The Devil Inside
by Jenna Black
(Dell, 6.99, NC-17) ISBN 978-0-553-59044-9
***
The only reason this book makes it to three hearts is the fact that the end is set up as a cliffhanger, and even with everything else that is wrong, several of the characters are compelling enough to make the reader interested in the fulfillment of their story.

Morgan Kingsley, according to the blurb and to her own description of herself, is a bad-ass exorcist. During the course of the book, the only demon she exorcises is Dominic, the boyfriend of the head of the demon-relations police, Adam. Shortly thereafter, it is discovered that she has become the host of an illegal demon herself, although not by the demon's choice; he's a demon prince forced into her body by his younger brother's political faction. Rightfully distraught, Morgan at first ignores the problem, which leads to bigger problems like her best friend (also an exorcist) trying to kill her, being set up for murder, and her house being burnt down.

Finally convinced that this isn't something that will just go away, Morgan takes the demon, Lugh's, advice and goes to Adam, who was the first to recognize that she was possessed. Or, at least, partially possessed; it turns out that Morgan's so tough that she subconsciously keeps Lugh from taking over her body, and he can only get to her when she's sleeping or has been knocked cold.

The first thing you'll notice about Morgan is her overinflated ego. For some reason, the author feels that several earrings, a tattoo, and leather pants make someone tough. Morgan whines, always runs to someone else with her problems, ignores advice given to her by those wiser than herself, and can't manage to keep her mouth shut. The last causes a lot of problems between her, Dominic, and Adam (mostly because she doesn't agree with their S&M sex practices), but Dominic and Adam stick around because Adam is one of Lugh's lieutenants. There is a little bit of underlying sexual tension behind Morgan and Adam's relationship, and despite her prejudices, she has a hard time restraining herself when exposed to Adam and Dominic being passionate. Which comes up a lot; Black uses Adam's and Dominic's sexual relationship to make up for lack of progress in the plot.

In theory, this should have been an exciting book. Unfortunately, for the first two-thirds, Jenna Black was trying too hard to be Kim Harrison. By the time her own - fairly interesting in its own right - voice came through, it was too late to salvage the story. The climax is too short, especially considering how drawn out and involved the rest of the book is. The background regarding demons in this alternate society is very good, but too much time is spent with Morgan's rants about her beliefs and not enough time is spent developing her or any other characters.

Morgan had a steady relationship with a normal human lawyer before all of this came up, but his kidnapping and subsequent torture are the only interesting parts of the plot (besides the unusual club scene to which Adam and Dominic introduce Morgan). She finally stiffens her spine and dumps him to protect him, and you're left to wonder if the odd and slightly uncomfortable buzzing between she and Adam will go anywhere in the next book, or if her attraction to the demon prince Lugh will ever go anywhere.

The group that attacked her is still widely at large, so the plot is left hanging in the middle. I will definitely want a look at the next book, which tells me that the author has potential. Sadly, her first book is a flop; hopefully by the next one, she'll be more comfortable with her own abilities and her characters will be more at home in their lives.

Readers who, like Morgan professes to be, are uncomfortable with alternate lifestyles will not enjoy this book. All of the sex scenes are fairly vivid, and when Adam and Dominic become important characters, most of those scenes revolve around them. In short, this book had the potential to be a good suspense, romance, or erotica, and didn't manage to quite pull off any of the three.

--Sarrah Knight


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