He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot
by Stephanie Rowe, fantasy (2007)
Warner, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-61901-1

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot is the third book in Stephanie Rowe's Immortally Sexy series and I strongly suggest that you read the previous books in the series first before you tackle this baby. This one can stand alone since the plot is mostly self-contained, but there is some fill-in-the-blanks exercise of frustration when it comes to the canon of the story if you haven't read any previous book in the series.

In this one, we meet Becca Gibbs, Satan's favorite Rivka. A Rivka is a demon created by Satan to harvest souls for his pleasure, and Becca has become his favorite as well as unofficial secretary, psychiatrist, and mother in the few hundred years that she has worked for him. When the story opens, Becca has had enough of serving Satan. But because she's a Rivka, created from Satan's life force, she wonders whether she can ever be her own person with her own personality and emotions should she sever her ties to Satan. Can she even exist without the life force tie to Satan?

Perhaps she can get some much-needed assistance from Nick Rawlings, a Markku. The Markku were created by Satan as well. They served him until they finally rebelled and fled from Hell, forcing Satan to create the "better" Rivka to replace the Markku. Becca will like to know how the Markku managed to break all ties with Satan. Nick in return wants her to help him free his sister from being collateral damage in Satan, Jr's plot to usurp his father's place in Hell. Nick will have to kill Satan to save his sister, but killing Satan will also kill Becca since her life force is tied closely to Satan's. These two have only a few days to make sure that all is well is Hell (really - Satan, Jr is actually far worse than Satan so it is the least of two evils to have Satan remain in charge of Hell), save the sister, and find a happily ever after. If all that is not complicated enough, Becca is saddled with an earnest but not-so-capable apprentice while Satan decides that Nick will be his "man-friend" to help Satan with his social life.

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot is a thrilling roller-coaster ride of a story. The pacing is top notch and the comedy is fabulous. I don't know why or how, but Satan becomes only more adorable as this series progresses. Think the South Park version of Satan, only with a little bit more bluster and mean streak, and that's this adorable Satan. Theresa, who had her story in Must Love Dragons, is hilarious here and Paige Darlington, Becca's apprentice, is surprisingly a darling here as well. I am not keen on the whole "We need to have sex to save you, Becca, so spread 'em darling!" drama late in the story because I never really buy the school of thought that the man's penis is really that earth-shatteringly important, plus it dumbs down the story to the "sex for bunnies" level, but the story on the whole is a fabulous laugh-out-loud excursion into the land of the absurd.

Unfortunately, I can't give this book a keeper status because as amusing as it is, its characters never really ring true to me. Becca, for example, wants to break away from Satan, but I am never given any insight into why she would want to break away from Satan now when she had served Satan for so long before this. Her desire to break free from Satan doesn't feel real to me - the whole thing feels like a mere set-up to get the story in motion. It is as if she had been a Rivka that existed in a vacuum in the centuries prior to this story, and given that she has to come in contact with humans to harvest their souls, this is not possible. I also doubt that it is possible for Becca to harvest only souls of those who deserve to go to hell all this while when other Rivka are not so discriminating and still manage to become Satan's favorite Rivka without putting out in some really perverted way to that fellow. Becca's personality and what the author claims Becca to be in the story don't seem to match too well.

Also, I am not pleased that some main developments in the later parts of the story take place off-stage. Why all the build-up if I am going to be presented with an anticlimatic confrontation with the bad guys?

To conclude, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Hot is a most entertaining romp, but it is still rough around the edges here and there. Nonetheless, I've had a great time reading this book. Comedy is not easy, especially when it comes to the author's brand of over-the-top absurd kind of comedy, but Ms Rowe doesn't make any great misstep here where I am concerned. If she can fine-hone her characterization to match her sense of comedic timing when it comes to her writing, she'll be a force to be reckoned with, I'd wager.

Rating: 88

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