you mean ground your story in reality. Draw on your experience and your life and make it all truthful and real. But if you want to be inspired, write what you wonder. Write about what piques your curiosity. Keep exploring the questions you can’t let go.

                                                                                                                                            Bibrary Book Lust
                                                                                                                                    (on the challenges of writing a kissing scene)
A kiss, a first kiss especially, is not only a touch, it is an emotion. It is a question, an invitation that can be accepted or denied. “Will you be my lover?”  It is that most vulnerable of moments, full of nervousness and anxiety, and it is also one of the anxieties that is most quickly relieved. It melts away the moment the lips touch and the invitation has been accepted.   “And then they kissed,” was not going to cut it.
                                                          Roof Beam Reader
"The novel, Angel, came out last week.  How will people receive it and review it?  Who will pick it up?  It remains to be seen.  Itineris is taking the chance that this little book without a place in the traditional publishing world will help define a new marketing niche that books by other authors will be able to follow.  If they are right, some day in the not-too-distant future people will be saying (maybe in a bored tone), 'This is one of those gay Christian love stories.'    I hope they do, because there must be a lot of stories like that to tell.  In the mean time, I must simply rely on faith that my Angel will find its way to its readers."

                                                          Order Angel Today