Title: The Demon Lover (Fairwick Chronicles #1)
Author: Juliet Dark
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Format: Trade Paperback & eBook
Publication Date: December 27, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5
I have to preface this review with a bit of a disclaimer: this book is NOT a romance. When I requested the book for review, it was billed as a romance, but there’s no happy ever after or even a happy with a partner for the female protagonist. That said, it is an outstanding fantasy, well written and engaging, and it kept me turning the pages. I’m very much looking forward to reading future installments of the book, and I certainly recommend it. However, I’m concerned that if you begin this book expecting it to be a romance, you will be sadly disappointed, which would be a shame, as it’s really excellent.
I requested the book, because the heroine, Dr. Cailleach (Callie) McFay is a newly minted PhD and out on the job market. For those of you in the academic world, especially professors of English or languages, this book’s release date will have dire overtones for you, as December 27th used to be the beginning of the horror that is the annual MLA convention. For those of you lucky enough NOT to be academics, MLA is the Modern Language Association, and the annual convention is where the overwhelming majority of job interviews are held for college professors. It’s a NIGHTMARE. A NIGHTMARE, I tell you!
But I digress. I found it interesting that Callie has a long-term boyfriend, Paul, who is finishing his doctorate in economics on the West Coast, while she’s completed her degree and published her dissertation as a book on demon lovers, with great success. This has given Callie some cachet in academic circles, so when the book opens during a campus interview at Fairwick College in upstate New York, Callie is pretty certain that she’s going to turn down their offer if she can wrangle a better one from SUNY, since she and Paul would have a better chance finding work for both of them in New York City. This is an all too familiar refrain for academic couples, so I was highly sympathetic to Callie’s plight.
However, Callie finds herself intrigued by a Victorian house on the edge of the woods in Fairwick. It turns out that it was the home of Dahlia LaMotte, a writer of early 20th Century gothic bodice-rippers, and LaMotte’s papers remain in the attic. The owner of the house has access to those papers, which are never to leave the premises. Callie finds herself inexplicably drawn to the house and accepts Fairwick’s offer, a move that surprises her and her friends.
But at night, Callie begins to experience highly erotic dreams, in which she’s visited by a mysterious lover, and these dreams resemble those described in LaMotte’s papers. Add to this to the strange faculty at Fairwick (okay, cheap shot time - MOST professors at colleges are strange, but those at Fairwick push the boundary) and unusual occurrences in the neighboring woods, and Callie’s first year as an Assistant Professor starts to resemble a gothic novel.
The beginning of this novel really drew me in with its gothic overtones. Callie’s experiences as an orphan with an overbearing grandmother and the strange happenings at her house and the college evoke the gothic novels that Callie writes about in her book, novels that feature mysterious settings and repressed sexuality. However, this tone began to change about halfway through the book, and it becomes much more of a fantasy than a gothic novel.
At first the mystery in the novel centers around Callie and the sense of connection that she feels with her house in Fairwick. Her erotic dreams continue, causing her to feel unfaithful to her boyfriend Paul, even though they are only dreams. However, once Callie learns Fairwick’s secrets, the mystery becomes more troubling, as the students at the college are clearly being preyed upon.
The Demon Lover is an outstanding novel, and if you love fantasy, you will definitely enjoying reading it. Callie is an intriguing character, and you’ll be unable to put the book down as you learn more about her background, one of which not even she was aware. I think if you begin the book knowing that it’s not a romance, you won’t be disappointed at all, but if you’re looking for a new fantasy romance, this is not the book for you.