Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review of My Dangerous Pleasure by Carolyn Jewel

I just got back from an unsuccessful trip to Barnes and Noble , which was quite the bummer. I was looking for a new release and a book published late last year, but for some reason the new release was unavailable. Even more shocking, they didn’t have several new releases that made the NYT bestseller list. I was NOT happy. Plus, I had to stand in line behind a group of kids playing with the Angry Birds stuffed toys at the checkout. (“Ooooh… Angry Birds! They’re red! And stuffed!” “Mom said not to touch, Mom said not to touch, MOM SAID DON’T TOUCH!!!!”) So a fun trip to B & N was had by all, especially the poor Mom with the kids at the front of the line. I have to confess, I never thought a trip to B & N would be such effective birth control, but there you have it.
Fortunately for my mood, when I got home I got to read an advanced reader copy of My Dangerous Pleasure by Carolyn Jewel that the publisher sent for review, so I am much happier!  This is the fourth book in Ms. Jewel’s Witches series, and it’s a fascinating world. I’d never read any of her books before, but I’ll certainly be checking them out in the future. The novel begins at Paisley Nichols’ bakery, where she meets and flirts with a sexy stranger, Rasmus Kessler. When she returns home that evening, she becomes violently ill. Her symptoms set off her landlord’s magic security system, alerting him that someone is using dark magic on the premises. He finds Paisley in her apartment and treats her. Unfortunately, for the following six weeks, Rasmus Kessler stalks Paisley, and when his actions become too threatening, her landlord has to step in and protect her. Paisley’s landlord, Iskander Philippikos, is a demon assassin sworn to the local warlord, but he’s drawn to the magic-resistant Paisley, and offers her protection from Rasmus, the mage.
The world building in My Dangerous Pleasure is complex, but I had little problems understanding what was happening in the novel despite not having read any of the earlier books in the series. There’s a glossary at the beginning of the novel, which I glanced at, but I think you can figure the terms out fairly easily on your own. Humans are for the most part unaware of the world of magic surrounding them, and both the mages and the demons want to maintain the humans’ ignorance. What was intriguing about this novel is that even though mages are presented as mostly evil, with the demons protecting the humans, the lines between good and evil are sometimes blurry. Both “good” and “bad” characters had to make decisions that could affect others, without any easy solutions. I particularly liked the character of Rasmus Kessler, because he started out as evil but as the novel progressed he became less of your typical villain and more of a more sympathetic character.
Given the title, I expected a lot more sex between Paisley and Iskander, but I was pleasantly surprised by how late in the novel the two actually got together. The sexual tension was played out for most of the novel, which I thought was really well done. Both Paisley and Iskander had difficult relationships in the past, with Iskander having been deeply betrayed, but they didn’t allow their pasts to stand in the way of a new relationship. I enjoyed seeing the two get to know one another gradually, learning to trust and develop feelings for one another before getting down and dirty.
I only have two criticisms of the novel. The first involves the scene early in the novel where Paisley is sick from Rasmus’ attempts to possess her and Iskander senses dark magic on his property. Iskander goes to investigate the source of the dark magic, and realizes that it’s coming from his tenant’s apartment. There are several pages of inner monologue, where he tries to decide whether or not he will be attacked by whomever is in the apartment or if Paisley is the one under attack. At this moment, which should be a tense one for the reader, Iskander starts to ponder his former partner’s betrayal and all it involves. I kept thinking, “Dude, stop dithering and do something!” Basically it felt like an awkward way for us to learn about his past that broke up the tension of the moment and made my mind start to wander, never a good thing. The second criticism is that the sixth chapter of the novel could have been left out completely. It involves several minor characters dealing with events that happened in previous novels and didn’t really add anything to the storyline. We meet them again later, but what’s revealed in the sixth chapter is not alluded to again, and any necessary introductions for the reader’s sake could have occurred later, since Paisley has to be introduced to the same characters in a scene late in the novel. It was a bit disconcerting, because it happened so early in the novel I kept expecting the characters to reappear and play more pivotal roles.
Either way, I really enjoyed Paisley and Iskander’s growing attraction, and the story really took off after chapter 6. I felt the pace of the action from then on was just right, and we learned more about the world Ms. Jewel has created as Paisley did, which was particularly effective. It was a fun read, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Ms. Jewel’s work after I catch up on her previous novels.

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