Reviewed by May
“In my youth,” said Lady Byton, “we would have called such a man a ‘strapper’, and so he is. Mark me, child, you’ll have the devil’s own time in the bedchamber, but I warrant it will put more roses in your cheeks.”
This is the second book in Zoe Archer’s trilogy about a group of hell raising friends who stumble upon a ruin one night, and make a deal with the devil. This book opens several months after the first, at the wedding of Leo and Anne. Our hero can see into the future, can see what investments will work, what will fail. With his gifts, he decides that Anne is the perfect English lady to be his wife and help him achieve the satisfaction he craves and the goals he wishes to meet. The problem is – this is a gift that was given to him by the devil and the cost may be unleashing hell on earth.
The coldness of his tone startled her, as did the predatory animal lurking behind his wintery eyes. Good God, whom had she married?
“There must be some guests in attendance that are truly your friends,” she protested.
At this, his expression thawed. “Over there, by the windows, Those men are my friends.
Anne followed his gaze, yet knew already who she would see. The only men other than her husband who drew attention. Certainly, even though the trio were merely conversing amongst themselves, all the guests kept glancing over at them warily as if they were dangerous beasts about to slip their tethers.
First of all, I was absolutely giddy to have the characters married in the opening scene. The idea of a marriage of convenience followed by a grand adventure – and no reputation or maidenly worries really set this story up well. The wedding reception scene is full of description and detail without being overly lengthy, it let us see the characters, get to know them, and I found myself instantly smitten with them both. I adore Zoe Archer’s style of writing, her way with words, and how she can so smoothly describe things perfectly without slowing down the story or making me wish she’d hurry up.
His body felt the familiar charge of energy when he contemplated whom he might destroy and by what means. Better to be the Demon of the Exchange than the Upstart Peasant.
He had money. He had an aristocratic wife. And he had magic bestowed upon him by the Devil.
And when the noblemen who sneered and spat came crawling to him on their bellies, pleading for loans, for mercy and compassion… he would laugh and kick them away, his boot in their faces, and tell stories to his father’s headstone.
We’ve beaten them, Da. It was beautiful to see. Beautiful.
Leo was a fantastic character because he is selfish and greedy and yet he has so much to like about him, and so much good as well. I really like that in this series she does not have traditional heroes. These are men that have made bad choices, let greed and vice rule them, and they have to decide if they want to rot in hell or fight for redemption. It is clear by the way Leo hides his connection to the devil from his new wife that he knows he’s doing wrong. He isn’t a hero – and yet – he does his best to protect and support his wife. He comes to cherish her quickly and I couldn’t help but root for him instantly.
“Head up, my lady wife.” Leo’s whisper feathered warmly across her cheek, and edged excitement surged within her at the sensation. “Show ‘em your spirit.”
She tilted her chin up, determined to prove herself as brave as she wanted to be. For Leo’s sake – and her own.
They are virtual strangers at the start, and Archer does a brilliant job of mixing in backstory, building a relationship between the pair, and letting us see how and why they come to fall in love.
Anne is a very smart English lady who while not remarkably strong or memorable to start with, was a great match to Leo. Being married agrees with her, and watching her grow into her potential in this book was fantastic. When the story heats up and their lives and more are at stake she is there fighting, thinking, and doing all she can to save not just her husband – but the future of the world as well. I do appreciate a strong heroine!
“Putting too much sugar in one’s tea is a mistake. Giving one’s soul to the Devil in exchange for dark magic deserves a grander sobriquet.”
The book spends much of its time focused on the couple getting to know each other and falling in love, and as they do so riots and chaos, destruction and demons become larger problems as well. Ultimately Leo must choose his own path – if he wants to continue as a Hellraiser, or if he chooses the path of Whit (leading man of book #1) to go against the devil and reclaim his soul.
I always try to think of something I didn’t like about each book – in this one I really had to think about it for a while. For me, the few scenes building up to the climax were my least favorite of the book. As they sit in the inn, waiting on the ghost that will lead them, and as Anne comes to terms with what Leo has done, it just didn’t wow me.
That said, I gobbled this book up. Despite knowing it’s a romance and will likely work out ok, I was riveted and simply had to know what would happen next.
One last thing I will note with pleasure is that you could easily read this book as a standalone and be fairly satisfied. It picks up after the first book, but because Leo was not involved in the previous plot as far as redemption goes, and because he has his own path to walk it has a very strong story arc within this book as well as advancing the overall story. I really appreciated that about this book.
To say much more about the story would in my opinion require spoilers and information better left to discover through reading. If it interests you, I definitely recommend Demon’s Bride.