Joey W. Hill
May 2012, Paranormal Romance
Berkley, $7.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0425250849 Part of a series
In theory, a story about a madam who runs a brothel full of demons and a sadistic guardian of the Underworld should not hold such appeal. But Joey W. Hill not only makes it work, she also creates characters with whom I would like to be friends.
What’s a modern day succubus demon/witch hybrid to do? She can’t simply run around sucking the life force from people and expect to not draw undue attention to herself. So Raina has fashioned herself into a latter day Belle Watling, mistress of what my dear grandmother would call a “house of ill repute” populated with her fellow succubi. Raina is an extremely powerful witch and is able to create a haven for young succubi learning to control their sexual powers and offers them training in such. She’s only slightly nonplussed when a young succubus lands on her doorstep, injured and desperate. But more concerning is the Dark Guardian in pursuit of the demon.
Mikhael Roman is a Dark Guardian from the Underworld who has a job to do: Find a demon who has stolen an object of power and retrieve said object through whatever means necessary. Complicating his task is the beautiful Raina who has extended her protection to the demon while he is on her property. With an unknown threat looming over the brothel, Raina and Mikhael work together to try to learn the succubus demon’s secrets and discover a powerful mutual attraction.
Raina is hands-down one of the best female characters I have encountered in fiction. She is strong in witchcraft and in character and acts as a combination of mentor and mother for her succubi. She’s sharp, resourceful, and fiercely independent without ever crossing the line into foolish actions or general obnoxiousness. Mikhael makes the perfect foil for her by matching her in strength and allowing her to be vulnerable with him. Dominant to the core, he’s able to give Raina the boundaries she needs to feel truly secure.
The last thing I expected from a romance between a demon/witch and a Dark Guardian was sweetness. But their romance is sweet. Raina has been virtually sequestered at her home due to the power she must use to maintain safety for her employees. Mikhael adds his power to hers and is able to take her into town for a real date, an afternoon at the movies with a stop for ice cream afterwards. Mikhael understands that Raina has been brutalized in the past and takes care not to push her too far. In turn, Raina is able to drop her guard and be herself with him totally without artifice and allow her succubus side its freedom.
The book’s author is known for her BDSM-themed romances, however In the Company of Witches is not heavy on the BDSM. There is an element of dominance and bondage throughout, but the origin and effects are psychological more than physical. It adds a layer to an already nuanced romance and causes the hero and heroine to connect deeply as the trust between them grows outside of the bedroom as well as inside.
I was already fascinated with Raina from the preceding novel Something About Witches, hence I highly anticipated this release. I’m pleased to say it exceeded my already lofty expectations. In the Company of Witches is the second book in the series, but it is not necessary to read the first book to understand the events in this one as it works well as a standalone. The release of the third book in the Arcane Shot series cannot happen soon enough for me.
-- Heather Stanton
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