Where Demons Fear to Tread (The Company of Angels #1)

Where Demons Fear to TreadBy Stephanie Chong

Publisher: Mira
Publication Date: August 30, 2011
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Source: Netgalley

Fledging guardian angel and yoga teacher Serena St. Clair dares enter Devil’s Paradise nightclub on a mission—to retrieve the wayward Hollywood “It Boy” she’s assigned to protect. But she’s ambushed by the club’s owner, arch demon Julian Ascher. The most powerful demonic entity in Los Angeles, Julian is handsome as sin, a master of temptation who loves nothing more than corrupting pleasure–seeking humans. He won’t release the lost soul Serena is supposed to guard. Unless she accepts his dangerous wager…

After the disastrous way his human life ended, Julian vowed that no woman would get the better of him again. Yet this sexy–sweet angel, smelling of fresh ocean air and happiness, triggers centuries–old feelings. Now, their high–stakes game of seduction, where angels fall from grace and where demons fear to tread, will lead them either to an eternity in hell.or a deliciously hot heaven.

Goodreads Summary

Demon Julian Ascher has just approvingly watched a Hollywood star snort drugs off of a prostitute’s backside when he gets a whiff of something that doesn’t belong in his club – something very bright, innocent and delicious. Serena St. Clair has come to Devil’s Paradise in search of the actor – she’s his guardian angel and getting desperate to stop his destructive behavior she followed him there. Her beginners’ manual apparently left out the part about the club belonging to one of the most powerful Archdemons and now that she’s in his territory, she’s inadvertently offered herself up as demon chow.

Bored with the usual souls he’s been corrupting, Julian takes a special interest in the beautiful Serena. He decides to do whatever it takes to make her fall even if it takes using her charge Nick to blackmail her. He decides to let her escape with him that night after just a half-hearted attempt to kiss her senseless.

Serena is terrified that she’s already doomed herself to fall after the night’s activities with Julian. Her supervisor tells her that she can’t fall if she keeps love in her heart but warns her that Julian still has the power to destroy her – which is absolutely no answer.

With Serena dodging every attempt Julian makes to contact her, he decides on blackmail and gets her to spend a week in Las Vegas with him by threatening the soul of someone she loves in addition to Nick’s. He has a week to corrupt her and she has a week to save Nick and try to avoid falling –into Julian’s bed and possibly in love with him.

I really think this would have been better written as just a straight contemporary. I know the whole conflict of Serena and Julian’s storyline was “would he make her fall or would she redeem him?” but their characters just didn’t have enough paranormal oomph for me to make this really work that way. I think it could have been done just as effectively without the demons and angels overlay and honestly there were places when it felt like going into Julian’s past was just filler.

It wasn’t clear what specifically a demon was supposed to be doing or what their particular powers were besides some general suggestive powers, being able to transport themselves and being a little creepy. Julian just wasn’t all that demon-y. Later in the book a fellow Archdemon Corbin shows up and he’s a super freak – one of his nicer traits is cannibalism. I suppose the author couldn’t have the hero of a book running around eating people then kissing the heroine, but he wasn’t even ferrying people to hell or anything. Julian was either a very bad demon and a very nice man or a very nice demon and a very bad man.

Take everything you can imagine a California girl and an angel would be, toss them together and you probably would have Serena.  Her only two flaws are that she never really lived during her short life and that she’s too willing to sacrifice herself.  I felt like I had a little reading whiplash sometimes when she would respond to Julian’s seduction of her then suddenly remember she was supposed to either be protecting Nick or her own wings and pretend she didn’t like what he was doing.  This was an example of why I thought the story might work better as just a plain contemporary – maybe if the character didn’t have the restriction of being literally an angel, she would have been less of a stick in the mud?  When she and Julian finally figured out their chemistry, they were good with each other.

The secondary characters were fun, maybe because they had permission to really be bad.  Creepy Corbin had allied himself with Julian’s former lover Luciana who likes to play with poison and snakes and is just as ruthless as he is.  Nick is a nearly impossible person for Serena to watch over – he’s bent on self-destruction between drugs, booze and sex and every time she manages to get him one step towards the light, Julian, Corbin or Luciana drag him three or four back towards the dark.  He makes horrible choices and while eventually he becomes a wasted character, during the beginning at least, he’s interesting.  She’s not bad, but Serena’s supervisor Arielle plays a significant if small role in the story too – even Gabriel (yep, that one) shows up, although he seems to have had a personality-ectomy.

The ultimate conflict really wasn’t any big surprise, nor was the outcome.  I wish there had been more little twists along the way.  For the length of the book – it wasn’t that long, but as I said earlier, it seemed like some of it was filler – I think there was room for it.   The very first chapter was a nicely sinister scene that had Luciana brewing up an assassination attempt for Julian but that storyline just petered out.  I’d love to have seen more of that.

My Summary: Chong’s writing is really wonderful, enough so that I never considered putting this down despite having read some really awful books this past week.  I was engaged right away in the story and while Serena exasperated me a lot and I wished there had been more external conflict happening, I still liked enough of both characters that I thought about other situations I’d like to read them in.  I’d really like to read more of this author’s work without angels.

My Rating: C+



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