The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark
Author: Juliet Dark
Series: Fairwick Chronicles #1
Format: e-Book Galley
Source: Ballantine via NetGalley
Release Date: December 27, 2011
Dates Read: February 5-10, 2012
I gasped . . . or tried to. My mouth opened, but I couldn’t draw breath. . . . His lips, pearly wet, parted and he blew into my mouth. My lungs expanded beneath his weight. When I exhaled he sucked in my breath and his weight turned from cold marble into warm living flesh.
Since accepting a teaching position at remote Fairwick College in upstate New York, Callie McFay has experienced the same disturbingly erotic dream every night: A mist enters her bedroom, then takes the shape of a virile, seductive stranger who proceeds to ravish her in the most toe-curling, wholly satisfying ways possible. Perhaps these dreams are the result of writing her bestselling book, The Sex Lives of Demon Lovers. After all, Callie’s lifelong passion is the intersection of lurid fairy tales and Gothic literature—which is why she finds herself at Fairwick’s renowned folklore department, living in a once-stately Victorian house that, at first sight, seemed to call her name.
But Callie soon realizes that her dreams are alarmingly real. She has a demon lover—an incubus—and he will seduce her, pleasure her, and eventually suck the very life from her. Then Callie makes another startling discovery: He’s not the only mythical creature in Fairwick. As the tenured witches of the college and the resident fairies in the surrounding woods prepare to cast out the incubus, Callie must accomplish something infinitely more difficult—banishing this demon lover from her heart.
This book was obtained freely from the publisher, Ballantine Books, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I requested this book for review primarily because of the gorgeous cover and the interesting synopsis. I’m a fan of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, so I thought it would be fun to read about a woman who wrote a bestseller about demon lovers and subsequently finds that her subject matter is just a little bit too real. The Demon Lover didn’t turn out to be quite what I expected. First of all, it seems to be billed as a paranormal romance, but only about the first third of the book seems to truly reflect this. It also appears to be a contemporary fantasy, but that’s not the feel that the novel exudes. Although this is a story about demons, magic, witches and other paranormal creatures, I mostly felt as if I were reading a contemporary adult fiction book that just happened to be set in a fantasy world. This is the reason I didn’t like it quite as much as I thought I would.
Cailleach McFay is not your traditional heroine. Unlike the modern women in her book, The Sex Lives of Demon Lovers, Callie is, for the most part, just a normal woman. Her actions and attitudes hearken more to the Gothic women with whom she was frustrated for their passivity. Callie is just a woman who made a life out of studying folklore. She settles for a job in Fairwick primarily because the previous residence of author Dahlia LaMotte just seems to call her name. When she discovers the world as she knew it was not exactly as it seems, she takes it in stride. However, you don’t get the sense from her that this happens because she is a particularly strong woman. Rather, it seems that she just accepts what the world has thrown at her. The one thing she seems to care about most is helping one of her students whose family is the victim of an unfortunate curse. But even that concern seems to get pushed to the backburner quite often.
One of the things that I liked best about Dark’s world-building was the creation of Dahlia LaMotte. A pretty big chunk of the story focuses on this deceased writer of bodice-rippers and her experiences with the incubus and other paranormal figures. She is written about in such a way that the reader thinks she is a famous writer of Gothic romance literature. However, it turns out that she is entirely fictional. This is one instance where the details Juliet Dark weaves through the story work well and truly enhance the novel. On the other hand, many of Dark’s details felt unnecessary and tedious to me. Callie is just not exciting enough to fit in this paranormal world. Then again, the paranormal world of Fairwick is not actually that exciting to begin with. For the inclusion of demons, witches, fairies, incubi, succubi, and other creatures, the supernatural subject matter is treated in such a mundane matter. For instance, there is a paranormal society with rulebooks and membership cards and off-hours library access. While it is certainly different for the supernatural to be treated in such a normal, human manner, it’s just not my style.
My overall impression is that if The Demon Lover had been about a hundred pages shorter (the proof copy I was given was 371 pages), I would have liked it much more. As a reader, I just got bogged down in the mundane details. This left me with a feeling of impatience throughout much of the story. I like my fantasy novels to be a bit more of a departure from the normal world. I’d recommend this book to people who don’t share that sentiment.