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Sunday, July 3, 2011

'Where Demons Fear to Tread' by Stephanie Chong

Received from NetGalley

From the BLURB:

Fledging guardian angel and yoga teacher Serena St. Clair dares to enter Devil’s Paradise nightclub on a mission—to retrieve the wayward Hollywood “It Boy” she’s assigned to protect. But she’s ambushed by the club’s owner, arch demon Julian Ascher. The most powerful demonic entity in Los Angeles, Julian is handsome as sin, a master of temptation who loves nothing more than corrupting pleasure-seeking humans. He won’t release the lost soul Serena is supposed to guard. Unless she accepts his dangerous wager.…

After the disastrous way his human life ended, Julian vowed that no woman would get the better of him again. Yet this sexy-sweet angel, smelling of fresh ocean air and happiness, triggers centuries-old feelings. Now, their high-stakes game of seduction, where angels fall from grace and where demons fear to tread, will lead them either to an eternity in hell…or a deliciously hot heaven.

Serena St. Clair is failing in her first angelic-assignment. She is meant to be helping a Hollywood heartthrob curb his hell-raising ways, but she is having little success in her first Guardian-gig. And when the ‘it boy’ in question wanders into Devil’s Paradise, Serena knows she has all but lost him. . .

Club owner and Archdemon-extraordinaire, Julian Ascher, is intrigued and craving when he looks upon the innocently beautiful Serena. And he is delighted to learn that her assignee, an actor with a drug and prostitute addiction, is the perfect bargaining chip to give him the upper hand . . . because what Julian wants, Julian gets. And he wants Serena. She’ll make a nice little plaything, a sweet diversion to corrupt and toss away. With a human’s soul in the balance, Julian convinces Serena to spend one week of debauchery with him, in the city of sin – Las Vegas.

But what Julian fails to realize is that there are some places, some emotions, where even demons fear to tread. . .

‘Where Demons Fear to Tread’ is the first book in a new paranormal romance series by debut author, Stephanie Chong.

Angels are everywhere. Seriously. You can’t throw a (metaphorical) stone in the urban fantasy genre at the moment without hitting a new Angel-themed romance. And where there are angels, demons are sure to follow . . . I can’t say I've had the best of luck with this trendy new Biblical subject-matter. J.R. Ward still hasn’t impressed me with her ‘Fallen Angels’ series, and Becca Fitzpatrick’s Angelic-attempt was laughable. But then Nalini Singh’s ‘Guild Hunter’ series came along to instil in me the benefit of the doubt . . .

Stephanie Chong’s debut has a catchy epic title; ‘Where Demons Fear to Tread’. And she has a lot of promise in pairing an angel and demon for the romance in her debut. Sadly though, Chong isn’t offering anything new or terribly thrilling in the over-crowded angel romance. I had this book mapped-out just from the blurb, and Chong didn’t really throw me any interesting curveballs throughout the 400 pages.

The novel started out promising enough. Julian was set-up as a demon not to be trifled with – gaining his hellish reputation through debauched nightclub ownership and delighting in the downfall of beautiful women. Julian had all the promise of being a dark anti-hero (the best kind of hero, in my book). When he first lays eyes on Serena, he is only interested in quenching his lust and toying with the pretty new toy she presents . . . but all of Julian’s dark-promise quickly evaporates in the face of, *gag*, true love. Serena has to do little before Julian is sending her flowers and puppy-dogs and completely ruining his dark delight. I wanted Julian to be a prickly character – not unlike the dashing bastards Anne Stuart excels in romanticizing. And although Chong had plenty of devilishness to work with in writing a demonic hero, she lets him slip through her fingers and deteriorate into a so-so schmaltzy Romeo. A shame.

Serena was a fairly forgettable heroine. She had no real charisma, spark or endearing qualities . . . for Julian, she’s a refreshing innocent who stands out in his club of whores. But while Julian constantly speaks of her effect on him, there’s little evidence to back up the reasons for his fascination. She’s also a yoga teacher – enough said.
And she paled in comparison to the book’s female villain – a she-demon from Julian’s past called Lucianna. This woman was conniving and luscious, toying and cloying and downright villainous. I quite liked her.

Not even Julian and Serena’s romance, moving heaven and hell, could save this novel. It came down to Chong doing more telling than showing . . . despite sending Julian and Serena off on a Las Vegas adventure, we get very few actual scenes of them interacting and enjoying each other’s company. So when Julian and Serena both come to the conclusion of their love for one another, it gives the reader a mild case of whip-lash. Sure, there are some tender moments between them and an ‘okay’ sex scene or two, but their lack of interaction means that readers are left reading little heat or connection between them;

She shivered a little in the cool night air. He came to sand behind her and pulled his suit jacket around her. Kissed the top of her head and murmured, “Remember this night. Look back on this time we had together, this time we stole from both God and the devil. I may be sent straight to the inner circle of hell for saying this, but you made me believe in love.”
“I can’t believe you would be condemned for being in love,” she said. “If angels can fall, can’t demons be redeemed?” Desperation churned in the put of her stomach.

The Angel/Demon theme is a real hit-or-miss trend in the paranormal romance genre. Some authors, like Nalini Singh, throw religion out the window and take daring risks with the ages-old creatures. Other authors, like J.R. Ward, try to write classic redemption/salvation storylines that occasionally intrigue but more often than not, bore. Stephanie Chong’s debut Biblical romance is decidedly middle-of-the-road. . . . it could have been romantic, with more showing instead of telling. It could have been sexy, with a darker anti-hero opposite a more charismatic heroine. And it could have been interesting, if she had veered off the beaten path and thrown a few curveballs into a predictable plot.


1 comment:

  1. had to skim this one since I got it as well =/ So sad you didnt like it so much... I'll give it a shot and we'll see...

    Great review!


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