We went to the Fourth of July book sale in Williston, a yearly extravaganza in which Alling Library volunteers stock the gym of Williston Central School with tables of books, organized roughly by category, and then stand back and let the hordes descend. The library raises money, and the horde gets cheap books. Fun for all!
This year I acquired, among other things, Demon Lover by Juliet Dark, which is either the best or the worst pseudonym for a paranormal romance novelist, depending upon which second I’m making the judgment. It combines the inexplicable fetish US authors seem to have for folkloric fairies of the British Isles with the inexplicable fetish that people from outside New England and northern New York have with small, elite, liberal arts colleges in these locations. It follows 26-year-old assistant professor of demon sex visited regularly by — you guessed it! — a sexy demon. Plot ensues.
Okay, this is cool. I’m all up for academic types running up against the fictional objects of their research actually existing. Then you get the chance for them to deal not just with reality shifting, but a particularly personalized clash thereof. You also get the chance for the academic type to apply their intelligence and knowledge to the situation at hand in a way that, one hopes, would be more interesting than the response of the average person who knows nothing about, say, sexy demons.
Well, not with this book you don’t. Instead we have the Triple B — that is, a Badly Boring Book. How do you make a book with such a cool premise a tedious slog? I’ve provided a handy numbered list below.
- Make the main character’s entire existence revolve around the male love interest in the most egregious way possible. Main Character [MC, since I can’t be arsed to recall or look up her name] studies sexy demons because one started hanging around after her parents died. She wrote a book about demon sex based on her research, and her book got her a job at Adirondack Fairy U, and now she teaches about demon sex. Her life is driven by the sexy demon, but we’re not done yet; we have to suffer through an entire book about MC’s present-day, demon-motivated activities. At this point, MC comes across as the emptiest of ciphers, with no motives, personality, or significant relationships of her own, unrelated to the sexy demon. Here we have the sexist trope of fictional woman as nearly irrelevant appendage of male love interest taken to a stupefying extremity. I remain crashingly indifferent to MC and to the sexy demon, who has predetermined the entire narrative by grooming MC since puberty to be his alarmingly devoted partner. Where’s the plot, character development, exploration, surprise, or pleasure in that? It’s uninteresting and screamingly pedophilic to boot.
- Give the main character expertise in characters like the love interest, and then prevent her from applying that expertise. MC is supposedly an expert in sexy supernaturals, but this seems to have no effect on her own experience with one of ’em. She teaches a class full of books on demon lover-like characters, but these only appear as name drops without affecting MC’s self-awareness or insight into her predicament. She knows, for example, that this type of sexy demon will eventually exhaust her with sex and kill her, but she never seems particularly alarmed. In fact, MC might as well not be an expert in sexy demons because, the one time she needs specific info on the aforesaid sexy demon, she turns not to her own research, library, or personal associates, but to the Fairy Queen, who dropped a vague passing reference to the sexy demon having been human once. The author writes many opportunities for MC to demonstrate individuality, assertiveness, or, at the very least, a fleeting modicum of original thought, and then stonewalls every single one of them. You can literally see the author forcing her ostensible heroine into passive, ineffectual, clueless twittitude, much as the sexy demon does. I’d feel sorry for the main character, but she’s not enough of a person to really merit any sympathy.
- Railroad the sexy supernatural for a significant portion of the story. For a while there in the beginning, MC and the sexy demon have rapey encounters [still not clear on whether she consents to any of this, especially as she thinks it occurs in her dreams] and subsequent dramatic conflicts. Then MC tries banishing the sexy demon, and the story just flattens out, even when a dreamy new prof appears, and MC starts getting it on with him. Of course, to the surprise of absolutely no one who has been following the moonlight imagery associated with the sexy demon, the new prof is the demon, just in human form and totally not banished at all. Yet this is incredibly boring because all MC and the new prof do is…uh… have lots of hot, consensual sex. That’s it; that’s their entire relationship. No character development! No explosions! To be clear, I’m not campaigning for persistently rapey love interests here. I’m just saying that we read paranormal romance for dramatic conflicts and sexy supernaturals, and the author provides neither for long enough so that my mind wanders.
In summary, this treatment of the demon lover trope greatly disappointed me and, even worse, bored me. Hey, even though Father of Lies disappointed me [probably even more], it approached the same subject more engagingly — in much better prose too.