REVIEW: The Road to Hell by Jackie Kessler
Dear Ms. Kessler:
I think The Road to Hell suffers from a mistaken identity. It is a book that would be better as a straight urban fantasy rather than trying to shoehorn into the romance genre. The ostensible conflict in this story is the female protagonist trying to maintain her relationship with her boyfriend and supposed true love, Paul Hamilton, a New York City vice cop. Problem is that Jesse’s body can’t stop responding to other men’s touches. Her stripping joint is shut down. She’s being tortured in different ways to come down to hell and save her former best friend who betrayed her. Everyone wants a piece of Jesse, particularly Hell where she escaped.
Writing a succubus turned human within the romance genre has it perils because if the construct is a couple (or a committed threesome), then one who plies her sex trade with glee has an inherent conflict with the genre construct. To that end, if the book wasn’t meant to be a romance and if it didn’t try so hard to sell the reader on the idea that Jesse, former demon and now stripper extraordinaire, was in love with and wanted a committed relationship with Paul, it would have been much more readable.
Jesse’s first two sexual encounters were with men not Paul. In fact, when I started reading the book I thought perhaps Paul and Jesse had broke up. From the first chapter:
Watching Ranger transform from a blushing boy into a seasoned man sent a delicious tingle up my spine. Yum.
Stop that, Jesse. Don’t get all hot and bothered by the nice customer. A friendly chat, a little drink in the mega-expensive Champagne Room, a private dance or two, clothing optional. No more.
Then, out on a date with Paul, Jesse encounters her former coworker, Daun, an incubus.
Invisible fingers stroked my tits until I groaned. He said, “I love a challenge.”
“Flatterer.” The ghostly fingers moved down my body until they brushed against my inner thighs. Wetness gushed against my panties, and I shivered in Daun’s arms. My mouth opened wide as I gasped with pleasure, and Daun crushed his lips against mine.
I wasn’t sure why Harris was with Paul. Her self proclaimed soul connection seemed sorely lacking when her body was entertaining several others. I felt that the self stated true love between Harris and Paul was an attempt to appease the romance hea-loving crowd. Paul, however, is one dimensional, prosy and boring. I could not for the life of me figure out why Jesse was with Paul. I suppose he represents the “good” and Jesse represents the “bad” but that type-casting leads to stale storytelling.
Jesse and Paul argue a bit over her over familiarity with other men, but Jesse tells him that he is unfairly jealous, after all, he was dancing with some chick who was not Jesse. Tit for tat, I guess. The creation of this emotional tension was contrived for me because Jesse’s heart clearly wasn’t in it. She is too easily distracted by the pleasures of the flesh and given her background, who can blame her. Problem is she is off professing that Paul was her one true love. The asserted devotion to one man seemed to be forced, no matter how many times Jesse chanted the mantra. The shoe simply did not fit.
I know I would have liked this story so much more if there was no romance. If it was just Jesse– enjoying pleasure with as many guys as she pleased and kicking as much demon ass as possible. The forced and contrived romance and the lackluster characterization of Paul overshadows the detailed worldbuilding and tarnishes the charm of Jesse Harris.
Remove the romance and you remove interesting character motivation but some other motivation, maybe just the exploration of being human after being a demon and fighting off the various beings, including her so called friends, that are wanting her newly gained soul would have been enough. I’ll never know, of course, what could have been. C-
This book can be purchased in trade paperback. (no ebook format I could find)