My review contains spoilers and they're are mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
I picked up Demon Lover, first, because the cover is so lovely! Second, the thought of an Incubus lover was... umm, intriguing. I wanted to know what happens and how the heroine is possessed by him and all that. While reading the book though, I loved some parts, some parts were disappointing, even extremely annoying. I got confused about various Supernatural entities, some I’ve never even heard of. Yet, this book was full of surprises that held me enthralled. I loved Juliet Dark’s writing as this is my introduction to her work. I loved the whole atmosphere she created in Demon Lover. Romance was sorely lacking IMO, sex scenes notwithstanding and yet I was so engrossed in the story that by the time it ended I NEEDED to know what happens next.
Cailleach or Callie is a nerd. Well, I consider myself a nerd so that’s a compliment from me. Callie is smart, brilliant and outspoken if not out-and-out rude. She is a scholar and just published her own thesis on the sex lives of the demons and other supernatural entities. Callie has always been moved by fairy tales her deceased parents told her many years ago. She has been haunted by the dreams of this Prince Charming who would come to comfort her in her dreams when she was lost and lonely at her cold and distant maternal Grandmother’s home. She always thought those are her vivid imaginations and yet, Callie never forgot the Prince’s voice and shadowy features. Callie always thought that her Prince would someday come for her... which hasn’t happened yet. Even though she now knows (at least thinks) it’s her imagination, Callie can’t stay away from the folklore and mythologies, stories of Fey, witches and other supernatural creatures. All these attract her like a magnet.
This story is told from first person POV. She’s in a long-term (and long-distance) relationship with another university buddy, Paul. She thinks she loves him and going to have a future with him. Callie’s thesis has gotten positive reviews but no one knows why Callie was actually interested in the theory of the sex lives of Demon Lovers. In truth, she knows people will think she’s crazy if she ever discloses the fact that she’s getting regular nightly visits from a shadowy lover. Right now, Callie is diverting all her attention to a new job interview taking place in the small town of Fairwick. She thinks this job isn’t for her since it’s not as prestigious as Harvard, and yet she’s here.
In the interview, the Dean, Elizabeth Book is nice and kind to her. And she wants Callie. Somehow, Callie is convinced against her better judgment to take up teaching here. They do provide good backing to the subject she’s interested in. On her way back to the Hart Brake Inn (yes, I did wince just as everyone else), Callie is attracted to this shabby yet hauntingly beautiful Victorian house called the Honeysuckle House. Logical because the house is standing on the edge of the wood and has honeysuckle thicket all around it; the smell of honeysuckle drenching the surrounding air. Callie is very intrigued by the way this house calls out to her. So Callie does another unthinkable thing; she decides to buy this house. In some corner of her logical mind Callie feels that she’s being crazy, even Paul insinuates that she’s going a little over the board (subtle jealousy tingeing his voice) but she can’t help it. The whole town is attracting her and somehow she can’t go back to being the city girl she always prided herself to be.
I didn’t like Callie that much. Most of the story she spent being so conceited, that her thoughts and words made me either wanting to slap her or shake my head in annoyance. I do remember a few of her uncharitable thoughts towards the ‘bumpkins’ of Fairwick. She might be smart but being insensitive isn’t any excuse for that. For the first half of the story I didn’t know what to think. There was the haunting of Callie’s demon lover. He doesn’t talk to her but shows through his moonlight-and-shadow lovemaking. When Callie finally buys the house from Dory, who is a realtor, she finds a face curved in the fanlight of the entrance of the house; a face that is startlingly alike her demon lover. She settles in, but the nightly visits continue; all moonlight and then shadow, she being engulfed by him. No words are spoken between them, which only leaves Callie more confused.
The starting of the school goes fine for Callie. She becomes popular among students, especially a girl named Nicky. There is another girl called Mara, came via student exchange from some European country. She also meets some teachers such as Frank Delmarco, Phoenix who later sublets a room in her home, and Soheila Lily. Also a very regal woman named Fiona Eldritch. I did love the subject Callie was teaching. If I was ever given the chance to study on Victoria Holt, I’d be ecstatic since she’s one of my most favorite Gothic novelists. Callie tries her best to juggle her odd erotic dreams with her demon lover and her new job along with her new, big and almost empty house. Callie meets Brock, a handyman whose face might be ugly with pockmarks but his nature is equally gentle and kind. She likes this man immediately and entrusts him to take care of her house. Brock would do the necessary repairs, but also would bring trinkets to hang inside her house. He brings three iron-made mice to decorate. Already Callie has this feeling that Fairwick isn’t a normal town. People are generally a bit drawn to myths and superstitions, like the gnome statues they keep on their front yard. Callie has inherited one with the house and she’s advised to keep her keys under it. She doesn’t know why she does it, but Callie can’t help abide by these dictates.
Callie also finds the manuscript of a deceased Gothic writer Dahlia LaMotte, who was very popular in her days. Honeysuckle House belonged to her originally. Callie hears stuff about her, like she was a recluse, living her days inside just writing and writing. Later we learn that the Incubus also haunted the house when she was here. I’m not sure if he was Dahlia’s lover but it was said that all of Dahlia’s books were inspired by him. We also get glimpses of Dahlia’s erotic writings which were heavily edited before they went to print. Callie can’t help but pour over those published and unpublished manuscripts. I liked the parts that were Dahlia’s writings, and the eroticism involved in them, so can’t blame Callie for devouring them one by one, even if in the name of her ‘research’. In fact, this story starts with a part of one of Dahlia’s books that had me intrigued to read the whole book! Many a times, when I was frustrated with the story itself, I felt I had rather read one of those manuscripts.
Callie is still unsure of her life here and the erotic dreams. She tries to communicate with her demon lover once, asking his identity and soon as she does, he vanishes. She is torn because she can’t help but think she’s cheating with Paul. For me, I didn’t like the long-term relationship thingy in the first place. I wanted Callie to be single, but that’s just me. Also, the lack of chemistry between her and Paul was so palpable that they didn’t feel anything other than polite friends. I’d take the Incubus over Paul any day! But Paul is coming to visit her soon and she needs to take some actions. Callie and the Incubus talk a little and he confirms that he’s THE Prince of her dreams. There were also some wonderful long forgotten memories that hinted them having a distant past together, which was shattered by the Fairy Queen who took him to the Fairy. The more you live in there, the less chance that you’d ever return, let alone stay a human. That’s what happened to the Incubus. It had been many-a-thousand years and he longs to have that warm human touch again. For that the woman has to love him back. The Incubus is pretty obsessed with Callie, and thinks it might be her. He thinks seducing her would do the trick. But to Callie it isn’t. She breaks down and tells the Incubus that just being good in bed doesn’t count. He leaves in a fury, shattering the glasses and rattling her roof. Later she finds that he wrote, ‘What more?’
In the morning, the news is that there has been a massive and violent snowstorm such as no one has ever seen before. Fairwick is pretty much cut down from the rest of the country. Callie watches the news, stunned. Paul informs her he had escaped an accident as his plane barely survived the stormy weather. He’s trying to reach her ASAP. And then, Dean Book, Diana Hart of the Hart Brake Inn and Soheila Lily are at her door, claiming fantastic things! I was rather disappointed because the story wasn’t, at all, going the way I envisioned it might. Dean Book is a witch, Diana is a deer fairy. Soheila doesn’t at first reveal her identity but that she’s some ancient wind-born entity. Let me tell you, most of the characters are ancient here, seeing how they were there when the Fey came to this world and the Old Gods still ruled. Brock, Callie’s trusty handyman, it seems is a Norse divinity.
WOW, I was kind of... flabbergasted, and quite overwhelmed at this point. I even left the story for a while just to slow down a bit.
When I returned, I found myself getting sucked right into the whole mystery and complexity of it, as the story began to take shape; unfold in bits and pieces. Dean Book and Soheila tell Callie that they need to do a banishment to get rid of the Incubus. They also reveal that Callie is a doorkeeper of the two worlds when she explained that she let a bird out of that inaccessible Honeysuckle thicket (which is apparently the only remaining door to the Fairy). Apparently, nothing comes out alive from there. Callie is shocked but not unhinged by the news. They want to perform the banishment since Callie’s ‘encounters’ with the Incubus would only harm her. He’d suck out her essence, leaving her dead one day. After hearing his obsession with her, Soheila tells her about a scholar, Angus Fraser (now deceased) and how his sister died in the hands of the same Incubus because he was doing the same to her. Here, there’s no middle ground; you either love him back or die gradually.
Things become a bit murkier when Fiona Eldritch makes an appearance. By now, Callie has seen a triptych in a party of the college where she saw two figures; the man looks too much like her Incubus, who was with a woman looked startlingly like Fiona. In here, we learn that Fiona is THE Fairy Queen who took the Incubus. And she made me angry with her snotty attitude and calling the Incubus hers, even in front of Callie. Everyone is in awe of the Queen’s cold, aloof beauty and scared of her wrath. She’s rude to everyone and I found myself calling her the Queen B*tch. I don’t know how Callie could stand her when Fiona kept taunting her about the Incubus. She felt jealous but because of her hypnotic allure, could do nothing really. The Queen B*tch is pissed at Callie and the Incubus because he chose Callie over her. The banishment wasn’t a success though. Callie was advised to banish the Incubus from her body and soul, entirely which she couldn’t. For now, Callie feels bereft, especially at night when there’s no mind numbing Incubus sex. One positive thing happens when Callie gains her familiar through this. One of those iron mice Brock made for her comes alive. She names it Ralph.
Callie also becomes intrigued about this curse on Nicky, her favorite students. At 18, all the women of her family try to destroy their life by becoming alcoholic and single mother. Nicky would turn 18 soon. Callie is determined to find a solution. Dean Book gives Callie another surprise by giving her a special pass to the library. After she enters in the ‘special’ section, she understands just how vast the collection of magical tomes and spell books along with the history of the witches, fey and other supernatural beings. When she gets to the business of researching Nicky’s family tree and the people who might’ve been involved, Callie is attacked by a lacuna. After the librarian kills it, he informs that whoever planted it in the tome has the skills to do it. Callie decides that it was done to hide the names of the people and their descendents involved.
Phoenix’s drinking problem was getting bad and she was missing classes, staying in all day. One day she’s taken back to rehab by her family. Soon enough, Dean Book informs Callie that she had found a replacement for Phoenix; a poet and scholar named Liam. He comes highly recommended so Callie checks on him in the internet. His face isn’t clear in the Facebook but Callie falls in love with his writing; poems she found in some website. One poem particular catches her attention (and mine too) was ‘Winter Liar’. Must say, it was a lovely piece of work! Soon Liam Doyle is in Fairwick. The first meeting of theirs was interesting. The whole class, especially the girls, was already swooning over him. Callie is a bit sarcastic about it, until she meets him; tall, broad shouldered with dark hair and amber eyes, Liam is. And he has an enigmatic smile. The more I read about Liam, the more I fell for him. He was gentle and understanding. Callie does hurt him once when the teachers were talking about him, and she makes an insinuating comment about Liam’s poetry, woozing with emotion (manly, sexy emotion that is *heehee*). Liam hears it all. I simply wanted to smack Callie with one of those magical tomes, I was so mad.
Paul never got to see Callie in Fairwick. Instead some days later, when she goes to meet him, Callie finds that he’s fallen for another woman he met after his ‘almost’ accident. Callie lets him go, knowing for the fact that they were actually never meant for each-other. She just can’t, CAN’T involve herself with a man where her heart is concerned. Something holds her back. Christmas was fast approaching. I totally loved reading about the little ice sculptures that Brock loved hanging in the houses or how Callie helped Dory (who is a brownie) have a look at the people’s houses who left for vacationing or spending the time with their family. After all, brownies work to make houses neat and clean when the owners are not around.
One day, Dean Book asks Callie to talk to one of the professors, Volkov. There are some weird rumors about him and two other people he lives with. Now Callie knows that those three are vampires. She has seen them, all cold and distant. When she was returning, not finding Volkov in his office, Callie is attacked by a big, dark winged bird. She remembers that she was attacked by the same bird once before but it wasn’t this big back then. Callie runs for her life. When she thought she’d be picked apart by it, Liam comes to her rescue, injuring himself in the process.
Afterwards, Callie just falls right into Liam’s arms. I didn’t like it much. It felt like rebound sex to me. They spend the Christmas together, at her home. having sex *eyeroll*. Callie thinks this will go nowhere but sometimes she can’t but crave for more. Liam is a gentle lover, always taking care of her needs. I also had some problem with the sex scenes, be it the erotic dreams or Liam’s lovemaking. They’d start out of nowhere, and most of the times end in a way that I’m left to imagine things, when I really want to know more. I mean if you’re going to make your Incubus sexy, let me know his dirty talks and how he moves in bed!!! It really bugged me at times that the author never seemed to finish any of those.
Anyway, I was totally in love with Liam but was yet to connect with Callie. For me, she remained cold and aloof. After the school starts, through Liam everybody learns they are together. Callie doesn’t think this is a good idea though. In between, Callie was still trying to find out about the curse on Nicky’s family. In the process, she has an intriguing conversation with Frank. Turns out, one of the suspects of the curse was Frank’s grandma, a witch, making him a witch too! He, the unsuspecting all American man, also turns out to be a detective of IMPIA (don’t ask! Lol), working on the same curse. Frank denies his Nonna’s involvement in this. Callie is shocked, but she knows Frank can help her. He asks her not to blow his cover.
Callie also takes up some drastic measures; one is, having a conversation with her grandmother Adelaide. We are told that she’s a witch (which Callie didn’t know at first). She confirms about Callie’s witch blood, which according to her, was polluted by the Fey blood coming from her father. It’s convoluted, I know. Some species aren’t supposed to intermarry and all that, which Callie’s parent’s did, being so in love. In the process, Callie finds some interesting information about Nicky’s curse that involves her own ancestry. Now, she has to join the Grove to find a solution. This is an uppity group of ancient witches who turn their nose from any being that aren’t essentially... them or like them. Callie’s supernatural friends are also in that list. Callie knows she will be betraying her friends. But she is desperate to help Nicky, which her b*tchy granny uses to her convenience.
In the meantime, the whole school contracted some kind of illness. Callie also started feeling weak and all. She didn’t think it was the mind-numbing sex she had with Liam regularly (me, so jealous, grr!) but something else. When Callie goes to confront Frank for a reason, he thinks it might be the vampires. He checks on her body a little intimately, which Liam witnesses. It causes a rift between Callie and him. He leaves. Callie is still confused about her feelings for Liam, yet she misses him terribly. But he returns, one night, unexpectedly, when Callie chases down a shadow crab. There is a really intense and sexy love scene here, the one I still remember. By then I kind of knew who Liam might be, the way he came out of the woods and met Callie. But everything comes to the light soon enough as Dean Book and Soheila tell Callie that the Incubus is back and he’s the one who’s probably making these students sick. Soheila has already confided in Callie that she’s actually a succubus, though she doesn’t feed on human essence anymore. When one of Callie’s neighbors, who went on Christmas vacation, confides in Callie that her house has been broken in, Callie finds herself in shock... everything points out to Liam. Every freakin’ detail the woman gives her. Callie is sure that Liam is the Incubus, and she has to banish him now, once and for all.
I was pissed, really. I could see reason, yet I didn’t believe, for once that Liam was that bad. As Liam, the Incubus tried to mold himself into someone Callie could love but fails. Oh well, I’m just partial to him and I wanted to slap Callie for banishing him SO FREAKIN’ EASILY. How could she after everything, I don’t know. Brock makes this pair of iron bracelets (irons are like poison for an Incubus) and later, Callie gets down to the business of sending Liam back to the Borderland; a place of permanent nothingness, pain and misery. I wept when she banished him, even though Callie was aloof. I simply couldn’t hold myself back. It was the most heartbreaking scene of the story from me. Anyway, we finally do find out WHY exactly the students were sick and by whom. It was not the Incubus, mind you, which I always knew. Many issues remained unresolved when it came to an end. 4.25 stars because now I'm off to read The Water Witch.