Wednesday 15 October 2008

Hell's Belles by Jackie Kessler

As I'm going to be reviewing The Road to Hell (Hell on Earth Book 2) next Wednesday as my TBR review of the month, I thought I'd finally add this review to the blog.

Jezebel the succubus has run away from hell. Taking a job as an exotic dancer, she thinks she's made a fresh start. However, shedding her demon skin and hiding out as a human comes with complications of its own - like friends and falling in love and responsibility. But it's not that easy to put her past behind her, especially when it doesn't want to let her go.

It's so refreshing to read about a heroine who is completely comfortable in her own skin. Jezebel/Jesse has a sharp wit and a deliciously wicked sense of humour. She's an incredibly sexual creature and revels in being a succubus, so her new career choice of stripping is a natural one for her to make.
The cover story promised to teach me "ten tantalizing tips" guaranteed to drive my partner wild. I had no idea what passed for "tantalizing" these days. I was willing to bet it didn't include snakes and honey.
Initially it's hard to work out how we can have sympathy for her, she's such a selfish creature of instinct and need. However, once she takes human form, her newfound mortality begins to change her and she begins a slow almost unnoticeable transition from amoral demon to something else. The first experiences that Jesse has as a human are incredibly well written and make you realise how strange it must be to see the world for the first time. And her almost orgasmic reaction to muffins and coffee will have you craving baked goods. :)

I also loved her mental notes. All the way through the story it's like she has to stop and specifically make these points to herself - I'm not a demon, I'm a human and this is what humans do. Alternatively she also uses them when she screws up.
Mental note: Watch more television.
Mental note: Don't do my legs and bikini area when I'm in a hurry.
Her none stop mental commentary on her experiences and the people she meets, makes for a fast paced and enjoyable read.

I did have a slight problem with the use of flashbacks in the story. There are really two stories being told here; the first is Jesse's flight from hell and how she copes with being a mortal; the second is about the events leading up to her decision to flee hell. Unfortunately the flashbacks (of which there are several) are intercut with the main story and aren't signposted that well (the first happens in Chapter 6). Leaving the reader confused about what it happening, until you get used to the style.

For people who like to know: - this is written in first person, and there is some strong swearing, but this is in context and (as I'm just about to point out in the paragraph below) this isn't PNR.

I'll end by saying I think it's misleading that this has been marketed as a romance, I believe it's urban fantasy. The romantic subplot definitely takes second place to Jesse's story. Jesse is/was a succubus, she's not ashamed of who or what she is. This is quite a few steps over from PNR. But this shouldn't put readers off - Jezebel is such a rare outspoken heroine, it's worth taking the time to get to know her.

Also available
The Road to Hell (Book 2)
Hotter than Hell (Book 3)

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