Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written one ~ and only one. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
Characters: Our protagonist and narrator, Samantha Martin, is a demon. “Sam” has slummed it on earth, Maryland specifically, for the past 40 years. Samantha is actually the poor woman the demon has possessed or “owned” in the story’s parlance. But the demon has been in Sam so long that she has come to identify herself with and as Samantha Martin.
Debra paints a clear and sympathetic portrait of a demon just trying to keep herself amused here on the mortal plane. Sam has plenty of infernal powers, but can’t use them. Demonic displays would bring her to the attention of the ruling Angels, who would likely try to kill her for being outside her realm ~ Hel ~ yes, with one “l.”
So, because she likes here better than there, Sam must content herself with petty cruelties and minor bouts of sin. She seems partial to lust.
Sam appears to see herself as a “normal, rather plain, middle aged woman.” But her studly neighbor, young Wyatt, views her as an object of desire. Handsome, capable Wyatt turns into Sam’s sidekick as the main adventure develops.
We also get Candy, an anal-retentive werewolf; and Gregory, a mighty, but rather pompous and stuffy angel.
Debra draws all her characters well through action, dialogue and description ~ what I call the character triangle.
I’d not gotten a good look at Gregory from my brief glimpse in the Wine Bar. Not much beyond his height and dark red curls. I could see why the patrons had mistaken him for an actor. He was over six feet and built like a champion weightlifter. His crossed arms and chest looked ready to burst out of the navy polo shirt. His legs were snug in the acid washed jeans. I wondered what angel wore polo shirts and jeans? Where was the flowing white robe thingie?
His tanned features were clearly masculine in the odd marble–textured face, almost harsh in their angles with a sharp nose and squared jaw. Dark chestnut curls fell around his ears and one dropped on his forehead. The whole effect would have been terribly sexy had it not been for his eyes. They were black. Black as midnight on a moonless night. They looked at me with a mixture of disgust and hatred.
Like the talented writer she is, Debra shows some of Sam’s personality traits via her descriptions of Gregory and other characters. Nicely done, D.
Plot: When Sam inadvertantly incurs a blood debt to the werewolf community, she must discharge it by tracking and killing a rogue angel preying on said werewolf community. The plot lends this paranormal story a lovely air of detective fiction, even to the point of Gregory, in the cop role, telling Sam, in the detective role, essentially to keep her big nose out of angel business.
Plenty of stakeouts and some crime-scene investigation, though with paranormal twists.
Gregory, a higher-up in the angel hierarchy is on earth to stop the rogue angel. Though, of course, he detests demons and is duty-bound to kill them outside their realm, Gregory finds Sam has tracking skills useful to him.
They partner-up in a hostile way, which I found deliciously reminiscent of Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in the film “48 hours.” Maybe intentional?
Setting: Mostly rural and small-town Maryland and Pennsylvania. Detailing settings is often overlooked by authors, indies and pros alike ~ a mistake in my humble op. If the setting is unfamiliar to readers, they’ll be interested to see a new place. If familiar, readers will enjoy seeing it through the eyes of the author.
It’s also important, in my view, to help orient reader in the scene.
Debra doesn’t disappoint in this either. Here’s scenery as Sam and Wyatt make their way to a murder scene:
Green covered mountains flanked the highway, separated from the road by flat acres of fields. Signs indicating directions for various national parks, orchards, and historic attractions didn’t detract from the stunning morning view. Route 15 was a scenic route north of Thurmont. Mountains all along the horizon were the backdrop for miles of forests and picturesque farms. The occasional fruit orchard, with the requisite roadside stand, and its manicured, geometrically arranged trees dotted our view.
What I thought could’ve been done better: Not much. Mechanics of grammar, spelling, punctuation are close to 100 percent. Characters are all well-drawn and consistent. Debra establishes rules, then keeps to them.
But I’m on record as saying if you haven’t found something that could be improved, you haven’t read close enough. So here it is.
Angel Gregory, who begins his relationship with Sam totally loathing her as a “cockroach” and intending to kill her, softens, I thought, a little too unaccountably toward her. Frankly, I enjoyed seeing it, and Debra did provide some basis for it, as Gregory at one point tells Sam she reminds him of his little brother.
I thought we’d eventually get the revelation that Gregory’s little brother actually sided with the angels who rebelled ~ and maybe even sired the demon who eventually became Sam. But that turned out not to be the case, as far as I could tell.
I only bring this up because my review format demands it. Didn’t decrease my enjoyment of the book a bit, and is purely subjective anyway. Stretching here? Yuh.
What I thought was good: Oy. Got all day? This book is simply FUN. Starting with the first paragraphs, where Sam opens her car door right in front of a running youth, with predictable results, to Angel Gregory’s attempts to comprehend the vibrating bed in a cheap motel, Debra loads the story with sharp observations on human nature, gags and action.
There are scenes of violence and one murder scene involving a pregnant victim, that keep the story’s stakes higher than just a light-hearted gambol.
Debra keeps the sexual tension between Sam and Wyatt on a low boil, which also helps fuel the book’s steady pace.
Debra does all this while also neatly folding explanations of how the universe, or at least heaven, hell and earth all work. Suffice to say it’s not quite what we’ve all thought, with angels being creatures of mercy, goodness and love; and demons being creatures of irredeemable evil. Not too far off, but not quite.
Her universe is consistent, and as wild as this tale is, Debra keeps it real.
Any random paragraph from this book could serve as an example of what I thought was good. Since I already mentioned it, here’s Gregory the angel in the cheap motel room. Total hoot.
Gregory looked around for a bit, reading the laminated rate sheet and examining the chained remote with bewilderment. “Why is this plastic rectangle chained to the television set? Is the zinc plated chain somehow integral to its operation?”
“It’s a remote control for operating the TV and it uses low level infrared signals.” I glanced at the remote while stuffing socks into a plastic bag. “The chain is to deter theft.”
Gregory frowned and snapped the chain off the remote, breaking a chunk of the plastic off the end with the ring. “How does this deter theft? Any human with a pocket knife could break this.”
I shrugged, agreeing with him and resolving to steal the remote just to annoy the management.
I love the fish-out-of-water stuff, and how Sam never misses an opportunity for a little badness, no matter the circs.
Overall: Angels, demons, werewolves ~ Debra does a great job with their paranormal powers, their positions in the universe, and how they react with each other and the book’s human characters. In the end, though, her splendid creations are a wonderful glass for revealing our own human follies, foibles and quirks.
A DEMON BOUND zips along with humor, action and insight and is a clear look at the angel, demon, and werewolf in each of us.
Good job, Debra!
And for a sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thriller, check out my own novel American Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!