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Monday, November 5, 2012

Rosalie Lario: DEMONS OF INFERNUM SERIES

Author:  Rosalie Lario   
Series:  DEMONS OF INFERNUM  
Plot Type:  Soul Mate Romance (SMR)  
Ratings:  Violence4-5; Sensuality4; Humor2
Publisher and Titles:  Entangled Publishing
        Blood of the Demon (7/2012)
        Mark of the Sylph (3/2013)
        Touch of the Angel (11/2013)
        "Heart of the Incubus" (e-novella, 12/2013)
        Call of the Siren (3/2014)

     This post has been revised and updated to include Touch of the Angelthe third novel in the series, and "Heart of the Incubus" the first novella. Those reviews appear first, followed by an overview of the world-building and a review of the first two novels.  I will be adding a review of novel 4 as soon as it is published later this month.

            NOVEL 3:  Touch of the Angel           
     The series story arc that revolves around the villainous dark elf, Belpheg, continues in this novel. This time around, Belpheg has enlisted the services of Asmodeus, a paranoid, sociopathic incubus who has bound a small group of succubi to him, forcing them to do his bidding. As part of Belpheg's evil plan, he has taught Asmodeus to drain the energy that the succubi gather from powerful male supernaturals and then transfer it to Belpheg. Asmodeus keeps his succubi on the verge of starvation so that they are always weak and willing to bend to his will. Asmodeus believes that he and Belpheg are equal partners, but, of course, Belpheg plans to double-cross him after Asmodeus gathers the energy from supernatural males having twelve different powers. Belpheg is an old friend of Mammon, the demon bothers' father, so you know immediately that he is not to be trusted.

     A succubus is a female sex demon who preys on males; an incubus is a male sex demon who preys on females. In both cases the sex demon requires sexual energy to surviveeither from a sex demon of the opposite sex or from another demon of the opposite sex. Here is how the succubus heroine of this book explains it: "Sex was what she needed to survive. It was the only thing that would replenish her depleting life essence. But the chemicals her body produced during sex were toxic to everyone but other sex demons. As an incubus, Asmodeus was one of the few men who could feed her without dying in the process." (p. 37)

     One of Asmodeus' succubi is Amara; another is Amara's mother, Solara. Amara allowed herself to be bound to Asmodeus in order to save her mother from Asmodeus' vicious treatment. One night, Amara is sent out to track down and drain a particular male supernatural, but instead she runs into Ronin, the third demon brother (half demon/half angel), in a club. Naturally, it's lust at first sight for both of them, but for Ronin, it's almost death at first touch. Amara is so sex starved and so attracted to Ronin that she allows herself to drain his life force and he nearly dies. His life is saved by the brothers' friend, an incubus named Cresso Taylor, who is experimenting on a vaccine that will immunize a person against incubi and succubi body chemicals. Although Ronin slowly recovers from his brush with death, his demonic strength and his angelic powers have become muted and slightly changed.

     Meanwhile, the brothers are bored because they haven't received a bounty-hunting assignment from the Council for months. One night, several weeks after Ronin's near-death experience, they get a call from the Council to investigate Asmodeus' activities. When they stake out Asmodeus' lavish mansion, Ronin is stunned to see Amara leaving the house, and he immediately assumes that she is working for the incubus voluntarily on some evil mission.

     The brothers capture Amara, and from that point, the action begins to kick in, both in the bedroom and on the field of battle. Amara soon reveals her complicated situation with Asmodeus, and she and Ronin begin a series of bedroom scenes that consist of some extensive, graphic foreplay (because she will drain him again if they consummate the act). The brothers also continue to spy on Asmodeus, but he has a powerful magical shield in place around his house, so they can't get inside.

     As the story line plays out, the brothers are attacked several times by demonic mercenaries hired by Asmodeus  (They always win, of course.) By the end, both Ronin and Amara have put their lives at risk for the other, but they also find a way to consummate their relationship without killing Ronin. Just before the final showdown battle, Ronin is shocked when someone from his childhood turns up to help them fight. It won't surprise you to learn that this mystery woman becomes Dagan's love interest in the next novel.

     This is another typical erotic paranormal romance featuring feisty, but submissive females and cocky alpha males who fight against the evil forces in the supernatural world at the risk of their own lives. If you've been reading the series, you'll be relieved to know that Brynn's baby (conceived in book 1) is FINALLY born safe and sound. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Touch of the Angel.

            E-NOVELLA 1:  "Heart of the Incubus"             
     Just as in Touch of the Angel, one of the lead characters in this novella is a sex demon, but this time it's an incubus rather than a succubus. The story opens in London about a month after the end of Touch of the Angel. Dr. Cresso Taylor, an incubus, works in the demon research section at Elcorp Lab, the research facility funded by the Elden Council. For the past three years, Cresso has been working on a cure for the toxic compound secreted by sex demons (incubi and succubi) during sex. In Touch of the Angel, Cresso saved Amara's life with his newly developed vaccine that neutralizes the effect of the toxin, but he still hasn't found a cure.

     Cresso has fallen hard for Dr. Genevieve (Gen) Russell, the human female scientist who helped him create the vaccine. Unfortunately, Gen doesn't return his affections. In fact, she can't stand him. As it happens, the reason that Gen took the Elcorp job was to get as far as possible from her cheating ex-fiance. Just before their wedding, Gen walked in on him while he was in a three-way with two young and attractive women, and she has vowed never to give her heart to another man. Gen has categorized Cresso as being the same type of two-timing playboy as her ex-boyfriend because she constantly sees him in the company of gorgeous succubi. Even though she is attracted to him, she assumes that he is using his incubus sex powers on her, and she hates him for it. Poor Cresso is desperately in love with Gen, and he can't help himself from exuding all kinds of incubus pheromones whenever he is near her. 

     Their situation seems hopeless until one day when Cresso happens to be in Gen's office when she opens a seemingly harmless package and finds a skinned dead rat inside. Gen confesses to Cresso that she has been receiving sick and threatening anonymous letters for several weeks, so he insists on trying to track down the villain. As the stalker's threats against Gen accelerate, she moves into Cresso's apartment, where their mutual attraction revs up both their libidos. Cresso even does some dreamscaping into Gen's dreams, and that's when he learns that she views him as being an even worse person than her cheating ex-boyfriend.

     As Cresso and his friends try to identify Gen's stalker, the two become closer and closer, and Gen begins to realize that there's more to Cresso than she first thought. Eventually, in the requisite showdown scene, Gen is put into a gravely dangerous situation from which Cresso must rescue her. Then, as you can no doubt predict, they go on to their HEA.

     This little story fills in the gaps in Cresso's backstory. He has been a supporting character all though the series, beginning in book 1, so it's nice to learn more about him. Cresso is, by far, the more complex of the two lead characters. Gen comes across as narrow-minded and vindictive as she makes all kinds of false assumptions about Cresso and rarely gives him a chance to explain himself. Also, in a major improbability, Gen has not reported her stalker's letters to her boss—or to anyone, really. Then, she allows Cresso to jump in and take over the investigation, even though she can't stand him. Even then, neither of them even consider reporting the incidents to anyone in authority. Their actions seem unbelievable to me. 

     And just one last tiny nit-pick: When Cresso takes Gen out to eat at a popular Italian restaurant, they order roasted chicken and potatoes. Yes, they  actually order potatoes at an ITALIAN restaurant! Why in the world would you ever willingly choose an Italian restaurant if you were hungry for roasted chicken and potatoes? Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from "Heart of the Incubus."

            WORLD-BUILDING            
     To know what you're getting in this series, all you have to do is look at the cover art: lots of hunky alpha heroes, each of whom falls head over heels in love with a spunky but submissive 21st century woman. This is a typical paranormal romance series, better written than most, but still populated by a series of one-dimensional characters and suffering from quite a few bumps in the plots.

     In this multiverse, supernatural beings live on other planets, or dimensions. Demons and angels live in Infernum; Greek gods and goddesses live in Olympia; shifters live in Enevora; and water creatures live in their own undersea dimension. Together, these dimensions are known as the Otherworlds, and they are ruled by the Elden Council, a group composed of elders from each of the worlds. Travel between dimensions, including Earth, is supervised by the Council, and each major city on Earth has a portal. Although demons and angels exist in this multiverse, they have no connection with Christian theology, and there is no concept of Heaven or Hell.  

     The heroes of the series are four half-demon brothers, each of whom was fathered by the villainous and demonic Mammon, but they all have different supernatural mothers, each of whom was raped by Mammon with the specific purpose of creating half-breed offspring for himself. This means that each brother was born with a different set of powers: 

    > Keegan, the eldest: His mother was a dragon. His powers include healing as well as a few dragon powers. (Book 1)
    > Taeg: His mother was faean air sylph. His powers include healing, teleportation (aka flashing), and the ability to charm others through a form of mind control. (Book 2)
    > Dagan: His mother was a siren. His powers include a great singing voice, breathing underwater, and sex appeal. (Book 3)
    > Ronin, the youngest: His mother was an angel. His powers include the ability to calm others and the ability to flywith wings. (Book 4)

     The brothers' incubus friend, Cresso Taylor, helps them out from time to time, and his story is told in the novella, "Heart of the Incubus."

     The brothers were raisedand constantly abusedby Mammon, who sought to turn them into replicas of himself. They escaped some years ago and are now employed by the Council as Detainors, which means that they are basically inter-dimensional bounty hunters who hunt down supernatural law-breakers and bring them to the Council for punishment.

     Mammon is a stereotypically cruel and arrogant villain. He is a greed demon (an avaritia) who seeks world domination, and he'll let nothing and no one stand in his wayespecially not his sons. By the end of book 1, another villain emerges in the person of Leviathos, Mammon's demonic right-hand man, who was a boyhood friend of the brothers but who has turned against them.

            BOOK 1:  Blood of the Demon            
     The romantic protagonists in the series opener are Keegan and Brynn, who is the owner of an art gallery in New York City. As the story opens, Keegan kidnaps Brynn because she is supposed to be the heirthe only living ancestor of Iyri, an ancient Egyptian priest who concocted a secret spell to raise the dead. When the Council had Iyri killed, they buried the book containing the spell with his body and kept no records as to the location of Iyri's tomb. Before he died, Iyri impregnated an incubus named Sitha, and Brynn is the last one left in their bloodline. Only a direct ancestor of Iyri can open the book and read the spell. 

     Both the brothers and Mammon want the book. Mammon wants to use the spell to raise his own undead army, and the brothers want to destroy the book. The big problem for Keegan is that he falls for Brynn, knowing that the Council has ordered her death to keep Mammon from getting the spell. The romance plot follows the couple through their angst-filled romantic journey, and the action plot follows the brothers and Mammon as each attempts to retrieve the book.

     The plot has more than a few holes. For example, even though Mammon's use of the spell might cause the destruction of the population of the world, the Council sends only the four brothers to find it and refuses to give them any assistance. In another improbable scene, Brynn somehow knows that Keegan's brothers have been captured by Mammon even though Keegan makes a point of not telling her. Another problem is that Mammon is such a stereotypical, one-note villain who is violently cruel to everyone, even his supporters. In one scene, he kills one of his minions because she didn't ensure that his bed had 1,000-thread-count sheets. At one point, we learn that Mammon has fathered many more half-breed children, most of whom he's lost track of, and I'm sure that some of them will be turning up in later books.

         When Jeaniene Frost had Cat and Bones make passionate love while soaring through the air above an Iowa cornfield (in One Grave at a Time), she unleashed a new paranormal romance trope, which Lario uses (but not as effectively as Frost) in one scene in this book. Although Lario is a good-enough story teller, there is nothing new or inventive in the world-building. We've seen this whole set-up many times before: the jocular, wise-cracking, alpha brothers; the evil, power-mad father figure; the corrupt Council; and the sassy-but-submissive heroine. The final outcome of the plot is predictable, although it does take some twists and turns along the way. If you've read many paranormal romances, you'll realize early on that at some point the hero and heroine will be forced to make life-threatening sacrifices for one another...and they do. So...although Lario is an above-average writer, her story has been told many, many times before. If you're crazy about paranormal romance, maybe this won't bother you, but for me, it was a turn-off. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Blood of the Demon.    

            NOVEL 2:  Mark of the Sylph           
     This novel tells the soul-mate love story of Taeg Meyers, the second demon brother (half demon/half air sylph), and Maya Flores, a human librarian who is immune to all magic. This means that Maya is unaffected by all supernatural glamours. She sees right through them to the real physical appearance of supernatural creatures. Taeg meets Maya at the local library, where he is researching Excalibur, King Arthur's legendary sword, hoping that he can locate the ancient weapon and use it to destroy the Book of the Dead, thus freeing his sister-in-law, Brynn (heroine of book 1) from being sought after by all of the megalomaniacal villains in the supernatural world. Like Keegan in book 1, Taeg has to kidnap Maya in order to talk her into helping him.    

     Maya has had the typical unhappy childhood of every paranormal fiction heroine. Her parents and younger sister were butchered by a pair of demons after the demons realized that Maya could see through their glamours. Not long after her family's death, Maya was adopted and moved to New York City, but she still has nightmares about that night and she still blames herself for their deaths. Since that time, Maya has made a habit of killing demons, believing that all demons are as evil as the ones who killed her family. When she realizes that Taeg is a demon, she attacks him in an alley, where she accidentally knocks herself out, forcing him to carry her home.  


     Soon enough, the two are having oh-so-lustful thoughts about one another, but at first, neither wants to act on those feelings. Taeg wants to concentrate all of his energy on finding the sword and destroying the book, while Maya hates demons so much that she has a hard time believing that Taeg and his brothers are not evil creatures from hell.     


     The story follows Taeg and Maya as they figure out the location of the sword and fly off to retrieve it, facing a few obstacles along the way, primarily Leviathos, Taeg's former best friend—now a power-mad, vengeance-seeking enemy. In addition to Leviathos, there is another enemy that the demon brothers don't know about: Belpheg, a powerful dark fae energy manipulator. He is a fugitive from the Elden Council who is currently hiding out in his home dimension of Faelan. Belpheg is plotting the Council's destruction, but he needs the Book of Death to complete his plans. Although Leviathos and Belpheg are working together to retrieve the Blook, each plans to double-cross the other and keep the Book for himself.  


     Once again, this is a typical paranormal romance, with the starring couple constantly going up against evil forces, but taking love breaks every chance they get. As usual, both are forced to make huge sacrifices and put their lives on the line for each other as various conflicts are resolved. For readers looking for erotic sexual antics, this book should do the trick because it contains an abundance of graphically detailed bedroom scenes.   


     As in book 1, the plot is rife with improbabilities, but it moves along at a such a rapid pace that if you don't think too hard about some of the plot bumps, you're soon past them and on to the next piece of action or sexual adventure. If you love erotic paranormal romance, you'll probably enjoy this series. It helps to have read the first book so that you are up to date on the situation regarding the Book of the Dead. Click HERE and scroll down a bit to read an excerpt from Mark of the Sylph.

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