Dear Ms. McCarthy:
I have liked your lighthearted works in the past but I wasn’t at all disturbed that you were exploring a darker side of your writing. On a superficial level, this book worked and I thought it took chances, but a deeper examination revealed some character trends that I found unappealing.
The story opens with Damien, an 18th Century dissolute and wealthy southern landowner, taking a demon into his arms and asking her for a favor. The favor is granted and we fade to black. The story re-engages in the modern day when Marley Turner makes a stop at Damien’s plantation in search of her missing, irresponsible sister. Marley Turner is the perfect temptation to Damien who has been abstaining for 200 years as a self imposed punishment. If he takes Marley, he endangers whatever soul he may have left to his succubus/incubus masters.
I was initially fascinated by the idea of the redemption Damien du Bourg. In the initial scenes, he is cruel and selfish. I almost wondered if he was really the hero. The problem is that I never got to see the redemption of Damien du Bourg. He was simply reformed in the pre-book years. I learned why he reformed and how he reformed, but I never go to see it and that reduced my pleasure in the storyline. I almost felt like there was some revisionist history that took place to reform him, as if the scene that depicted him taking pleasure without regard for others really didn’t exist like it unfolded at the beginning of the book.
Marley Turner is a school teacher and to some extent is stereotypical. She’s unmarried. She’s sexually repressed. Her sister is irresponsible and sexually wild. To some degree, I felt like there was a clear demarcation of the women in this book. On the one hand there were the good women – the ones that needed awakening to sexual pleasure, like Marley. On the other, there were the bad, ammoral, and evil girls like Marley’s sister or the demons who gave Damien his wish for immortality – and they all loved sex, in all its various incarnations. I don’t think that this was intentional because I felt like the message, if there is one, in this book was that sex was a good and wonderful thing but the patterns that emerged were disturbing and contradictory.
The best parts of the book, I felt, weren’t necessarily the ones between Marley and Damien but rather between Damien and his wife in the 18th Century. This story was told to Marley by a woman living on Damien’s property and through the use of letters. What happened to Damien’s wife was crucial to his redemption was the most compelling part of the story. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that the story was very, very erotic and part of the sexuality was provided by the atmosphere and not just the intimate scenes.
I liked the darker aspects of the book and wish that they had been explored more fully. I am hoping the next book is about the conflicted demon, Rosa, who both tormented and protected Damien. She’s got a story to tell and I want to read it. B-