Devil's Kiss
Grade : C+

I divide C reads into Mehs and Buts; this is a But book. No, it’s not a 370-page snapshot of posterior extremities (sorry); instead, it’s a book that epitomizes contradictions. It’s a story filled with “Yeah, but…” statements. It’s a novel that hits good points, some bad points, and all in all irritates me sufficiently that all I can do is shake my head.

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The good in Devil’s Kiss? Zoe Archer is a good writer. Period. But her story was like a gourmet chef choosing to buy No Name brand hero, No Name brand heroine, adding four cups of No Name plot, and then smothering the bland cake with eminently readable prose. Sure, it’s edible. But good icing does not a good cake make.

Also good is the Georgian time frame. I dread the day that non-perruque-wearing heroes and buckled shoes will be as typecast as empire waists, but in the meantime, I like it. But Ms. Archer doesn’t really have the time to go into it because Whit and Zora are too busying running from the devil. So the setting isn’t quite wallpaper, but it’s not quite there either.

And if I’m being honest, there are good points about the plot too. Here you have five men who are so utterly overflowing with ennui that if Russian roulette was available back then, the book would probably open with five Colts at five handsome temples. As it is, the next best option is to raise hell – literally. One night, drunk and disorderly, Whit & Co. trip over an underground crypt and accidentally raise the Devil himself, aka Mr. Holliday. Ole’ Lucifer promises them whatever they want in exchange for a small token, which basically traps their souls. Being stupid as well as bored, the Hellraisers miss that tiny detail and opt in: Whit chooses to control the odds, Bram wants his pick of women, Leo wants to see financial futures, Edmund wants the girl he lost, and John wants political influence.

See, the good thing about this plot is that having a Manichean villain as bad as the Devil himself is actually a relief. I can’t really take it seriously, which isn’t good when you’re snickering and you shouldn’t because the tone is deadly solemn. But on the other hand, the plot simplifies matters considerably: They fight the devil and save Whit’s soul. Generally, I’m cool with that.

But what doesn’t thrill me is the romance. See, all of this begins at a Gypsy camp, where Whit takes one look at the Gypsy woman who’s cheating him and Wants her. Zora Wants him too, but they also feel a Connection. And I don’t buy that. Instant lusting is already a stretch at times, but instant mystical metaphysical connection? Over the top.

Anyway, as part of his deal with the devil Whit gets Zora trapped in a playing card and she turns invisible. This binds her to his side, since she can’t move outside of 20 feet from the card. Luckily, the author drops this angle after a hundred pages, because a ghost/fairy/presence saves Zora and gives her the power to shoot flames from her fingers. Sure, why not.

After that, the rest of the book is occupied with Whit and Zora running around trying to save Whit’s soul. Snickering and eye-rolling aside, I grew to appreciate the story. Once in a while, it’s nice to have characters fight for something as basic as your own soul, without the added problem of the end of the world or eternal war looming (although to be honest, there is a wee bit of that too).

No, what ultimately pushed the book over the edge into C-territory were the characters. Aside from an inescapable two-dimensionality to the mains, this is a case where I’d have lobbied for an extra 20 pages at the beginning, or some extra scenes where Whit and Zora had met before he went to her gypsy camp and they felt an Instant Connection. What’s presented is the tail-end of a pretty good relationship, and I’m glad Ms. Archer didn’t gussy up reality with false sunshine – they’re actually in a pretty grim situation, and aside from Mr. Holliday running loose, he’s an earl and she’s an illiterate Gypsy. I expect them to run to America by series’ end.

So good relationship, but not enough setup. Nice setting, but not enough detail. Interesting plot, but stretches into camp. Okay characters, but bland. Like I said: A But book.

Reviewed by Enya Young

Grade: C+

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : December 14, 2011

Publication Date: 2011/12

Review Tags: Georgian

Recent Comments …

  1. This author (Judith Ivory) used to appear frequently in “best of” lists for historical romance; and it seems that this…

Enya Young

I live in Seattle, Washington and work as a legal assistant. I remember learning to read (comic strips) at a young age and nowadays try to read about 5-6 books a week. I love to travel, especially to Europe, and enjoy exploring smaller towns off the tourist track though London is my favorite city in the world.
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