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Friday, 27 January 2012

Randy Reading #4: Teasing The Devil

My first review of an Xcite book, and the first in my Randy Reading focus to be a full-length novel, Teasing The Devil by Monica Bell is a rather clever little tale of supernatural horror that could still just be shadows and an easily-influenced imagination.

There is a hint of the wicked about Julian d'Alveda, 
a darkness that fascinates pretty student Chloe Anthony.  
Keen to learn more about his scandalous activities, she joins him 
at Candle Street Hall in Norfolk, a house with a reputation darker still.  
Once there, she quickly finds herself drawn 
like a moth to a flame, first as his lover, then more deeply 
as the full scope of his strange obsessions and desires become clear.

I've always had that fear when some kids say "lets try a ouije board, it'll be a laugh!", since just because you don't believe in something doesn't mean it doesn't believe in you. So, when Julin d'Alveda and Chloe Anthony begin re-enacting ancient Devil-summoning rituals in the very place they were rumoured to have been successful, that electric fear was present with almost every turn of the 205 pages.

The main plot-line is Julian's plan to drum up business by starting a rumour that satanic rituals are going on - or perhaps even successful! - in gardens of the Hall. While he himself doesn't believe in any such superstition, he does believe in the power of authentic details, and so researches exactly how the Hall's previous owner, Sir John, had attempted to summon the Devil to the very same spot. When their raunchy re-enactments finally attract the attention of a believer, Chloe begins to have some misgivings about a stranger sneaking about so close and yet unseen, photographing her and her lover, but Julian can only see his plan all falling into place. She continues with his instructions, with the on-line conspiracy gaining more and more popularity - and so too the ghost walks around the estate - and finds it harder and harder to separate her fear of the stranger who is almost certainly watching, and her fear of what they may in fact be conjuring up. Obviously there's the overtly sexual nature of the rituals and pretences, but that element of fear does add to the tension of the sex scenes.

In the beginning, I found the book a little rough, in the sense that I wasn't too sure what kind of character that author was trying to introduce. Chloe, a 23 year old university student, soon to graduate, fantasies about the boy expelled from college for some secret - but certainly lewd - behaviour in the local church. However, were it not for the mention of her age, I got the impression of a much younger girl: her repeated use of the word "rude" to describe anything remotely sexual, and her rather lackadaisical attitude to her future didn't exactly fit with the well-educated young women who had spent time volunteering in India and who considered herself "a little wiser, a little more cynical". This gets more under control once she begins her work at Candle Street Hall, but her misguided love-affair with the word "rude" did have me cringing at various points right to the end of the book. Insistence that all things mildly arousing are "rude" isn't really needed, and just makes the character seem quite childish and inexperienced, not really the sacrificial slut who'll freely expose herself as part of a sexual ritual.

This rocky beginning, and disappointing over-use of "rude", are offset quite pleasingly by how realistic Chloe's sexual development was portrayed. Right from the outset, she clearly has exhibitionist tendencies that leads her to ever more daring displays of public nudity and masturbation. Each time, however, it's the fantasy of being discovered while in a seemingly safe position. Soon, she is discovered having sex, spied upon while skinny dipping, and displayed naked on an internet blog by a mysterious spectator, and she discovers that the reality is more invasive and frightening than her expectations. Regardless, she is not dissuaded from her risky acts, and eventually finds herself putting on a show knowing that someone is watching. I was glad that this aspect was so realistic; it would be too easy to make it all be sexy and daring, without exploring how hard it is to cross over from any fantasy to reality, especially when it's one which has such social repercussions, never mind the risk to personal safety. However, it's not exhibitionism alone that fulfils Chloe's "rude" needs. She also discovers that her occasional fantasies about being spanked are nothing compared to the reality. Again, she has to deal with the ramifications of going beyond that line, as she feels guilt and humiliation at what she has allowed to happen to her, as well as her surprise at how that need, once awakened, demanded to be sated. This, coupled with her fantasies about being dominated by the lady of the house, Lady Aylesham, leads her to understand the D/s relationship Lady Alyesham and her husband live, as well as being included in the play they and Julian had indulged in before her arrival. While it's all very extreme, and the kind of lifestyle only those with land and money could viably sustain, seeing it through the eyes of Chloe, experiencing all of this for the first time, make it seem very plausible, and made sure that I could empathise with the characters and believe in the situation.

I don't think it's the best book ever written, and it does have some flaws which could be ironed out, but once it gets going it's a thrilling story with some exceptionally erotic scenes, fully developed characters, and quite unexpected twists and revelations. Definitely worth a read: towards the end, I couldn't put it down!

Interesting and thrilling plot;
Well-developed characters;
A realistic handling of Chloe's introduction to kink;
Keeps a good pace leading towards the grand finale.
Opening chapter or so falters quite a bit;
Silly repetition of the word "rude" whenever anything sexual happens;
Ending feels rather abrupt after such an unexpected climax.

Very smart and very sexy.  Might not be the height of literary skill, but it is an interesting and unusual plot, handled cleanly, with characters who are likable and realistic.

This book was provided to me free by Lovehoney in exchange for a fair review.  I have received no payment and my opinions have not been influenced in any way.

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