Title: Succubus Blues
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance-ish
Stand Alone or Series: First book in the Georgina Kincaid series
Summary: (from amazon.com)
Succubus (n.) An alluring, shape-shifting demon who seduces and pleasures mortal men. Pathetic (adj.) A succubus with great shoes and no social life. See: Georgina Kincaid.
When it comes to jobs in hell, being a succubus seems pretty glamorous. A girl can be anything she wants, the wardrobe is killer, and mortal men will do anything just for a touch. Granted, they often pay with their souls, but why get technical?
But Seattle succubus Georgina Kincaid’s life is far less exotic. Her boss is a middle-management demon with a thing for John Cusack movies. Her immortal best friends haven’t stopped teasing her about the time she shape-shifted into the Demon Goddess getup complete with whip and wings. And she can’t have a decent date without sucking away part of the guy’s life. At least there’s her day job at a local bookstore–free books; all the white chocolate mochas she can drink; and easy access to bestselling, sexy writer, Seth Mortensen, aka He Whom She Would Give Anything to Touch but Can’t.
But dreaming about Seth will have to wait. Something wicked is at work in Seattle’s demon underground. And for once, all of her hot charms and drop-dead one-liners won’t help because Georgina’s about to discover there are some creatures out there that both heaven and hell want to deny…
So. I finally got this one off the shelf. I had seen some really good reviews for this book, but I was still hesitant to read it. A succubus as a heroine is an intriguing choice for a new series–but I was staying away for fear that this would mean an abundance of cringe-worthy bad paranormal romance type scenarios. I see succubus and immediately think “sex demon!” (à la Jamie MacEvoy to Chaz Michael Michaels in Blades of Glory) The blurb and the cover didn’t do much to bolster my confidence. ***On a side note, who writes these blurbs on the back of books? Why does EVERY urban fantasy novel have the same “this sexy witch/werewolf/vampire hunter/vampire/demon/[insert paranormal hero(ine) here] needs to save the world…and look great in KILLER SHOES while doing it!” What is this obsession with writing about looking sexy with great shoes on blurbs? Is this some kind of runoff for the Sex and the City generation? At no point in this book is Georgina Kincaid defined by her “great shoes”. And half of the time, these heroines or heroes are referred to as “sexy [insert paranormal creature or hunter type here]” when they aren’t really–more often than not they are insecure with their appearances, or just don’t give a hoot (I think Rachel Caine’s Joanne Baldwin is the only heroine I’ve met that really fits the ‘sexy with great shoes’ bill). Does this bother anyone else? /rant***
But I digress. While the summary and cover weren’t exactly my cup ‘o tea, I was so very glad I was able to swallow my fears and get into this book–because Succubus Blues is simply wonderful.
Georgina Kincaid is a succubus–that is, “an alluring, shape-shifting demon who seduces and pleasures mortal men” (thank you, blurb, you’re good for something). She doesn’t pleasure mortal men out of the kindness of her heart though, or just because she’s horny–no, after being with a mortal, Georgina steals some of their vital energy, shaving years off of their lives. As such, this complicates any relationship Georgina has–she can’t be with a guy without killing him. Go figure.
Georgina also happens to be a succubus with a conscience. As a centuries (actually millennia) old demon, past her ‘prime’, she doesn’t want to feed on good men, and takes a more slacker approach to her full time job: she only feeds on those whose souls are already heading straight down to the boss man in Hell. As a succubus her own existence depends on the life energy she takes from her victims and each shape she shifts eats up some of her stored life energy–much like food for humans, Georgina cannot simply kick the habit, as she needs to have intimate contact with humans in order to survive.
The book opens with Georgina on a run with her professional Imp boss (yes, that would be p-Imp in a manner of speaking), and she does him a solid by taking a job with a 30-something year old virgin, who works at a video game store and lives in his parents’ basement. The poor guy has traded his soul, and in return will get deflowered–and to play the part, Georgina shapeshifts into a dominatrix demoness getup: whip, wings, and all (to her supreme embarrassment, as demonesses are actually quite classy–and she makes her friend swear not to tell anyone about the whole scenario). After finishing her job with the virgin, Georgina has a run in with the local Vampire boss–who happens to be a nosy, rude prick. Georgina threatens him to back off (even though as a sexy shapeshifter there isn’t much she can do to fight him off), and the next time that he messes with her, she’ll make him regret it.
Unfortunately for Georgie, the vampire turns up dead a day later. Someone begins killing immortals, one by one, all somehow linked to Georgina, and she is in a world of trouble.
To top things off, Georgina’s social/romantic life is in tangles. Georgina has a day job, working at a bookstore as an assistant manager (niiiice!) and her favorite author ever (quite a statement for a thousands of years old woman) comes to the store for a reading and signing. After an embarrassing first meeting, Georgina finds her author idol Seth is not quite everything she expected; all that witty repertoire he injects in his book is absent from his awkward, aloof personality. And somehow, she keeps finding herself in awkward situations with him. Meanwhile, she begins dating a charming, intelligent, handsome good man named Roman–and it’s tearing her up that she cannot bring herself to break off the relationship, but knows she cannot be with him.
I was completely surprised by Succubus Blues. Writing a succubus as a heroine is a tricky thing, but Ms. Mead manages to do this with flying colors. Georgina is a wonderful, likable heroine–despite being thousands of years old, she continues to make the same mistakes. At first, I felt that the character was unbelievable considering her age (she was mortal back in ancient Greece)…but as her story unfolds, including how exactly she became a succubus, thing start to make sense. One of her immortal ‘friends’, poses an interesting question to Georgina–why would a shapeshifter who does not want to be entangled in impossible, heartbreaking relationships, who can assume any form she wishes, choose a knockout appearance as her ‘usual’ face? The best thing, in my opinion, about Georgina’s character is how unreliable a narrator she is, and how she continues to subconsciously torture herself for her past mistakes. Instead of assuming the form of an inconspicuous, forgettable girl, she chooses to look like a bombshell, attracting all sorts of male attention even though she keeps claiming that she doesn’t want it.
While this book isn’t jam-packed with action, nor does it boast a twisty-turny plot (the murder mystery is pretty straightforward), it is the characters, and the clever slow-building relationships between them that make this book exceptional. The relationship between Georgina and Seth, for example, hardly is a sexual/romantic type of situation at the onset. Georgina is kind of a bitch to Seth, and he’s just…awkward. But the interplay between these two characters, and the slow growth of attraction and understanding between them is a wonderful thing. While Ms. Mead doesn’t do too much world building per se, she does inject a real setting with her descriptions of Seattle (certain districts and areas), which is cool. I also very much enjoyed Ms. Mead’s take on demons and angels, and other supernatural creatures. The theology aspect was well written and felt unique; again, no small feat considering a genre packed with fallen angels and all sorts of demons (sex demons or no). Along the lines of the newer wave of urban fantasy/paranormal romance, the line between “Good” and “Evil” does not really exist–angels and demons coexist (heck, in this book they are even drinking buddies), more along the lines of Good Omens than Paradise Lost.
Notable Quotes/Parts: I loved the relationship between Georgina and Seth, especially the differences they had in speaking communication, versus e-mail communication. Seth is completely inept at face to face social interaction. While his behavior ranges from kinda cute (as in, “awww, he’s so shy and awkward!”) to full on hermit weirdo, I loved Georgina’s reactions and her complete frustration with him. When Seth blows Georgina off–quite rudely–she checks her email, only to receive a witty, LONG detailed explanation from Seth. The Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde dichotomy was funny, and rang so very true, especially in the context of cyberspace.
Additional Thoughts: I enjoyed Ms. Mead’s play on book stores, authors, and their personalities. At one point, Seth tries to explain to Georgina that he acts rude or aloof or completely forgets what is going on sometimes because when inspiration strikes, he cannot deny it. Methinks this explanation might have some deeper meaning for Ms. Mead? In any case, I found it clever, and funny–I have a few creative type friends that frequently forget what day of the week it is because of being completely enmeshed in their work!
Verdict: Excellent start to what looks to be a promising series. I loved Georgina, and especially loved the characterizations in this book. This one has enough tension and fantastic elements to appeal to Urban Fantasy fans, but also a good serving of romantic storyline to appeal to Paranormal Romance readers.
I already have book 2 on the TBR shelf, and will eagerly be awaiting book 3, Succubus Dreams, in stores September 30!
Rating: 8 Excellent
Reading Next: Demon Angel by Meljean Brook