Hotter than Hell

Jackie Kessler
2008, Fantasy Romance
Zebra, $15.00, 336 pages, Amazon ASIN 0821781049
Part of a series

Grade: C
Sensuality: Hot

After reading favorable reviews of Jackie Kessler's Hotter than Hell, book, I looked forward to reading it because it was supposed to be "something different." Once I started, I just had to be nosy and peek to the ending, which I instantly regretted because I didn’t want to read it anymore. Though it's being marketed as a romance, it’s not really a romance. The hero certainly isn’t “heroic”, there is no true heroine, and the ending doesn’t have any sort of traditional HEA. After I forced myself to pick it back up, it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be, but it certainly wasn’t my cup of tea. I did appreciate the uniqueness of the story and the fact that it’s in the first person from the “hero’s” point of view.

Daunuan, a demon of lust, happily seduces souls and takes them to Hell, which is organized somewhat like a corporation, with red tape and bureaucracy that can tie up a working demon for decades. But when his boss, Pan, the King of Lust, wants to give him a promotion based on his performance on a particular assignment, he accepts the challenge, even though failure will bring about his own death. His task is to seduce a pure soul destined for Heaven and make her kiss him willingly and call his true name. To make things more difficult, Pan appears to have selected someone incorruptible: Virginia Reed.

Unfortunately for Daun, seducing a pure soul is hard work, much harder than what he’s used to. He has to study her, discover what makes her tick, and figure out all her weaknesses, even though she appears to be the most boring, lifeless soul ever. While on his mission, he discovers someone in Hell wants him dead and is sending demons out to eliminate him. To make matters worse, Virginia reminds him of the woman he’s craved for centuries, the one he let go so she could have her own love with another – his Jezebel. All of that eats into the time he’s been given to make Virginia call his name in passion.

When he finally meets Virginia in his human form, his stalking pays off and he succeeds in getting her out of her guarded shell. As he learns her secrets and spends time with her, he begins to feel things that no self-respecting demon should. She forces him to realize things about himself that he doesn’t want to accept and he also learns that he doesn’t want to condemn her to Hell, where she’ll suffer for eternity – yet, if he doesn’t succeed, he will die at Pan’s hand. What’s a demon to do?

I did not like Daun and that’s putting it mildly. He’s crude and - well, he’s a demon and acts demonically, though he does redeem himself somewhat. To avoid spoilers, all I can really say about Virginia is that she simply broke my heart. Yet, putting my own moral hang-ups aside, I have to admit that the story was well written, certainly unique, and the relationships are complicated and, at times, heart wrenching.

Can I recommend Hotter Than Hell? That’s a question that’s difficult to answer. I wouldn’t recommend it to a romance reader who, like me, wants the HEA and admirable characters. Yet, as a reader I have to admit that it's different, with twists and turns that take you on an emotional roller-coaster. That might well make it intriguing for some readers.

-- Heather Brooks

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