Review: WHERE DEMONS FEAR TO TREAD by Stephanie Chong

Review: WHERE DEMONS FEAR TO TREAD by Stephanie Chong

Fledgling guardian angel and yoga teacher Serena St. Clair dares 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, Archdemon 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.
Publisher: Harlequin/MIRA
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Review Format: ARC Edition
Genre: Paranormal Romance
368 Pages

Single Title/Series: WHERE DEMONS FEAR TO TREAD is book one in the Company of Angels Series.

Cover Thoughts: Absolutely stunning and a wonderful representation of the genre as well as the novel's contents. Love it!

Origin: I received an Advanced Review Copy from Planned Television Arts in exchange for an honest review.

My Review:

The Plot:

Fledgling Guardian Angel, Serena St. Claire, is deep into her first mission when she finds herself ensnared within the inescapable and notoriously cunning grasp of an Archdemon. Tracking her Assignee - the human she's tasked with protecting - to Devil's Paradise, a night club in the heart of Los Angeles, Serena waltzes in with the naive intention of securing her charge and leaving just as quickly. However, Devil's Paradise isn't just your run-of-the-mill nightclub. Just as its name implies, the club is the ultimate sinning ground for the devil and his minions. More accurately, its the home of an Archdemon - a demon who answers only to the Devil himself - and one who just happens to own this particular nightclub as well as all of Los Angels and Serena has just fallen prey to his unwavering focus.

For two centuries, Julian Ascher has built his demonic empire upon thousands of fallen human souls. Fueled by the rush of corruption, Julian once reveled with sinful glee as human after human fell beneath his subtle but effective whisperings of sin. With his clubs providing the perfect environment to topple even more souls into Hell, Julian has begun to find things a little too easy and perhaps a touch too bland until suddenly an angel walks into Devil's Paradise. Serena St. Claire is beauty in it's purest form. Radiating an innocence that boils his lust, Julian is obsessively determined to keep his beguiling new pet. Corrupting Serena's instinctual self-sacrificing nature, Julian twists and cajoles her into staying one week with him in Las Vegas, the devil's playground, or he'll determinedly harm her beloved brother and corruptible Assignee. While a piquing nag of guilt threatens his previously non-existent subconscious, Julian, disturbed by this strange and sudden fault in his character, finds it all the more urgent to burn out the bright light that is Serena.

Coerced into spending seven interminable days with Julian Ascher, Serena's emotions war between abject hatred and paralyzing fear. There's also a certain amount of intrigue for the Archdemon that irritatingly clouds her thoughts and worse, her judgement. Determined to never forget that a malevolent creature lies beneath Julian's masculine beauty, Serena blocks his every advance. It's not hard in the beginning. Never having been interested in Las Vegas, a frivolous playground to be sure, Serena isn't enamored with the bright lights or tinkling opulence. Nor is she overly impressed with the high end fashion that Julian had the audacity to purchase for her. Material goods never mattered to Serena when she was human and they definitely don't matter now that she's an angel. But the longer she's in Julian's company the more of an effect he has on her. Not a minute of the day or night goes by when he's not by her side, softening her will power and bending her body to his sensual pull.

Striking out again and again when trying to appeal to Serena's womanly greed for material goods, Julian rethinks his strategy with the realization that in order to get to his angel's heart, he'll have to first appeal to her mind. But the more he learns about Serena, the more Julian wishes to cherish her rather than oblige his Liege and topple her into Hell. With this thought also comes unexpected terror. Having selfishly dragged Serena to Las Vegas, Julian has unthinkingly exposed her to true evil, an evil that will think nothing of hunting her down and murdering her for the simple and pure enjoyment of crushing innocence in its truest form. For the first time in two centuries, Julian despises his own inherent evil and the havoc he has and still does cause. Believing that the only way to save Serena is by making her believe in his rejection, Julian brutally tosses her aside while he himself cripples beneath the sheer love that she freely offers while recognizing it as a love he never once earned.

The Heroine:

From the deepest heart of her core and radiating outward, Serena St. Claire is goodness. But having scrupulously toed the line as a human, Serena is even more monkish in her lifestyle as an angel. On closer scrutiny, it could be said that she's never truly lived life even when she had it firmly within her grasp. She's never loved or been even remotely spontaneous and you can just forget about reckless. Now, having died young and reincarnated into her angelic self, Serena has been offered a new shot at life but does she have the courage take it? Only the sheer force of Julian's demonic manipulation empowers Serena to finally stare that question in the face and make a choice.

The Hero:

The dark opposite to Serena's radiating light, Julian Ascher is a demon with a complex rational of sin and justice that's strangely logical. However, he's also incredibly ruthless and thinks nothing of backing Serena into an inescapable corner simply for his own selfish amusement. He's a bad a guy. Period. But thankfully, a redeemable one.

As a human, Julian once couldn't wait to help those around him. A member of the English Aristocracy, Julian endeavored proactively to help and protect his tenants but when a woman manipulated him into committing murder, Julian's angry soul sunk into the bowels of Hell. Tormented by the injustice of his human life, Julian began tormenting other damned souls and found he had a knack for it. Another being noticed this too. Soon his ability propelled him straight to the top as an Archdemon but one who never could forget that he had once sought to be the exact opposite of what he is now. Strangely vulnerable, Julian falls heavily for Serena. For the first time in two centuries, he's once again thinking of someone other than himself. But he may be too late. His wicked ways may have already prevailed but he'll commit every sin in the book if it helps him save Serena from the danger his selfishness has plunged her unwittingly into.

My Final Thoughts:

WHERE DEMONS FEAR TO TREAD embodies an interesting plot premise that shows vast promise and appeal. Unfortunately, a disappointing lack of strong worldbuilding and a heroine that exhibits one too many too-stupid-to-live moments downgrades an otherwise good read.

While readers' appetites for worldbuilding vary greatly, whether it be great or small, one always expects a least some clear understanding of the rules. Instead, I found myself trapped within a continuous stream of questions. Not to say that questions can't good but with each question, as a reader, we expect answers eventually - especially with regards to basic worldbuilding. With why and how dominating my thoughts, a strong lack of believability began to settle over my reading experience. Such distractions created a disjointed narrative flow providing more and more opportunities for me to put the book down and do something else.

In addition, the first quarter of the book is incredibly rough. Serena - young, naive and strangely without any power whatsoever - locks lips with a decidedly powerful Archdemon within pages of meeting. This is a demon who quickly twists her natural desire to protect so hatefully that I almost let the book go. I'm sorry, but unlike Serena, if an evil demon was threatening my brother's life, even if it was simply an act of manipulation, no way in Hell would I be warring with my libido over his sexy good looks. Thankfully, the author finds her groove and her scenes smooth out once Julian and Serena reach Las Vegas. In fact, there are numerous instances within the final three quarters where the author gripped me with such incredible strength that the torturous beginning soon became worthwhile.

While not the most amazing paranormal romance to hit the market, WHERE DEMONS FEAR TO TREAD shows some good promise. There's undoubtedly talent here and I'm curious to watch as this author develops.

3 Stars

The Series:

WHERE DEMONS FEAR TO TREAD
THE DEMONESS OF WAKING DREAMS - Releasing 2012

3 comments:

Blodeuedd said...

Too bad it has disappointing parts, but the promising part sounds good but still :(

Leontine said...

Did you know when i saw a tweet from Gena Showalter mentioning this book and I read the blurb, I put it on my b-day list. I now have the book but both heroine and world building lacking *cries* That doesn't float my boat :((

VampFanGirl said...

Hey Blodeuedd!

I know, I was disappointed but I think the author still has the potential to wow me in the future.

Hugs, VFG

***

Hi Leontine!

I don't like to disuade anyone from buying a book so I think you should still give it a read. Who knows, you might discover something different on its pages. And I'm still interested in reading more from this author.

Hugs, VFG

 
Site Design for Lovin' Me Some Romance by Barbara.
Graphics by Maroka323 were manipulated with permission from the artist.