by Evie Byrne, historical (2008)
Samhain Publishing, $4.50, ISBN 1-60504-187-4
Evie Byrne makes her debut with this naughty historical romance Dante's Inferno and I have to say, the first ten pages of this story are most remarkable indeed. The hero and the heroine have rough sex in a public place, and while the scene isn't too explicit, the set-up and the way the whole thing takes place make the scene a most erotic one. I also love how the author then have the hero, Dante, being obstructed by Satan and his parade of the Seven Sins from chasing after the fleeing heroine. That one should be obvious, but in this story, the whole thing works like a charm thanks to how Ms Byrne sets up the scene. I'm impressed.
Married at fourteen and widowed some six months or so before this story takes place, Serena Alberenghi seeks out excitement, maybe passion, when she dons her costume and attends the revelry of the Venetian Carnival. She gets what she is looking for alright, when her dance with a masked stranger culminates with a rough and wild quickie. Once she regains her composure, though, she flees the scene. She's a respectable widow, after all. We don't want people to talk now, do we?
Dante Valaresso, our hero, is a sailor who has over the years amassed himself a considerable amount of money. Back in Venice to live life as a king, he finds himself obsessed with Serena. It doesn't take long for him to track her down, but she's not so eager to play anymore now that she's had what she wanted from him. No matter, he is confident that no woman, certainly not Serena, can resist the big gondola in his pants.
Also, Serena will soon discover that she and he have a mutual acquaintance so they are going to be meeting each other more often outside the bedroom, whether Serena likes it or not. The whole thing is most amusing: Dante doesn't recognize Serena in her ordinary religious widow persona so he ends up wanting to evict Serena from his house so that he can use it to play with his intended mistress who is, of course, Serena.
This story is most entertaining. Oh, it has problems. The author has her eighteenth-century characters using some phrases here and there in their conversations that come off as too contemporary-sounding. I also don't understand why Ms Byrne has Dante apologizing to Serena at the end when Serena is as guilty as he is for playing such silly games with each other. A part of me is quite annoyed at how Serena tends to behave as if she is not responsible for the mess that they are in when she happily plays with him as long as she holds the upper hand in the relationship. There is a considerable amount of Serena taking too much from Dante in the relationship that makes me wonder about the longevity of that relationship.
Still, the story is so cute. Dante is a pretty silly boy, prone to beating up people and things when he's frustrated, and it's too much fun to see him getting whipped by his obsession with Serena that he can't even see straight anymore. He's the quintessential pit bull terrier of a hero - mean and scary to strangers but all putty when it comes to the heroine. Serena can be quite irritating with her hot and cold reaction towards Dante, but she is intelligent and witty. In other words, she's irritating at times but she's not stupid. I can live with that.
Dante's Inferno features a pretty fun couple whose relationship dynamics remind me somewhat of those in Loretta Chase's more recent historical romances. This is also a pretty obvious debut effort in that it can be quite rough around the edges when it comes to the author's technique. Nonetheless, it's entertaining enough and has what I believe is ample promise of good things to come to get me to take note of the author's name.
Plus, the love scenes are hot.
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