Claire McMullen, a thirty-something single woman in Portland, Maine, is perfectly normal and ordinary―except for her long, curly, flaming red hair.
On the prowl for her Mr. Right―or at least Mr. Right Now―Claire’s life changes on the fateful evening she meets Samael. Romance blooms with the tall, handsome and wealthy Samael . . . until he admits to Claire that he is actually a demon. But to Samael’s surprise, he’s fallen as head over heels in love as Claire has. Now he must stand up to the forces of evil and reclaim his angelic nature.
But can Claire trust the love of a demon?
Consider for a moment that the above publisher’s blurb relates to a book by the late and much-published author Rick Hautala. Mr. Hautala was the recipient of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement for 2011. He also served terms as vice president and Trustee for the HWA, with more than 90 published novels and short stories to his credit, including the million‐copy, international bestseller Nightstone. His short story collection Bedbugs was selected as one of the best horror books of the year in 2003.
Readers may be forgiven, then, for assuming the story will be a chiller. Certainly the opportunities for exploring the darkest aspects of human nature and what lurks on the “other side” are plenty with such a plot outline. What would it be like to share a life with a demon? Would there be visions of or visits to the in-laws in hell? How can the two worlds intertwine? Memories of Clive Barker’s work come to mind, and hopes for a thrilling ride run high. All this is supported by some of the advance reviews from eminent writers.
“Wonderfully entertaining and entirely compelling, a horrifying and heartfelt urban fantasy sure to appeal to fans of Charlaine Harris and Kelley Armstrong.” Christopher Golden.
“A brilliant, chilling, mind-blowing and heart-stopping novel of horror and magic. A superb novel, first page to last.” Jonathan Maberry.
Anyone reading this book because of the words horrifying, chilling, and superb can only be disappointed.
For starters, at 316 pages it limps along. Some brutal cutting to under 200 pages would have improved the pace.
Rather than plot development, the uninspiring prose delivers not twist after twist but yawn after yawn, rather like old-fashioned movie dialogue of the “Do you love me? Yes I do. But do you really? I do, but do you love me? Yes, I do, darling, but do you love me?” syndrome. In fact the dialogue never rises above barely competent, with all the feel of a first draft, and this is rather a problem when the story has basically no plot to drive it.
Samael, the demon, is about as scary as Tweety Pie, and his persistent refusal to give Claire—his hapless human wife—any real explanation about his true background goes all the way to the end of the book, leaving the reader feeling cheated. In fact, the only way it could be heart stopping is through the total lack of adrenaline rush.
There is at least one plot hole. When Samael visits the alleged rapist to get his soul, he changes his mind and leaves. He exits not by the conventional route but by turning into a puff of smoke and vanishing into thin air. This is forgotten later on when Samael is being questioned about the death of the rapist, using the “fact” that he can be seen on the CCTV footage leaving the apartment as his alibi. The cardboard policeman seems satisfied, and any hope that this will be cleverly used later in the book are wasted.
In defense of The Demon’s Wife it must be said that it might have appeal as a paranormal romance. What fans of the genre will make of the male lead having no genitals remains to be seen.
Mr. Hautala has Samael make up for it with a long, fleshy, prehensile tail, and Claire certainly seems to be satisfied with it—in fact, the first sex scene is one of the best passages in the book.
The risk is, though, that poor confused Samael might not be seen as a demon with “style, sensuality and soul” as author Robert McCammon says, but as a male lead without the balls to do the job.
This review was originally published on New York Journal of Books and reproduced here with their kind permission