Sunday, February 12, 2012

THE DEMON LOVER by Juliet Dark

THE DEMON LOVER (Fairwick Chronicles #1) by Juliet Dark aka Carol Goodman

Paperback, 416 pages
Published December 27th 2011 by Random House Publishing Group 
Genre: paranormal romance novel, fantasy
Rating: 4.5 stars

I’ll begin this review by saying that I really loved this book and I would whole-heartedly recommend it, especially to those who enjoy reading books in a series. Since I don’t normally read paranormal novels, I had the advantage of having a non-biased frame of mind: whether a paranormal romance or an urban fantasy, I didn’t have any particular expectations about it and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The first thing that hit me about The Demon Lover was the cover: there’s something utterly alluring, gloomy and romantic at the same time (Gothic I would say) about the silhouette of a young woman with long russet hair, clad in a beautiful blue gown against a desolate landscape of bare trees and black birds… I know it would be a mistake to judge a book merely by the cover, but isn’t that the first thing that meets the eye? What shows on the first page grabs the attention and somehow sets the tone of the entire book.  In this case I was certainly not misled by the cover. 

Beautifully written in a pleasant and smooth first-person narrative style, TDL doesn’t fall in the clear-cut category of a paranormal novel , or an  urban fantasy  for that matter. It features a strong romantic spin that will appeal to a “romance-novel-reader’s sensitivity”, such as mine. And I was sold on it from the start…a marvelous blend of fiction, romance,  paranormal…what else can you ask for?

The Gothic and paranormal elements, the folkloristic aspects, the fairytale quality of a small and charming college town, the literary references, the romantic spin and the sensuality related to the myth of a supernatural being known as incubus, demon lover or love talker, everything falls into place and helps creating a fantasy world populated by otherworldly and vividly portrayed creatures, disguised as humans and perfectly blended in the academic environment of a colorful college town.
My favorite character is obviously the demon lover with his handsome human incarnation Liam: this creature made of shadow and moonlight, scented like ocean breeze and honeysuckle, is an interesting mix of love (for the heroine Callie), longing and hope (to belong to the human world once again) and doom (he has been chased away and is trapped in the shadows between two worlds). He is a dual character and, for this reason, he is even more intriguing. Like Callie, you can’t help falling for the supernatural seducer haunting our heroine in her dreams and for his incarnation, the loving, caring, passionate, romantic poet Liam.
Callie holds herself from diving completely into the emotional depths of her feelings for the demon which haunts her dreams (and eventually her real life) since her teenage years. There is a deep rooted connection between them: some important revelations about her origins will be unveiled in this novel, but we will probably need to wait for the sequel to fully understand their entity in relation to the incubus. The Demon Lover/Liam Doyle used to haunt Callie’s dreams after the loss of her parents: his presence was of great comfort and soothed  her sorrow by telling bedtime  stories. Over the years, Callie’s dreams involving this mysterious man become more erotic and vivid, only to stop when she starts some serious studies on the subject.  

Callie Mac Fay, recently graduated and author of a best-selling book about the sex lives of the demon lovers, takes a job  as a folklore teacher at the Fair wick College. Against her better judgment, she even buys an old (and haunted) Victorian house. Her instincts tell her to stay away from that remote place and to pursue a career at a more prestigious college in New York City, where she would also be able to continue her relationship with her college sweetheart. Quite inexplicably, something draws her to stay in the picturesque Fair wick,  where she will actually settle down and experience a surprising sense of belonging.  Daughter of two archeologists, orphan since the age of twelve, she had spent her teenage years with her glacial grandmother in a sterile New York apartment.
As soon as she moves in her new Victorian house, Callie is visited again by the demon lover and willingly seduced. Fed by her fascination and love, the demon incarnates in a flesh and blood poet/scholar who will join the Fair wick academic community, the handsome Liam Doyle. She is drawn to him, but she is reluctant to admit her feelings.

It is obvious that the author intended for this open-ending book to be the first installment of a series, and this is why we’re left on a huge cliff-hanger right at the end. The fact that TDL doesn’t really work as a stand-alone novel is one of the few flaws. In an effort to prepare the ground for a sequel (a trilogy apparently), the author starts different threads in the storyline: besides the romantic involvement between the demon and Callie, multiple characters and their mysteries unfold (the Bullard curse, Mara’s papers disappearance, The Grove, Frank’s under-cover investigations, the doors to the Fairy world, the Borderline creatures etc.) and none of them really has a closure within the final pages of this book.

The other flaw is that the multiple plot lines tend to distract the reader from what should be, by all means, the core of the novel. Unfortunately, the captivating relationship between the heroine and the demon doesn’t unfold as sweetly as we might expect. By the end of the book it will remain unfulfilled and at some point throughout the novel I found myself wondering what happened to the demon, left behind an array of other issues and mysteries. The final pages seem to be rushed and abruptly ended. The author wraps it up with the clear intention to leave some loose ends for a future installment, hopefully soon to come and worth the wait. I am hoping in a comeback of our demon lover: how delicious would the sequel be if he could redeem himself, regain his humanity and win Callie’s love not only as an incubus but also as a human being?
Anyway, I have rated TDL 4.5 stars in the light of what it could have been and will possibly and hopefully be in the sequel (The Water Witch).

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