Wilder Wrenfield has been hired to solve a mystery. Virgins are dying, torn apart by some unknown monster, and Wilder is being paid to kill it. So it’s off to Thornwood Manor with a vile of poison, a gun, and a top hat.
Lucian is an incubus, bored and lonely and isolated in his mansion, while he whiles away his days and nights doing nothing, until a new butler makes an appearance. The young man has no references, and no butler-ing skills, but he’s handsome and Lucian is horny.
This is the first book in Dana Frost’s Lads and Monsters series and it was very much not to my taste. The world building, a vague 20th-century England, is a ghostly shape with no real definition. There are only four characters in this book, Lucian and Wilder, a cook who has a few lines, and the mysterious figure in the woods who has a handful more. Of the two main characters, Lucian has the most personality, being a nigh-immortal and amoral creation of hell who has no sympathy for the villagers and their dead daughters, no apparent interest in the world, and who falls in love with Wilder at first bite, seemingly because they’re fated mates.
Being fated mates, there’s no need for the two men to get to know each other; between Lucian’s sex powers, which make Wilder fall head over heels after the first saucy dream, and Wilder’s blood tasting like ambrosia to Lucian, they’re made for one another. So it’s sex, some descriptions of scenery, and the two of them seemingly put out when the villagers remind them that their virgin daughters are being ripped into pieces.
Then there’s Wilder, a character I have no clear mental image of because one moment Lucian thinks Wilder is too uncouth looking to be a butler, the next he thinks of Wilder as a delicate beauty. So I guess he’s… attractive? Or maybe just attractive to Lucian. Other than the fact that Wilder randomly wears a top hat — a hat meant to be worn for formal occasions, usually white tie — during coach trips or job interviews, my sole impression of him is that Wilder is not very smart. While it’s a character judgement, it also feels like fact. He’s sent to kill an incubus, but has no idea what an incubus is, what they do, or how to kill them. He does no research, just grabs a random vial of poison and a gun and wanders off to kill the guy.
Are incubi sensitive to silver? Salt? Different types of wood? Do you stab them in the heart? Wilder certainly doesn’t know. I get the feeling his other monster hunting jobs were due to random, dumb luck rather than anything resembling skill. When applying to his job at Lucian’s house, Wilder applies as a butler … with no references, and no idea how to do the job, or even what the job even entails. He’s lucky Lucian is bored and lets him in. Why Wilder didn’t try to get hired as a general servant (especially as the house has only one other servant), I don’t know.
Along with my general dislike for Wilder, I also found the misogyny in this book to be rather vile, truth be told. That, along with a suicide attempt being used in a comical, off-handed way so the incubus could go from the mortal world back to hell, just left me, overall, really, really not wanting to finish this book, or read anything else by this author.
To start, Lucian reminisces to himself about a friend of his and his grand love affair. His friend, an ogre, fell in love with a woman who, alas, didn’t love him back. She told him no, in several variations, told him to leave her alone and to go away. So he kidnapped her. When, eventually, her family and a group of men were about to rescue her, the ogre killed her (and himself) so he wouldn’t be parted from his love. After that story, and then seeing Lucian playing with Wilder’s unconscious body (touching, stroking, kissing, biting — just some general molestation), I thought this was going to be turning into a dark romance to show how depraved and evil Lucian and his ‘monster’ friends are. But, no, this is supposed to be romantic. The fact that the only woman with a speaking line is described as ugly just added to the overall flavor of the book.
Then there’s the Wendigo; a Wendigo is a mythical creature from various Native American tribes appropriated here for no clear reason. The monster in question has none of the traits of a Wendigo, so why use that name in particular — or rather, misuse? And then the Wendigo, accused of being the cause of the deaths of ten young women (all virgins, so you know they were good girls), just wanders off and neither Lucian nor Wilder — both of whom are supposed to find and kill the murdering monster — do anything about it.
The writing feels a bit juvenile, and I never had to wonder what a character was thinking, or feeling, or why they did this or that because the book spoon fed me with adverb-heavy force. The characters had very thin personalities and their voices sounded almost identical. While I understand that Lucian is supposed to be evil, with no care of consideration for human lives and suffering, I was put off by the story’s treatment of women and the lackluster world building and nonexistent plot. This is, I’m afraid to say, a very solid no thank you.