Touched by a Demon, Book 1
Heat Factor: Holy Blue Balls, Batman!
Character Chemistry: “I know I should resist you since you’re an agent of Hell, but I just can’t!”
Plot: God and Satan make a bet
Overall: Fun, interesting, AND with a believable enemies-to-lovers storyline. We have a winner!
It all starts with a poker game in Hell.
That’s all you need to know, right? End of review.
Ok, well, if the poker in Hell didn’t sway you, here’s more info. One thing leads to another, and God and Satan make a bet. Top demon Belial has six weeks to sway God’s chosen one, Dara Strong, to the path of darkness.
We have a classic enemies to lovers scenario here, where the stakes are Dara’s eternal soul. Of course, it deviates from enemies to lovers in that Belial’s grand plan to bring Dara to the dark side is to bone her, so while he loathes what she stands for (you know, good, righteousness, etc), he also is desperately trying to woo her. Dara, for her part, recognizes Belial as a demon in a skin suit immediately. So she takes preventative measures – like rubbing Vicks on her face so she can’t smell his delicious man smell (petrichor and vanilla, in case you were wondering what sexy demons smell like).
Of course, everyone’s feelings quickly become more complicated. This is a slow process – Dara and Belial have the same conversations and conflicts over and over, but each time they bump heads there’s a slight shift. So the change in their relationship isn’t sudden, but rather develops over time in a believable manner. At least, believable once you get over the initial, ok, we’re dealing with demons premise.
While the Dara and Belial’s love story ultimately didn’t have that little something that made me swoon, this book was still an excellent read, particularly in its portrayal of faith and the afterlife.
The thing that made it fun: Hell
Estridge imagines Hell as a hierarchical corporation. The whole thing is ridiculous and also sort of plausible – like, of course the demons who head the different divisions are competing with each other for the Chief Executive Demon slot, and of course there’s sabotage and also terrible committee meetings.
Even though no one in Hell wears a skin suit unless they head to earth, I imagined Satan as Shawn in The Good Place. The whole thing tickled me, frankly. Especially when Belial flashbacks to Satan convincing him to join the rebellion by talking about growth opportunities. He’ll get in on the ground floor of this brand new venture!
The thing that made it interesting: Religion
On a more serious note, I was particularly impressed by Estridge’s portrayal of religious characters. The Demon Always Wins reads like a mainstream romance – there are frank (and sometimes lewd) discussions of sex, and even Dara, God’s chosen one, doesn’t feel a strong connection to God.
However, Estridge also takes religious characters seriously. Dara’s grandparents are faith healers, who used to travel around casting demons out of people – so Dara immediately recognizes Belial for what he is, despite his sexy skin suit. But Dara’s parents are not infallible; Dara lost her own faith when her grandfather tried to heal her best friend by casting out demons, only to have this friend die of a brain tumor. Dara’s relationship to faith is complicated. She can see that, in some ways, her grandparents were right – she has met a real live demon! That doesn’t make it easier or more right for her to return her life to God.
The story of Dara’s return to faith is ultimately what really makes this romance novel sing. I especially recommend this book for people who are perhaps interested in inspirational romance, but don’t want to be preached at. (Mom! Maybe you can suggest it for book club?)
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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