REVIEW: Devil takes me by Ginn Hale,Jordan Castillo Price,Rhys Ford,TA Moore,C.S.Poe
Temptation lurks around every corner in worlds sometimes dark, sometimes lurid. Giving in is both dangerous and satisfying, though never in the ways one expects. While these enticements offer a vast range of benefits and boons, the cost is a soul and the devil expects his due. Sometimes suave and charming or calculating and cruel, these devils have schemes and desires of their own. They can be creatures to run away from… or toward.
Join the most unique and celebrated authors of LGBT urban fantasy and paranormal fiction for a fast-paced and unpredictable ride, from a city on the other side of reality, to a world suspended in dusk, to a twisted version of the 1960s and 70s.
Meet devils in top hats and waistcoats, a defrocked motorcycle-riding priest, and a genderfluid antihero—among many more. Full of humor, romance, horror, action, intrigue, and magic, these stories have one common element….
They’re one hell of a good time.
As the blurb tells you, all of these stories share a VERY general premise, and this premise is “devil takes my soul”. This premise plays out differently in each story of course, and they take place in different settings. And in a couple of stories, one can even argue that the premise does not really apply, but for the most part yes, the devil takes the character’s soul for whatever reason it was offered to him, and we also have a romantic storyline developing.
Please note that I DNFed one of the stories, it is called “11.59” by CS Poe and for that reason I am not giving it any other rating. The reason I did that after reading only few pages is that any writer has to work really hard to convince me that first person or third person present time was the best way to present the story. Here it did not work to me at all.
I am going to start with the story which was the main reason I bought this anthology. I did not care if I would hate everything else, I had to read it.
The story is called “Counterfeit Viscount” by Ginn Hale and it is set in the world of her “Wicked Gentlemen.” “Wicked Gentlemen” was the second original m/m book I have ever read and most of this writer’s other books worked for me very well, and this novella was not an exception.
You don’t really need to read “Wicked Gentlemen” to understand this story, although I highly recommend it.
I guess the main feature of this world that you should know is that Prodigal men and women are supposedly the descendants of the Devils who during the Middle Ages came down from Hell to accept redemption from the Church. Only poor folks did not realize that the redemption would mean that they would have to live their lives underground and never be allowed to live where all the “normal” people live. Centuries passed and the Prodigal are still treated like crap. After reading this story I want to say that things are slowly started to get better, but it was couple of tiny improvements that I am not sure that “slowly getting better” is a correct description or a stretch.
Allow me to quote the blurb:
“When Prodigal devils begin disappearing, Archie Fallmont, Viscount of Granville, finds himself in the unenviable position of being required to investigate. He has, after all sold his soul to the handsome devil – and flashy dresser – Nimble Hobbs. Now Archie must join Nimble, sleuthing out the knotty secrets of noble families and an infamously exclusive club.
But as bullets fly and top hats fall, Archie begins to fear he and Nimble are up against much worse than just dreadful poetry recitals. Not only is a murderer on the loose, but Archie is growing disturbingly found of having a devil around”
Not all is as it seems in the blurb, even though it describes the set up for the story perfectly. Yes, Archie thinks that he sold his soul to the Devil, but as I stated previously all Prodigals are considered to be the Descendants of the Devils who look different and have some supernatural abilities. However what really happened in this story is not quite what you expect when you think about traditional bargains with the Devil. I said it many times that I prefer novellas that deal with the established couples and in more way than one Archie and Nimble are an established couple even if they do not quite realize that till the story comes closer to the end.
When Archie comes to visit Nimble in the Hells Below the boy comes to Nimble and tells him a story about strange disappearance of the Prodigal fighter in the fighting club outside of Hells Below and that club is one of those rare establishment where Prodigals are allowed to enter if the “normal” person sponsors them. Nimble and Archie end up investigating the mystery. The story is suspenseful and the ending even had an element of surprise to me, and I completely bought Nimble and Archie having a future together.
“Dark favors” by Jordan Castillo Price.
“Most folks in the crumbling metropolis of Calvary are ignorant sheep, but not Jonny Lockheart. He’s Chosen. Half a lifetime ago, when he was young and stupid, he sold his soul to the Devil… and he’s been regretting that choice ever since.
Now the Devil is back with new and improved offer. Kill a major TV personality and walk free with his soul. It should be simple, if not for the star’s bodyguard. Adam is Chosen, too, and he has no compunctions about using his powers. When the two of them rub against each other, their raw chemistry ignites – but there’s no way he’d let Johnny go through with the murder. The only way out is to cut off power at its source. Is their connection enough to rid Calvary of the Devil’s influence for good?”
“I was young enough to think I knew everything, but old enough that my stupidity could get me into some serious trouble” . This is how young Johnny starts telling us the story of his life and we first meet him in 1961. The story is named very appropriately, because to me it was the darkest story in the anthology and not because of any specific scene, but due to overall mood. Let’s just say that the story explores the “Devil takes the Soul” premise in depth and it eventually takes the plot in both an unexpected and familiar direction. Unfortunately I cannot tell you much if anything about the plot that would not be spoilers. I will tell you that I did feel sorry for Johnny and I think the ending was the best possible ending for him.
I also thought that he and Adam were extremely hot together; however, I did wonder as to whether they will have a future together. I am reviewing the book with romantic elements so I want to let you know that they are alive and together at the end. However I also have to say that even though I thought the story was extremely well written and executed, I do not see myself ever rereading it. Once again I cannot tell you why because of spoilers.
“Collared” by TA Moore.
Warning: I also found this story to be extremely dark, but for a different reason than “Dark favors,’ Beware of descriptions of gruesome murders and the descriptions of dead bodies. I was also a bit lost about some important details in the world building (whether Hell really came inside Jack’s town that is and how Jack came back to the world of living.)
Where romance is concerned I have read and reviewed several books by this writer and I enjoyed them all, I do know that her characters are often extremely flawed and the chemistry is very subtle to the point that some readers do not see any chemistry. I did see chemistry here, but I can definitely see how opinions may differ.
Grade : C+
“Infernal affairs ” by Jordan L. Hawk.
This story was probably the lightest story in the book. A certain human asks for an unexpected thing in response to certain cross – roads demon offering to buy their soul from the human (I am using the pronoun used in the book for the character). This story is about the consequences after both human and demon made certain choices and how several years later they are forced to join forces to stop another demon from doing bad things. I feel conflicted about this story. I was definitely entertained when I read it, but considering the premise, I think it felt “too” light for the premise if that makes sense.
“Wonderland City” by Rhys Ford.
“Alice in Wonderland” was never a favorite book in my childhood, but I dutifully read it and even watched the cartoon several times, it is just the book never travelled with me to my adulthood as so many others did. The main character in this story Xander Spade fell through the Looking Glass before the story began and had been living in Wonderland City for some time now, not entirely by choice and he is forced to participate in some weirdness going on there. I would have actually enjoyed some deconstruction of “Alice” but I did not feel as if the story went deep at all.
And I was left absolutely cold about Xander and his love interest, did not feel any chemistry between them at all.