In the mid-seventeenth century, England is embroiled in a civil war, a scorched-earth imbroglio that gives birth to The New Army: peasants and servants marching behind Oliver Cromwell's banner, tearing across the landscape in pursuit of Papists and idolators. The carnage is that of any civil war in mankind's history as marauding soldiers roam the countryside in pursuit of food, shelter and the comforts of concupiscence.
Jacob Cullen lives with his two brothers, working land as yet untouched by the violence igniting everything around them. Raised as gentry but much reduced in circumstances since their father's death, Jacob and his brothers have been consigned to servitude because of their sire's excessive debts. As Jacob prepares for his wedding to another servant, he is full of dreams when strangers arrive unexpectedly, bearing a warrant for Jacob and his brothers. After stealing a horse and some jewelry, Jacob takes flight, his future and prospects forever altered as he stumbles alone and confused toward safety.
Near starvation, Jacob is found on the side of the road by a contingent of soldiers from the New Army and saved by the good graces of Christopher Ferris, a Londoner who takes Jacob under his wing until he recovers his senses. Trained as a member of the New Army, Jacob looks to Ferris for companionship and friendship. Later, Jacob and Ferris sneak off from the Army in the dark of night, having seen all the bloodshed they could take. They return to London, where Ferris has rooms with his aging aunt. She takes them both in, grateful that Jacob has returned her beloved nephew safely.
At this point, Jacob embarks upon the most difficult journey of his life, where he is forced to confront his own nature, question his deepest motives and step blindly into uncharted territory. From the beginning of the novel, Jacob reveals much to the reader, this man with so little knowledge of himself that he is constantly shocked by the consequences of his own actions. Jacob's spirit is so deeply flawed that he greedily sows the seeds of his own destruction. A blighted soul whose judgment is obliterated by passion, Jacob is driven by his lustful desires, aptly named by Ferris "The Bad Angel."
If Jacob is "The Bad Angel," Ferris personifies the good one, moderate and thoughtful, respectful of the feelings of others. Ferris hopes to teach Jacob the finer points of self-control and temperance, although Jacob is single-mindedly incapable of subtlety. Yet Ferris is himself seduced by Jacob's dark desire until they are engaged in a constant struggle for dominance. Part love story, part exploration of the darkness at the heart of a man's soul, this novel tackles the most difficult aspects of human nature, exposing the many sides of love/obsession. Engaged in a battle between Heaven and Hell, consumed by their endless erotic adventures, Jacob and Ferris' humanity is stripped to its bare bones and the author dares the reader to flinch.