by Stephanie Rowe, fantasy (2007)
Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-61902-8
Sex & The Immortal Bad Boy is the fourth book in Stephanie Rowe's Immortally Sexy series but you don't have to read previous books to fully understand this one. I should know - while catching up with this author, I picked this book ahead of the two books that came before this and I could fully comprehend what is going on here. A reason for this could most likely be the fact that this series isn't big on serious canon. There is canon just as there is world-building, but this is an irreverent tongue-in-cheek romance that is strongly reminiscent of pulp comedy fantasy I used to read back in the 1970s. Only, of course, this one has a strong romantic bent to the story.
In other words, this isn't a serious story. It's more zany than anything else. However, the author has also ensured over the course of the series that her characters also benefit from deeper characterization. As a result, Paige Darlington and Jed Buchanan are more better-written characters compared to the walking punchlines populating the author's earlier books. This is, of course, a very good thing indeed.
I'm going to keep things very simple for the purpose of this review, but don't worry, the author has included all the things a new reader has to know very clearly in the story. Paige used to work for Satan but in the previous book, she managed to become a free agent. Or so she thinks. Satan isn't going to let his soul-harvester go so easily - he has her infected with a wraith that will slowly take over her body and soul and turn her into a mindless killing machine. Already, everything Paige touches is reduced to soot and she is experiencing stronger urges to kill day by day. Fearing that she is losing her ability to feel along with her ability to touch someone, she and her friends try desperately to find a solution to her problem. Time is ticking, however.
Jed Buchanan, a shadow warrior, is on a race against time too. His brother is being used as a pawn by Satan, Jr (the kid of Satan) to ensure that Jed kills for him. His mission leads him to cross paths with Paige. One thing leads to another and these two find themselves trying to help each other sort out the mess that is their lives. The clock is ticking, however.
Sex & The Immortal Bad Boy is a wacky story with the story often taking the turn for the absurd just for laughs. Ms Rowe has a fine ear for snappy dialogs and witty repartees which she puts to excellent use here. The comedy is zany but it never crosses the line into outright stupid slapstick stuff which I can never get into, hence I have a great time reading this story.
Jed doesn't come off very smart here as he has been laboring in torment and going all emo for so long until Paige comes into his life and within the first few hours of their acquaintance offers him plenty of suggestions on how to solve his problems that he has never even considered. Nonetheless, he is a very nice example of a tortured hero who actually does something instead of wallowing in self-pity and using his angst as an excuse to behave as if the world revolves around him. Paige is not a kick-ass heroine despite Ms Rowe's attempt to convince me of that in the first few pages, but once I tune out the "Paige is tough - really!" false advertising, I find a very sympathetic and likable heroine in Paige. How can I not be moved by this poor gal who has only started to learn how to love and connect with a fellow living creature only to realize that she may lose what is left of her soul before the week is out?
Meanwhile, the fun secondary characters from previous books show up but they have their roles to play here and they never intrude too much into the story. Oh, and they are fun. Some are even more capable than I remember them ever being in their own stories. Maybe Mona has been dispensing brain juice to these people on the sly. I can't Satan when I first encountered him but in this one I find him too adorable for words. He and his son are too funny - as funny as two overgrown brutes with enormous powers of mass destruction at their disposal can be, that is. And in the case of this story, that is a whole lot of funny indeed.
The only thing I am not too fond of is how the story introduces the ever-unbelievable "We're in love - so what if the world is ending, we need to have sex! Now!" thing late in the story.
Sex & The Immortal Bad Boy sees Ms Rowe maintaining a very good balance of wacky comedy and effective emotional drama. I laugh so hard and I also feel some unexpected pangs in the heart late in the story. It has taken me awhile to make up my mind about this author's books, but after this one, I think I can get used to more of this author's brand of romantic fantasy comedy. Laughter and heartaches in one sitting - what can be better than that?
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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