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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

NEW NOVEL: Stacia Kane: "Made for Sin"

Author:  Stacia Kane (aka Stacey Fackler)
Title:  Made for Sin (8/30/2016)
Plot Type:  Paranormal Romance with an Urban Fantasy (UF) flavor
Ratings:  Violence4; Sensuality4; Humor—2
Publisher and Titles:  Loveswept (Penguin/Random House)

     I'll begin with the author's summary of the premise of this series (taken from an on-line interview at Harlequin Junkie): "E.L. Speare’s work as a private investigator in Las Vegas means he keeps a lot of secrets. He keeps them for his clients, he keeps them for the mobster who might be his father, and he keeps them for the supernatural community they’re both a part of. But the biggest secret is the one he keeps for himself: Speare’s got an actual demon from Hell living in his head, and the only way to keep it from taking over his body is to sin regularly." Although I'm listing this as a stand-alone novel, I'm sure that it's the first in a series, although I haven't been able to verify that fact as of yet. 

     The novel is set in an alternate, modern-day Las Vegas where magic is everywhere. If this book is any indication, future sequels will be following Speare on a series of adventures, some related to his own demonic possession and some centered on various magic-related criminal investigations that come his way.

     If you are a fan of Kane's CHESS PUTNAM/DOWNSIDE GHOSTS series, you need to know that this one is completely different—set in a more realistic world and not nearly as grim (although it is dark in tone). Click HERE to read my reviews of the CHESS PUTNAM series.

                         PUBLISHER'S BLURB                          
     A lot of bad hands get dealt in Vegas, but E. L. Speare may be holding one of the worst: He's cursed with the need to commit sins, and if he misses his daily quota, there's hell to payliterally. Fortunately, his hometown affords him plenty of chances to behave badly. 

     But Speare's newest case really has him going out on a limb. The right-hand man of a notorious crime boss has been found dead in a dumpster—minus his right hand, not to mention the rest of his arm. What catches Speare's attention, however, is that the missing appendage was severed clean by a demon-sword, a frighteningly powerful tool of the underworld. 

     Speare's out of his element, so he turns to a specialist: Ardeth Coyle, master thief, dealer in occult artifacts, and bona fide temptress. Ardeth's hotter than a Las Vegas sidewalk on the fourth of July, but she's one sin Speare has to resist. 

    The dismembered corpses are piling up, unimaginable evil lurks in the shadows, and if this odd couple hopes to beat the odds, Speare needs to keep his hands off Ardeth, and his head in the game. 

                         MY REVIEW                          
    Here is the author's summary of the plot (taken from an on-line interview at Harlequin Junkie): "When a high-ranking member of the criminal underworld turns up dead, Speare’s investigation teams him up with local thief Ardeth Coyle. Speare is a man used to giving in to temptation and Ardeth is a woman who seems custom-made to tempt him, but as bodies start piling up and the killer’s horrifying goal becomes clear, Speare must do everything in his power to resist the desire to make Ardeth his—even if it means sacrificing his own life." 

     If Speare fails to sin regularly (and frequently), the Beast within him becomes enraged and takes over his body, forcing long talons through his fingertips and tearing up his muscles as it swells his body to enormous size. At that point, Speare is only along for the ride—an unwilling witness to the murder and mayhem that the Beast leaves in its path. Speare has never formed any emotional attachments with women because he learned long ago that they all run away from him when he attempts to tell them even a little bit of truth about his "condition." Speare falls for Ardeth as soon as he sees her. She is a beautiful, red-haired thief who has grown up in the magical Las Vegas underworld, and her feisty directness immediately knocks Speare off balance and into lust/love. As he proceeds to break his no-romance rule with Ardeth, he constantly worries that his demon will hurt her or even kill her if he can't keep it under control at all times. 

     Along with Ardeth, the other major supporting character is Chuck Majowski, a Las Vegas police detective who is on the payroll of Speare's mobster "daddy," Lazaro Doretti. Even though Majowski is on the take, he turns out to be a stand-up good guy at heartTogether, Speare and his two allies attempt to figure out who is dismembering underworld figures with a demonic sword and why. When they find a dark magical artifact that might help Speare get rid of his demon, Speare is forced to make a terrible choice between a demon-free life and a life without love. 

     Speare tells the story in the first person voice from his own anguished, world-weary, perspective, and that is a bit of a problem because his thought process is much more feminine than masculine. This is a frequent glitch that occurs in paranormal romances when a female author tries to write from a male perspective. The title of that infamous book—Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus—states it correctly. Men and women react in entirely different ways to emotional stress, particularly within romantic relationships. Most of the time, Speare displays too much feministic emotional sensitivity. He comes across as a typical male in very few scenes. I'm a big reader of urban fantasy written by male authors (e.g., Kevin Hearne, Ben Aaronovitch, Simon R. Green, Jim Butcher, Benedict Jacka), and their heroes do not obsess over their heroines' sweet smells, shiny hair, and gorgeous complexions as Speare does. (He...could smell her, a light spicy scent mixed with vanilla. A warm scent, An intriguing one.") In fact, Speare comes across more like an over-the-top passionate soul-mate hero from a novel by Christine Feehan or even Amanda Ashley (but without the über-alpha protectiveness), so if that's O.K. with you, you'll probably enjoy this book. One of the few female authors of urban fantasy who handles male first-person narration successfully is Kate Griffin in her MATTHEW SWIFT series.

     Even with the hero's "voice" problem in Made for Sin, I did enjoy reading the book. Speare is a sympathetic character as he lives a life of forced sin and keeps his demonic secret from everyone in his life. He has tried everything to rid himself of the Beast in his head, and he has searched everywhere for information as to how and why he was possessed—and by what. Unfortunately, all of his attempts have failed. The Beast won't even let him commit suicide because it doesn't want to lose its earthly vessel. So Speare leads a sinful life, tattooing counting lines on his chest to mark the mortal sins he has committed and the thirteen lives he has taken to keep the Beast fed. "He kept the marks, and kept adding to them, so he didn't forget, ever, what he'd done and what he'd keep having to do. So he didn't forget that no matter what he liked to think of himself, he had less chance of avoiding a pit of fire in the afterlife than he had of discovering the Lost Dutchman Mine under his house."

     I hope that Kane intends to turn this into a series because I'd like to see how Speare deals with the new information about his demonic possession that he learns at the end of Made for Sin. Kane has created a fresh and inventive mythology for her hero, and he's just getting started on a long, hard road to normalcyif that's even possible for him. Also, we didn't get a chance to meet Speare's mom in this book. She's a former casino show girl who led a wild and crazy life as Speare was growing up, so I'm sure that she would add a lot of bling to the series.

FULL DISCLOSURE: My review of Made for Sin is based on an electronic advance reading copy (ARC) of the book that I received from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I received no promotional or monetary rewards, and the opinions in this review are strictly my own.

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