Hotter Than Hell
by Jackie Kessler, fantasy (2008)
Kensington, $15.00, ISBN 978-0-8217-8104-3


Hotter Than Hell is the third book in Jackie Kessler's Hell On Earth series, but it can be read as a standalone story because it features a secondary character from the previous two books getting his own share of the limelight and his story has minimal references to events that happened in the previous books. What you need to know to catch up is provided in this story.

Hotter Than Hell is the incubus Daunuan's story. Speaking of which, I don't think the guy with the crazy serial killer eyes on the cover is a good representation of him. I'd like to think that Daun's forehead is a little... smaller. At any rate, I have to warn you folks: he is an unrepentant incubus, so you will see him in action - seducing women and happily dragging their souls to Hell - without him exhibiting a shred of remorse. He is what he is, after all. So if you prefer your heroes to do disagreeable things with a huge slice of angst on the side, Daun isn't your hero. Also, this isn't a romance. Well, Daun realizes that he's in love, eventually, but while the ending isn't a downer... well, let's just say that if you expect this story to be a romance novel, you will be disappointed. This is a sexy urban fantasy story through and through.

I don't want to give too many things away here, so let me just say simply that in this story, the recent shake-up in the management of the Lust sector in Hell leaves Daun with a golden opportunity to advance as the new boss Pan's right-hand man. But if Daun wants to be the Prince of Lust, he will have to seduce a woman who is still clinging on to the memory of her lost love. As Daun becomes increasingly frustrated when his gigolo mojo has very little effect on the woman, whose name is Virginia, he learns that someone has put a price on his head and every other creepy crawly in Hell, it seems, is out to take him down. What is going on here? And of course, Daun will also realize that he can - and will - eventually hurt like hell just like the rest of us fools when he realizes that he has fallen in love.

I tell you, the last few chapters, when Daun realizes that he's in love, are some of the finest dramatic bluster I've come across from a bad boy. I have my doubts at the beginning of the story when Daun displays a one-track mind that goes right down to you-know-where. I know he's an incubus and therefore he's going to have such a one-track mind indeed, but I was worried at first that he would fast become a one-note character. Fortunately, Ms Kessler happily puts Daun through the emotional grinder and I'm soon having fun watching that cocky and arrogant fellow lose his equilibrium. I also have to give Ms Kessler plenty of credit for keeping Daun in character even when the poor guy sobers up towards the end. He's cocky, sexy, and capable of the rare act of kindness - just like how Lestat de Lioncourt was and should have been before Anne Rice decided that Lestat was bigger than Jesus. I also love how Ms Kessler effortlessly switches gear from comedy to more sober drama and back again. Comedy and drama blend together very nicely where I am concerned.

And hmm, that part about Mozart catches me by surprise, if only because I never expected a mainstream book to pull that on me. I suspect that some readers will find the author's attempts to tie Daun to some famous names in history pretty cheesy but I love them. Maybe because by that time I'm halfway in love with the mean, bad, and sexy incubus myself, hmm. Hotter Than Hell is also a welcome read because it takes the focus away from the whole soap opera revolving around Jezebel and Paul, which bores me to tears, and brings me back to where the fun is: right into the heart of Hell where everyone is scheming.

I know, this review feels fragmented and vague at times, but that's because I really do not want to reveal too much about the story. From Daun's flashbacks to the dramatic events leading up to the climax, I find this book too much fun. In fact, I am poised to give this book a keeper grade until I come across two scenes where Daun effortlessly obliterates the highest ranking members of Hell. How did that come about again?

Never mind. Hotter Than Hell is indeed my idea of sizzling hot. Daun is such an adorable bad boy with an ego to match the size of his, er, talent.

Rating: 89


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