Book: The Demon Lover
Author: Juliet Dark
Genre: Fiction/Supernatural/Women/School Life
Summary (from back of Ballantine Books edition): 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 her having written the bestselling book The Sex Lives of Demon Lovers. Callie’s lifelong passion is the intersection of lurid fairy tales and Gothic literature - which is why she’s found 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: Her incubus is not the only mythical creature in Fairwick. As the tenured witches of the college and resident fairies in the surrounding woods prepare to cast out the demon, Callie must accomplish something infinitely more difficult - banishing this supernatural lover from her heart. - Ballantine Books, 2011.
If this plot sounds familiar in its themes - female protagonist, school in New York -, then you'll not be surprised to learn that Juliet Dark is actually Carol Goodman. Yes, I'm cheating a bit here in reading something that's still by Carol Goodman. I couldn't help it though. I've been itching to get at this book for months and when I finished my last book, I thought that it was time to read it.
Admittedly, this book (and its subsequent sequels) is a guilty pleasure of mine. I don't typically read run-of-the-mill romance novels. Honestly, that's what I thought I was getting into - a run-of-the-mill, smutty, romance novel. To my surprise, it wasn't such a thing. There was a plot other than the origin and development of the romance between the protagonist and her lover. Admittedly, this plot is a side plot in this book, but it becomes the central plot as the sequels progress. But I'll get to that in the reviews for the sequels.
As always, these reviews will keep spoilers to a minimum.
Basic Plot: Callie is a young woman who wants to teach at a prestigious college or university so she move out of her apartment and have a decent living situation with her boyfriend. She is famous for writing a book on supernatural creatures and sex. Her degree is focused on mythology and folklore, so she's not exactly your standard English professor. Her search leads her to Fairwick Academy, a college in upstate New York. Something seems to draw her to the university and she decides to teach there. At the same time, she's having dreams about being ravished by a dark presence every night. Her time at Fairwick and her dreams soon collide with each other and Callie is left to try and discover what the truth of Fairwick really is, along with coming to terms of what the inhabitants of Fairwick truly are.
Comments: So, like I said before, this isn't your standard romance novel. The plot points outside of the romance are as equally important as the romance itself. When I first read the book, I was surprised at how the romance was lacking in the typical graphic nature of romance novels. I've talked to people about it and I've heard that some authors who, despite having their books in the "romance" genre, don't write their sex scenes in graphic detail. This is totally fine with me. I don't care one way or the other. Some have even defined it as: Romance = Non-Graphic Smut with a Plot. Harlequin = Graphic Smut without a Plot. I suppose I'd have to explore the Romance section a little more before I can agree or disagree with this statement.
Now, it's not to say that Dark/Goodman isn't graphic at all in her sex scenes. Let's put it this way: if I were to scale it according to television networks with CBS being the least graphic and HBO being the most graphic, I'd rate this romance a late night TNT special. You might see the bare backs of both participants, but you won't see every single inch of their bodies. I'd say Dark/Goodman is more graphic with the foreplay than the actual act of sex itself. So, if you're looking for a graphic sex scene in your romance novels, this book ain't for you.
Dark/Goodman is a great researcher. I've said this before in my previous reviews of her work. In this book (and its sequels), she really does her research in terms of supernatural creatures. I don't think she makes up her own mythology, but sticks to what is typically known as the creatures she chooses to use in her novel. So, if you read her book, you won't find anything that hasn't been said before about the supernatural elements involved.
Callie as a female lead is strong, sassy, and likeable. She's very sympathetic and it's enjoyable to look at the world of the book through her eyes. She's not dependent on her boyfriend or her supernatural lover. The romance between her and the incubus is more like a mutual addiction than an actual romance. Some might argue that she's not very strong or compelling as a female when it comes to the parts where she encounters the incubus, but as the encounters increase, it becomes clear that she's not complete putty in the hands of her lover. She likes the feelings the incubus inspires in her besides lust - compassion, companionship, and safety. Like any hero, she can only be strong for so long before needing someone else to hold her and comfort her. You can't be a hero and be satisfied with being on your own - at least, in terms of human heroes.
The plot itself is decently paced and because it's a new universe, nothing is entirely predictable. Dark/Goodman does drop some not-so-subtle hints from time to time, but manages to keep the suspense and plot twists fresh. As for the supernatural elements, this isn't going to be like Harry Potter in any way whatsoever. It's just a regular college, only the staff are supernatural creatures. They still teach English, History, Biology, and Math just like any other human-run school.
I enjoyed the book in its entirety and I didn't have many problems with it. It's a good introduction to a new universe while not making it entirely about introducing the world and its characters. Nothing takes away from it being Callie's story.
Overall, I give The Demon Lover an A+.
Thanks for reading!
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