Demon Can't Help It
When I got this book for review, I knew little about it except that it sounded like it might be a fun paranormal. And, at its best moments, it was. However, the hero in Demon Can’t Help It seemed oddly free of inner conflict given the story, and the heroine sometimes seemed just a little too bland. Still, even with some characterization difficulties, this was basically a fun, breezy read.
As the story opens, we learn that Jo Burke has relocated to New Orleans from Washington DC. She has taken a job at a rather underfunded community center, and it is made clear early on that this job is a big step down from what she used to do. In fact, the mystery of why Jo basically fled DC figures heavily in the plot. And more about that later.
Meanwhile in New Orleans, Jo seems to enjoy reconnecting with her two closest friends, both of whom seem to be hiding something from her (and unless you’re brain-dead, you’ll guess the secret way before Jo does). Jo basically lets it slide most of the time since she has her own issues to deal with. While out with her friends, Jo meets Macksim, a bartender at the club her friends frequent. Though Jo’s friends speak rather harshly of Macksim, she finds herself thrown off-kilter as the man apparently radiates sexual energy.
Though Jo tries to distance herself from Macksim, he shows up to volunteer at her center. And he’s good with the kids. In fact, watching Macksim worm his way into the community center and then, against his will, discover that he actually enjoys working there is one of the fun parts of the book. Also fun is his initial clash of wills with Jo. The opening of the book with Jo and her friends often felt a little forced, but there’s something more natural about the interactions between Macksim and Jo.
Unfortunately, when one looks too closely at the characters in this story, things begin to fall apart a bit. Macksim is basically an entertaining hero, but he seems a little easy in his mind at times. What I mean is this: The author sets up what could be a huge conflict for him. To find a happy ending with Jo, Macksim would have to change who he fundamentally is. However, he seems oddly low on inner turmoil about this issue and, even more importantly, we are shown so little of his true nature that the conflict never seems fully real.
And then there’s Jo. Sometimes she’s likable and the story flows freely. However, on occasion, Jo and her friends seem oddly stilted and distant from the reader. In addition, Jo herself has a bit of a problem with being a doormat. She improves throughout the story, but she still seems a little too passive and bland at times. And then there’s her big secret. I won’t blow it by revealing it here, but it will make more than one reader’s eyes roll.
I actually agonized a bit over grading. On the one hand, this is a rather breezy read and, in spite of its flaws, I finished it happily within an afternoon. Still, even though I did basically enjoy the book, I also found myself rolling my eyes a lot and wishing I could skim over certain portions. In the end, there were enough of these moments to make the book seem a bit average to me, and the rather dull heroine pushed it over the top. I just cannot quite bring myself to recommend this one, especially not at trade paperback prices.