Author: S.L. Armstrong, K. Piet, Alina Ray, Azalea Moone, Tali Spencer
Cover Artist: Dare Empire
Buy Link: Devil’s Night
Length: 42,500 words
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Cryselle
Review Summary: Sexy, well-written, but not necessarily romance stories with a diabolical streak.
The infernal host is on the prowl. They want your soul, and they’re not afraid to bargain for it. They’ll promise you everything you could ever desire, but the price tag may be steeper than you can handle. Whether tempting and seducing mortals, defiling angels, or reveling among themselves, the fiendish creatures in these four haunting tales know that while good is okay, evil is just more fun.
Thaddeus sold his soul to save his family long ago, but the deal he struck with the demon Belial has him spending eternity managing Le Carnaval du Diable, filled to the brim with others damned into servitude. Belial wants more than Thaddeus’ soul, though, and his constant advances only add to Thaddeus’ stress as he faces a threat to The Devil’s Midway.
Craig Peters finds himself Hell Bound and destined for an eternity of torture at the hands of the demon Karawan, despite having no memory of the sin that condemned him to this existence. Over time, though, those memories return, along with an unnatural attraction to Karawan, which leads them both down a path neither of them could have possibly imagined.
When the Hounds Come Out to Play, Ryu and Keir are released from their chains to hunt the wayward damned and drag them down to Hell. A breath of freedom is an opportunity for fun, however, and Ryu isn’t about to waste it, even if it means getting caught in a case of mistaken identity with a handsome stranger.
Finally, Beltran is a man of heritage and honor, and when his cousin is brutalized, he has few qualms about consulting a local Inca shaman on her behalf. Little does he know the price of the charm he seeks will make him The Seventh Sacrifice in the amaru demon Kitara’s ancient quest for revenge.
Another anthology with some favorite authors and new to me names, and a fine diabolical streak running through the stories. Sexual tension, in gobs. Danger and threats, lots and lots. Hellishly charming beings, definitely. Hot sex, oh yeah. But if you read expecting romance, you aren’t going to be happy.
I’ve been reading S.L. Armstrong and K. Piet for a while now, and have enjoyed their growth as a team. The Devil’s Midway is their strongest I’ve read yet. Thaddeus, the POV character, is a genuinely good man who sold his soul for the best of reasons. He’s the only one who can stand up to Belial, though it’s growing more and more difficult to turn down what the demon offers. Thaddeus’ struggle is with himself; the story is extremely tense, and manages to be both sexy and frightening at the same time.
Alina Ray’s Hell Bound was impossible for me to get involved with, since one of the characters was discovering his kink a little late. Rookie demon Karawan doesn’t know what to make of Craig’s reactions to his torture, and I was having some real issues with the torture being entwined with everything else. Pain play sends me running. YMMV.
When the Hounds Come Out to Play from Azalea Moone had an interesting twist, since one of the characters was a shape-shifting, candy-stealing hellhound. Being a bit unclear on some human conventions, Ryu’s Halloween night becomes extra interesting when he spends quite a lot of it with a human male. The dog-out-of-collar moments provided flashes of humor to leaven the anthology and were cute, with an edge. Grant was a hard character to get into, being inconsistent and with some knowledge that gave the entire encounter an air of WTF in retrospect.
The Seventh Sacrifice is the first of Tali Spencer’s works I’ve read, but it won’t be the last. This was a beautifully crafted story, combining the exotic atmosphere of La Paz, the native lore of Bolivia, and characters that are both in opposition and aligned in some ways. That the author entwines their stories and lives to bring them into something unexpected, and definitely not entirely consensual but still satisfying is a testament to skill and vision. While certainly not a standard romance, there is underlying respect between Beltran and Kitara, and a definite sense that what is necessary will become something treasured.
As with any anthology, the stories will vary, but here they are varying within a high and narrow range. Even allowing for personal squick on one story, I’m still quite pleased with the overall effect of this collection. Because of bias my rating doesn’t include Hell Bound¸ since I honestly can’t differentiate between what’s done well or not in a sub-genre that makes my skin crawl.
With the reservation of the pain play story, Devil’s Night is recommended for the reader who doesn’t require a consistently happy ending but does want tension and heat. 4.5 stars