Katee Robert continues her exploration of Greek and Roman mythological tales with Electric Idol, which retells the story of Cupid (or Eros) and Psyche. While the world building is good and the romance well-paced, the tale misses out entirely on the best point of tension in the legend, making it something of a miss for me. But Robert writes compellingly, and the book lands squarely in B territory because of that.
In this version of Olympus, we’re somewhere on the East coast in the far-flung future, and while there are no immortals in this story, this is a world dominated by social strata, and in which those strata are separated by the River Styx. The members of the ruling class are named after Greek gods. The current Psyche – Psyche Dimitrious – has been the heir apparent to her beautiful mother, who now acts the part of Demeter and takes care of agricultural matters. The upper and lower social classes are divided by the River Styx. Every woman is vying to be Hera, including the vain and surgery augmented Aphrodite of the day, but plus-sized Psyche doesn’t think she has anything special to offer. Thus, when the handsome Eros Ambrosia tells her she’s pretty, she thinks he’s joking.
Eros is his mother’s enforcer; a hitman; he bears scars from shootings and stabbings he has done in ‘Aphrodite’s’ name to help her get ahead. He has known little in the way of actual love in his life, and when Psyche helps him treat his latest wound, he feels a loyalty and sense of attachment to her. They are caught on camera together, and when his jealous mother gets wind of this she tells him to kill Psyche, cut out her heart and present it to her. Eros decides he’ll marry Psyche instead in order to preserve their lives.
The twosome then have to fashion their lives around each other under the constant, disapproving eye of Aphrodite. Eros has a lot of self-loathing to cope with, and vulnerable Psyche doesn’t think that much of herself, either. Though their sexual chemistry is strong, they must climb a proverbial Mount Olympus to be together. Can they do it?
I’m of a divided mind about Electric Idol. Roberts has a lot of fun with her noir-ish world, and Psyche and Eros are both enjoyable characters who live a hungry and deep and dark romance.
If you like your heroes super dark and desperately yearning for a taming touch, then you will like Eros. His Achilles heel is – naturally – Psyche, who learns to step out of her mother’s shadow and become her own woman.
The biggest problem with Robert’s take on the Cupid/Psyche tale is that her narrative choices denude the original myth of its tension and mystery. In most popularized versions of the tale, Eros falls for Psyche at a distance after pricking himself with one of his own arrows, then, choosing to pose as a monster, he demands Psyche become his bride, and once she is given to him, veils himself in darkness. She does not know the identity of the man she lies with every night, but they come to know each other this way until her sisters visit and whisper poison into Psyche’s ear about her husband. She is thus driven to spy upon him, and is startled to see the winged god in her bed, but he is wakened by a drop of oil fallen from the lamp, and he flees her, forcing her to go through a series of trials to win his trust back. The author’s decision to eliminate this element of conflict is such a disappointment – you’re promising me dark sexytimes and instead it’s mostly just horny people bonking each other standing up, sometimes semi-publicly. Sigh.
Robert thinks that the conflict between Psyche and Aphrodite is enough to build the story around, but that isn’t the case. After Roberta Gellis’ landmark Dazzling Brightness, authors have a pretty high standard to live up to when it comes to mythology-inspired romances, and this one doesn’t quite make it. Electric Idol brings the sizzle but not the spice, leaving behind the scent of a sometimes overwrought, sometimes slickly written novel.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier