Liquid Silver Books, $4.25, ISBN 978-1-59578-728-6
Fantasy Romance, 2010
Beauty and the Bastard is set in an alternate Earth where demons openly cause trouble and fallen angels behave like Chuck Norris on a bad day in a Godfather-type movie as they put demons who really cross the line out of commission.
Well, the desert demons are at it again. Rebecca Drake, rich socialite, is actually a demon. She is being hunted down by enemies of her family due to some disputes over which demons get to run Las Vegas. Her uncle brings in Saul the Bastard, the charmingly named bounty hunter who will take up any gig that will net him some big bucks and, perhaps, a chance at redemption. Saul will protect Rebecca 24/7. You know what happens eventually.
This novella is a pretty interesting one. Most stories tend to fall apart once the main characters swap body fluids, but here, the story improves by leaps and bounds once that happens. No, this is not because author David Bridger writes hot erotic scenes to distract me from the story. You see, the story initially has Saul going all bossy and “You, woman, do as I say and I don’t need to explain to you!” with Rebecca pretty much showing her tongue at Saul in response. These two have a childish dynamic that jars with the gravity of the situation that Rebecca is in.
But once these two settle down into a more amicable relationship – sex does wonders for the temperament, after all – I begin to see the chemistry between them. Saul goes from a laughable Chuck Norris wannabe to someone who is actually quite… sweet… when he goes all melodramatic over his feelings for Rebecca. Rebecca stops being a spoiled Daddy’s Little Girl type and instead becomes a more likable and grown-up character.
By that point also, the world-building begins to display some very intriguing elements, such as Saul’s curse for being a fallen angel. A part of me wonders how he can be an efficient bounty hunter and especially bodyguard when he’s stuck with that curse, but never mind, I’m willing to close one eye to that aspect of the story because I’m enjoying myself by that point. There are some creepy moments, some scenes of implied gore and violence (nothing too explicit, alas), and a hammy but still touching conclusion to the whole melodrama of angels and bloodshed.
I’d always wish that Beauty and the Bastard has been great from the start instead of finding itself after a weak first half, but the second half is entertaining and intriguing enough for me. It’s an uneven but ultimately enjoyable novella, in other words. I’d be most curious to read the next book in this series, if there is any.