Devil’s Kiss by Zoe Archer

13 Mar
I have mentioned before my love of Zoe Archer – she writes funny characters you actually want to know, her stories are fast-[aced with nary a moment to catch your breath, and she has an awesome Tumblr. I read all of her Blades of the Rose series and loved every one (though Scoundrel is my most favoritest). When I heard she was starting a new series (squee!), I was all in. Finally, I ordered Devil’s Kiss last week and got down to reading it.

Whit (a nickname based on his title, Earl of Whitney) does not have a reputable lifestyle. He lives to carouse, while away the days, and, most importantly, gamble. He is bored with life and, along with his merry band of fellow Hellraisers, moves from one exhilarating rush to another in order to feel something. During a trip to a gypsy campsite, he meets Zora, a young woman who seems to see right through his shallow facade. Though intrigued, he soon departs with his fellow Hellraisers to a nearby ruin, hoping to find something creepy or titillating enough to be amusing. Oh, they find something: the Devil. After unleashing the Devil onto the earth and trading their souls for a gift in the meantime, Whit starts to descend into true darkness. Zora, however, isn’t willing to give up the man she met at the campsite, and together they go on a journey to save his soul.

Fun, right? Little different twist here – Whit starts out just a little morally deficient, but after trading his soul, he makes to the move to outright moral bankruptcy. Instead of having a hero who is supposed to be “bad” on paper, but really all he does is have a couple liaisons with married women, this hero IS actually bad for much of the book. Whit does some not so nice things in the first half of this book – I don’t want to give it away, but it gave me the skeevies. I’m not sure Zora was outraged enough, so I was plenty outraged on her behalf. She seems to have a sometimes inexplicable (at least to me) trust in the innate goodness of someone she met during one night, even though he repeatedly demonstrates some pretty icky behavior. What is intended to hold it together for the reader is the chemistry and connection these two experience with each other. Archer always has a somewhat supernatural element to her plots, so it makes sense to incorporate that extra level of “unexplainable” into their personal interactions. For me, relying on their innate connection worked most of the time, at least during the first half of the book. As time went on and they got to know each other more (Archer weaves conversations about their past and motivations into quiet spaces in the plot), I believed the devotion they had to each other more and more.

What I really love about Archer’s writing is her characters – they’re always multilayered and actually interesting. She doesn’t just tell you that they’re special, she shows you. This makes the reading experience one billion times more entertaining. Also, she has a wonderful knack with dialogue. Though the plot of this one ultimately wasn’t as satisfying to me as those of the Blades of the Rose series, I’m definitely on board to read more about the Hellraisers and how they could possibly be redeemed.

3 Responses to “Devil’s Kiss by Zoe Archer”

  1. Aunt Linda March 13, 2012 at 7:50 am #

    Hello, favorite Niece o’ mine! Have you read “Wideacre” by Phillipa Gregory? It is the first book of a 3 book series…I’m now reading the 2nd book, and your review leads me to believe you might like it. In this case, in the first book, the Heroine is the truly evil character, even by 18th Century standards. It is riveting. I was desperately looking for a book I could read, from two libraries, and my own. I found this in one of my bookcases, and couldn’t put it down, I had to find out what Beatrice would do next! Couldn’t believe I had not read it before, and no idea where I got it, or how long I’d had it.

    • Amanda March 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

      I did read one of Phillipa Gregory’s books, although I can’t remember the title right now, and for some reason it really turned me off. It was a few years ago and the only thing I can remember is some weird/icky thing happening to the heroine. I know everyone loves her, but I had a really visceral reaction to it. I wish I could remember why!

      • Aunt Linda March 13, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

        She tends to write in the style of the time she is writing about…bad sentence, sorry! Some of her books are interesting because she does so much research about the era, and it leads you to understand how they thought and spoke back then. Of course, some are “evil”, and you might have gotten one of those. Doesn’t mean it’s not a good story…as in your current review, evil makes for good reading.

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