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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Terri Garey: DEVIL'S BARGAIN Series

Author: Terri Garey
Plot Type: SMR 
Ratings: V2, S3-4, H4 
Publisher and Titles: Avon
          Devil Without a Cause (2011)
          A Devil Named Desire (2012)

     This blog entry was revised and updated on 3/6/12 to include a review of the second book in the series: A Devil Named Desire  That review is located at the end of this entry following a summary of the world building and a review of the first book:

    This humorous new series stars Samael (aka Sammy, His Satanic Majesty, Prince of Darkness, Lord of the Underworld), who is a holdover from Garey's NICKI STYX series, in which he had the hots for Nicki. In NICKI STYX, we saw Sammy as Samuel B. Divine, a human-looking, but devilish, entrepreneur in Atlanta. Now, we see him in his unnatural hellish environment, surrounded by imps, demons of darkness, the Basilisk, and other monstrous creatures—all under his command and at his beck and call. We also watch Sammy and his brother, the angel Gabriel, trade insults and gibes, each hating the circumstances of the other's existence but each remembering their idyllic childhoods—before Sammy's fall from grace. 

***   ***   *****   ***   ***

   BOOK 1:  Devil Without a Cause   
     In the first book in the series, Sammy is grieving over his lost human love, Nicki Styx, who has married her human lover and is on her way to creating a happy family. When Gabriel tells Sammy that he has a chance for redemption because he let Nicki go, Sammy is not inclined to believe him, but Gabriel presents Sammy with a challenge—and Sammy has never backed down from a challenge. Gabriel wants Sammy to assist a mortal woman who is in need of intervention and guidance. After Sammy finally accepts the task, he appears before Faith McFarland as she sits in a hospital chapel waiting for the results of her son's brain cancer surgery. Faith is a struggling single mother, worried sick about the cancer that is killing little Nathan. Sammy offers to heal Nathan if Faith will give up her soul and steal a ring from the finger of Finn Payne, a rock star who just happens to be staying at the hotel where Faith works as a concierge. Sammy gave that ring to Finn twenty years ago in exchange for Finn's soul. As long as Finn wears the ring, he stays alive and his musical talents are enhanced. If he loses the ring, his talents go away and he dies shortly thereafter, with his soul going directly to Sammy. The plot follows the troubled relationship between Faith and Finn as they begin to fall in love, but struggle for ownership of the ring. This plot line plays out as the very definition of the term "horns of a dilemma." As the Faith-Finn story moves along, Sammy has his own plot thread, which involves the development of parental feelings he never thought possible.

     The Sammy of this series is portrayed in a much more complex manner than was evident in NICKI STYX, where he was just a supporting character, and not a very nice one. Here, we see further into Sammy's character as he rails against the One, who allowed him to sin against humankind without telling him the rules of the game and then ripped off his wings and dumped him in the depths of hell. Sammy would love to have a chance at redemption, but he's so jaded and evil now, that it might be too late. 

     The set-up for the series is fresh and inventive. Sammy is still not a good person, but now at least we can see why he turned out the way he did. The development of the romantic relationship has no real paranormal aspect, except for the dark O'Henry-esque twist in which ownership of the magical ring has serious, and separate, consequences for both the hero and the heroine. The humor comes both through situations and dialogue, with Sammy's sarcasm adding many laughs. I enjoyed this first book and plan to keep reading the series.

***   ***   *****   ***   ***

   BOOK 2:  A Devil Named Desire   
     Sammy and Gabriel are still involved in their verbal squabbles, with Gabriel trying to save Sammy's soul and Sammy trying to trick Gabriel into something sinister. Sammy decides that he'll teach Gabe a lesson by making him fall in love with a human and then sweeping in to take her soul. leaving Gabe in the depths of despair. The human woman at the heart of Sammy's scheme is Hope Henderson, who is committing suicide as we meet her—lying in her bathtub after having slit her own wrists. Hope has just learned that the police have decided that her beloved sister, Charity, is dead after two years of being missing. Charity blames herself and feels that she has nothing left to live for. Sammy rescues Hope and proves to her that Charity is still alive. He then gives her a choice: She can have her soul immediately eaten by Nyx, Sammy's soul-sucking assistant after which her sister will die, or she can rescue her sister by creating a web site containing the words of a demonic book that will allow Sammy to better coordinate his minions and eventually giving Sammy her soul. Hope takes the second choice, hoping that she can somehow thwart Sammy's wishes.

     In the meantime, Sammy has maneuvered the situation so that Gabe will see Hope walking down the street, with her dark shadows twisting around her bright soul. Gabe can't resist such a challenge, as Sammy well knows. Soon, Gabe is ensconced in Hope's apartment, where his emotions move from "like" to "lust" to "love" in a very short time. The story follows Gabe and Hope as they head for Las Vegas in search of Charity. Meanwhile, back in Hell, Sammy's 9-year-old son Cain (whom we met in book 1), is in trouble once again, putting a hitch in Sammy's plan for Gabriel. As the climax plays out, each character learns a lesson and earns some happinesseven Sammy. We can see that Sammy isvery slowlyallowing love into his heart, which, unfortunately, makes him a far less interesting character. This book, for me, was not as successful as book 1. The love story was just so-so, and the story about Sammy and Cain didn't have much dramatic tension. Plus, what was the purpose of having Pandora in the story? Except for her sex scenes with Sammy, she really didn't have much to do but sit around and look slutty. 

     Click HERE to read an excerpt from Devil Without a Cause. Click HERE to read an excerpt from A Devil Named Desire

***   ***   *****   ***   ***
     If you haven't read Garey's award-wining NICKI STYX series, here are the titles in reading order, followed by a brief overview of the series:
   Dead Girls Are Easy (Avon, 2007)
   A Match Made in Hell (Avon, 2008)
   “Ghouls Night Out” in Weddings from Hell anthology (Harper, 2008)
   Silent Night, Haunted Night (Avon, 2009) 

     After a near-death experience in which she was told to go back and do good, Nicki, the owner of a vintage clothing store in Atlanta, finds that she can see and hear the ghosts of dead women—most of whom are looking for her help. Nicki’s love interest, Joe Bascombe, is the handsome, down-to-earth emergency-room doctor who brought her back to life. Her gay business partner, Evan, provides sardonic repartee to raise the humor level. Adventures involve a variety of supernaturals, including many needy ghosts, an evil voodoo spirit, and bad boy Samael “Sammy” Divine—the devil himself, who has designs on Nicki. To complicate matters further, Nicki discovers that Joe is married to a woman who may be her twin sister. Although the series has some chick-lit elements (e.g., lots of fashion descriptions, breezy tone—particularly from Evan), the heroine has enough attitude and angst to make it an urban fantasy.

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