Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Demoness of Waking Dreams, by Stephanie Chong - Review

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Title: The Demoness of Waking Dreams
Author: Stephanie Chong
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Mira
Series Name: Company of Angels
Reviewing: Mass Market Paperback, provided by publicist in return for a fair review

Why I Read It 
I received the book from a publicist that I have an ongoing working relationship with, and was intrigued by the premise.

The Short Answer
Wow, I LOVE this author.  The narrative is flawless; it just flows beautifully and pulls you along, smooth as a Venetian gondolier.  I love the exotic setting of Venice; the elegant, old world facade and the competing undercurrent of decay and vice. 

Series Handicap: 
I give it a two of five.  This is book 2 of the series and there are some references to a backstory between Luciana and the hero of the first book. I haven't read the first one and I thought there was enough information to fully follow the story at hand, but the backstory of some of the other characters is definitely a factor for Luciana. I will be going back and reading book 1 for sure; it sounds delicious. 

The Premise
This is an Angels and Demons mythology, infused with old-world Catholicism.  It reminded me a little bit of Meljean Brook's Demon Angel, since it also featured a female demon and a male angel. While Brook's mythology had some complex series arcs going on, this story seemed very focused on the two protagonists, set into seemingly irreconcilable conflict.

Whenever I read paranormal fiction about immortal characters, I'm always interested to see how the author handles the concepts of danger and harm - it's kind of hard to build suspense if there is no potential for significant physical harm, not to mention that if you eliminate pain, you logically eliminate pleasure too, which can make executing a romance kind of tricky.  Chong's approach, for the angels at least, is that the general rank and file, which our hero belongs to, remain essentially corporeal, needing food, sleep, and at least recuperation time from physical damage.  They also experience pain and pleasure.

Similarly, I love when an author can bring something new to the treatment of the sexual elements in a romance -- and no, I'm not talking about exotic positions or toys or fetishes.  (Though I'm not saying those are bad things...)  Sex is always a part of romantic love, but it may or may not be all that important to a particular story, or character, or plot.

In Demoness, corporeal love plays an important role.  It underpins the entire dialog between good and evil, sin and divinity.  Luciana's fall from grace involved sex and seduction; her ongoing tribute to the Prince of Darkness is accomplished through the seduction of the innocent (or close enough...)

In that moment, he knew the absolute and utter rightness of sexual connection, of the pure and unadulterated pleasure of it, a celebration of the divine. Demoness or not, she was still essentially a part of the divine, irrespective of who or what she thought she was.
"A celebration of the divine."  Yeah.  I love that.  Our culture is too filled with messages about the "sins of the flesh," and sex-positive literature is very often scrupulously separated from any kind of commentary about faith.  This book is the exception, and I find that very refreshing.

I give this new (to me) author a strong recommend.


As you may have noticed, the blog has been pretty quiet.  I actually received this book quite some time ago, before the release date.  (Sometimes I find it hard to write up a review for a book I really REALLY like, because I have to figure out how to do it justice.  I need to get a little more up close and personal with the Nike motto).

So anyway, to help motivate me to get this post finished, I got my hands on the first book of the series, Where Angels Fear to Tread.  This book introduces Luciana, and to be totally honest, she is much creepier and more horrible in the first book.  I might not have been as willing to see her redeemed in the second book if I had read them in order.  The horror is not terribly graphic, but it's pretty... well... horrible.

I liked the second book better for a couple of reasons: 1) I think a bad-girl/good-boy story is much fresher than the inverse, which has been done SO many times; 2) I found Luciana's voice to be way more interesting than Serena's; and 3) I just like Venice as a setting so much more than Las Vegas.  It may also be a case of a new author hitting her stride with a second book. I didn't have any particular problems with the writing, per se, in WAFTT.  The story overall was just a bit less compelling to me.

Around the Blogosphere
Rabid Reads (oo, new-to-me blog!)
Book Chick City (she makes a good point about the way the book ends which I have not addressed here)
Dear Author
Heroes and Heartbreakers

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