Welcome to Strange Bedfellows: PNR Reviews ~ Speculative fiction with romance themes ~ What strange fellows do you get in bed with?


The Seven Devils

The Seven Devils by Sara Danvers

Kindle Direct Publishing, 2012

Paranormal romance is the ultimate escapist reading for me. When you take the bodice-ripper novels of old, exchange swarthy pirates and sword-swinging Scottish lairds with supernatural hunksters, you get books filled with drama and high emotions but lacking the dragging, heavy weight of the "true" literature touted by critics and book clubs. Which begs the question: why do people write depressing books?

But back on topic... I read for entertainment, for escapism. But sometimes fluffy rom-coms and happily-ever-afters don't cut it. Sometimes I want to immerse myself in the drama of other people's emotions. Usher in books like The Seven Devils by Sara Danvers.

From the first page, you know this book easy going be a light read. As the story opens, the main protagonist, Ellen, has some serious problems. Her father is an abusive alcohol, her mother looks the other way, and her brother is only out for himself. With her dysfunctional family, and no friends to turn to, Ellen gets by in life by being as invisible as possible. As long as no one notices her, they can't hurt her. It's not a great life, but she makes it work as best as she can. Then one day, her father's rage goes too far, nearly costing Ellen her life. Finally driven to act, her mother takes her and her brother away. A new town, a new home. A new school. 

Ostracized by by everyone at her new school, Ellen's one saving grave is Neil, the resident odd man out. He's smart, good looking, and kind—so Ellen doesn't understand why everyone acts like he's evil incarnate. All she know is, he's the only one she can trust, especially once the local golden boy, Derrick, starts coming on way too strong.

But what happens when she can no longer ignore the rumors about Neil's strange behavior? What does a girl do when her knight in shining armor becomes her newest threat?

What initially had me interested was Neil, our strange bedfellow du jour. I can't tell you too much about him—the mystery of Neil is half the fun—but he's that kind of larger-than-life hero that brings a fairytale element into the story. One can easily connect Ellen to distressed heroines like Cinderella or Rapunzel, swept up by the dashing hunk of man flesh that comes to her rescue. And what's even better, he's a flawed hero. Don't expect an easy romance despite appearances otherwise. These kids have some problems to work through before they can ride off into the sunset, believe you me. 

Now, as much as I enjoyed Neil, the true driving factor of this story is Ellen. What is this book really about? It's about her struggle to hold on to herself when stronger personalities threaten to consume her. Some, like her father and self-serving brother, do so out of malice. But even Neil is guilty of being overwhelming and forceful. So how does a fearful, introverted girl find her own and hang on to it? Can she stop being the damsel and become her own hero? Therein lies my fascination with this story.

I've come across a few critiques about how unrealistic some aspects of this story are—the emotional baggage, the lack of adult intervention, the improbably dramatic situations. And yet, all that is part of what made this story so enjoyable for me. Too often I read YA novels that sneak in commentary on good parenting and appropriate teen behavior. That's not what I want to see, as a reader. I want the sex, blood, and rock 'n' roll—even if the characters happen to be teenagers who should have been under better parent supervision. But then, curfews and family meetings don't always make for an interesting plot.

To summarize, this is a very diverting read with great characterizations. It's paranormal, and it's romantic, but there a lot more going on than "boy meets girl, boy has superpowers, boy and girl fall in love and make merry." There's definite sequel vibes, and I'll be keeping my eye on where this author goes.

Update: Yes, there is a sequel in the works. Read the interview at My Book Addiction and More for some insight on this series.

Other Reviews: Little Blue Bird's Mom / Welcome to Book Junkee

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