Sixth Toe Publishing, $2.99
Fantasy Romance, 2018
Betrayer’s Knife by Noella Royce is the third entry in the author’s series The Angel Crusades, and I only picked this one up because (a) the name of the series is catchy and intriguing, (b) it claims to be a standalone, (c) the cover is pretty, and (d) the hero is touted to be a genuine betrayer of an SOB who did the heroine wrong, and I’m curious to see how the author will pull this one off.
Well, it’s quite a decent standalone, although I can’t say that I know everything about the setting of this series. But that’s to be expected, as I come into the series at this late stage. At any rate, whatever I don’t know never gets in the way of me getting the hang of this story, so there’s that.
This is an urban fantasy type of romance, with demons, empaths, and other usual “this setting is so edgy, everyone may as well be wearing trench coats and shades” kind of tropes. In this alternative version of New Chicago, powerful empath Hazel once assumed that Caleb, a demon, is the sweet, sensitive, charming type that may be that guy for her. Well, the joke’s on her. Sure, she’s an empath, but you how things can be in urban fantasy: the heroine may be super powerful at whatever she does, but she’s generally hopeless at making good use at it, so hello to Hazel. Caleb ends up selling her and her brother out to the demon villain Nourle (not to be confused with the author’s name, of course).
Well, Caleb’s now back in her life and… well, here’s the thing. If you are expected a thrilling, fast-paced tale of action, emotional ping-pong, mind games, and what not, this one isn’t for you, sadly. But if you don’t mind having over 200 pages of people talking, waffling, going out, with the heroine constantly going between how she doesn’t want to shag the hero and oh yes she does, the hero telling the reader how evil and bad he is as he has “too much baggage” – please, what kind of bad boy will use such a phrase to describe himself – and so forth, then hell, this baby is for you and it has a pretty cover too.
Well, on the bright side, I’m quite entertained by Nourle, and I like that the author doesn’t take the lazy way out of turning that character into some skanky, one-dimensional evil female just to prop the hero up as the next best thing for the heroine to settle for.
On the down side, I don’t understand what the author is trying to do with Caleb in this story. He keeps claiming to be some evil SOB, and I guess the author is trying to get that whole “dark, sexy, and totally evil in a seductive way” thing going with him, but all I get is actually a whiny boo-boo trying to justify his past actions by having a lot of baggage. If he’s going to be evil, then the author should make him evil. As it is, he’s just sort of there, never really becoming this big, sexy evil anti-hero that I am hoping for him to be.
I also don’t understand why Hazel goes back to him. The whole emotional conflict here feels too simplistic and trivial compared to the supposed magnitude of his betrayal, and most of the time the heroine’s behavior is such that I’d think Caleb’s biggest crime against her is not taking out the trash. If the author doesn’t want to get Caleb to get too remorseful and repentant, then she should have shown me why Hazel is willing to take back that demon-dude with such unrealistic ease. Is it because she’s attracted to his supposed big, evil, sexy nature? Maybe she gets a liking of the bad things she is made to do, thanks to Caleb’s selling her out, that she eventually believes that he has done her a favor instead? The author has an opportunity here to turn her couple into a Harley Quinn and the Joker kind of couple, which would have been far more fun than what I get instead. Actually, I feel that this is probably one of the few other ways she should have opted for to make this romance believable, if she didn’t want to turn Caleb into a remorseful, repentant hero.
At any rate, Betrayer’s Knife has a gripping, interesting premise and a first few chapters. It’s an easy to read story, and the author has a nice, clean narrative style. Alas, the story soon peters out and becomes this unbelievably simple and clear-cut romance story that never rings real in any way. Two oogies is the highest score I can give this one, I’m afraid.