21st Century Demon and Hell to Pay are sold as a set, under the title Souls for Sale, but given that they are two individual tales (though the second is a direct sequel to the first), I’m reviewing them separately.
21st Century Demon
Rating: 3 stars
Saul is a demon on the prowl. Getting souls for hell is harder than it used to be, but Saul is one of the best and he’s got an easy mark in his sights. As soon as Tom Ives crosses his path, Saul knows that he can get the man to sign away his soul for a night of sex. But what he doesn’t expect is for that one night to affect him quite as deeply either. When the morning comes, Saul doesn’t want to take the contract back to hell. And he doesn’t want to leave Tom either.
I admit that at first, I was taken a little aback by the style of writing. Not only is it in first person present, but Saul also breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the reader. This grew on me after a bit, and even though I didn’t quite find Saul as clever as he found himself, I became accustomed to the style and character. It was fitting for Saul. We see the entire story through his POV, and he’s got a smarmy charm about him that really made sense given he’s a demon.
Where I had the problem is that I saw the physical chemistry between him and Tom, but I didn’t see any deeper connection at all. So I couldn’t understand why these two would be willing to change their entire lives after one night together. I just didn’t get it, and it made it really hard to roll with the premise. It had its moments of cute and clever, but it didn’t really pull me in. I needed more to truly be engaged
Hell to Pay
Rating: 3.5 stars
With Saul having disposed of the contract, Tom’s soul no longer belongs to hell. But the two men quickly learn that hell isn’t going to give up that easily. They are summoned down, but instead they run. Tom leaves his entire life behind. They spend months going from hotel to hotel, barely evading capture from the minions of hell that have been sent to bring them back.
Meanwhile, Baruchiel, an angel, has been tasked with preserving Tom’s soul for heaven, and he’s been commanded not to fail. Not knowing the first thing about the case, Baruchiel first heads to hell and meets with Adramelech, who takes the angel to Earth to show him Saul and Tom. But Baruchiel instantly sees the love between them, and he makes the decision to help. However despite his best intentions, he can only do so much and Adramelech gets the upper hand.
Whisked off to hell, Saul will do whatever it takes to save his beloved Tom. Even if he’s not sure that what he feels for Tom is love. He should have known the deal he made wouldn’t be honored, and their fate is sealed by the mandates of hell. Unless a divine intervention comes at just the right time.
This second book in the collection was a longer, and the story was much more fleshed out. This made the second part a bit more enjoyable for me, and I found myself a bit more engaged with the story as it spun out. There were even moments where I was anxious to find out what would happen next. But it didn’t quite work as a whole for me, and the ending left me wanting.
I liked that we got to know Tom better here. As we had some chapters from his POV (and I’ll get to the POV issues in a minute), we got to see his thoughts and feelings on the matter. I found him to be adorable and sweet, and I could understand why he was willing to put his life at risk to be with Saul. I was still missing the falling in love part between them as the story seemed to jump over that, but by Tom’s thoughts and actions, I didn’t have any problem just rolling with that aspect. These guys had chemistry, so that part almost always worked.
Saul continues to be his smarmy, charming self. Most of the time. Sometimes he was offensive, but that totally worked for his character, as he is a demon after all. I liked that we saw some growth from him. Both in his feelings for Tom and his self-awareness. I understood him better and that was great to see, as it really worked well with the developing plot.
But I really had some issues with this story, and I just couldn’t look past them. It was the style of the writing and the story. When it was in Saul’s POV, it was in that first person present without a fourth wall there. When it alternated to Tom’s POV, it was still first person present, but the fourth wall was firmly intact. Tom was relating the story as it was happening, but he wasn’t speaking directly to the audience as Saul did in his chapters. And then? Then we had chapters from Baruchiel’s POV and these chapters were in third person past tense. I’m going to be blunt and say this just didn’t work for me. While I never had any trouble knowing whose POV I was in because of the tenses, the constant shuffling around was jarring to me. It made me have to shift gears with every chapter, and just as I was getting into a groove, it would change again. This might not be a problem for you, and if it isn’t, then please don’t hesitate to give this story a try if the plot intrigues you. But it didn’t work for me at all.
I had some quibbles with the world building as a whole and the ending felt a little too pat so it was a bit disappointing. But these things were easily over looked in the grand scheme of the story. Basically, what worked here worked really well, but there was a lot that missed the mark for me. I would only recommend this to a reader who doesn’t mind constant tense and POV shifts, and who is looking for a light read featuring demons and angels.