Feb. 20th, 2011

naomi_jay: (Objection)

As a general rule, I've enjoyed every book in the Morgan Kingsley series, but found the second one, The Devil You Know, rather forgettable compared to the first and third. It didn't seem to have much to do with the overall arc of the series, and the plot felt a little random, like nobody really knew what they were doing or why. The fourth volume, Speak of the Devil, suffers from the same problem. This is a only a five-book series. By the penultimate book, I expect battle lines to be drawn, stakes to be raised, and our heroes to be marshalling their forces for a big old show-down.

Instead, most of Speak of the Devil focuses on Morgan's personal problems. Someone has fabricated evidence to make it look like she's having an affair with Adam, a demon-possessed cop, and so her boyfriend finishes with her, and she spends a lot of time flipping between heartbreak and fury. Which is fair enough, and Black is a good enough writer that I really sympathised with Morgan's position. But I was waiting for the "someone" who's working so hard to destroy Morgan to be revealed as part of Dougal's inner circle, out to destroy Lugh. Because that would make sense, right? (For those not familiar with the series, Lugh is the rightful king of the demons currently hiding out in Morgan's body, and Dougal (I have a lot of trouble taking a villain called Dougal seriously, by the way) is his brother, who plans to usurp him and take control of the human world).

Anyway, the "someone" turns out to be nothing to do with Dougal or Lugh, and whilst this was definitely an unexpected twist, I felt it jarred. Like I said, by book four in a series of five, I expect the pace to be escalating, but in Speak of the Devil it was slowed right down so Morgan could cry a lot and worry about whether she and Brian were meant to be. For the record, I don't think they are. These are two people who just seem to bring out the worst in each other, except in bed, and that's another problem I have with the book, but we'll get to that...

So, the plot is a little meandering and nothing is added to the overall arc. What I did like was the introduction of Barbie, a PI hired to scoop the dirt on Morgan, but who ends up joining forces with her. One thing this series has lacked is female presence besides Morgan. Morgan frequently admits she relates better to men than women, but even so I felt the introduction of a potential girl friend for Morgan added something to the book, balancing out the male-heavy environment and giving Morgan someone she can talk to who doesn't immediately mock or dismiss her. I also continue to love Adam and Dominic. It's refreshing to read gay characters who are real people, not just comedy sidekicks (I've read far too many books with "wacky" gay friends and it drives me mad). The fact that they have easily the healthiest relationship in the series, and that their interest in BDSM isn't used a short-hand for "messed up" or "evil" is also nice.

Speaking of sex, the reason I can only really rate this book as three stars instead of any higher, is the sex. Wait, let me explain! So we've established that Morgan and Brian spend this book at odds with each other because he thought she was having an affair. We've established that the only area they seem to truly connect is in the bedroom. Fair enough. But at the end of the book, when Morgan decides to invite Brian to a little S&M session to prove she trusts him and they should stay together, my jaw dropped. I just ... wow. For one thing, I don't really buy that Morgan or Brian are interested in S&M, despite Black trying to convey it. There's a world of difference between a little rough sex and full-on bondage, and it didn't ring true to me that the only way Morgan could think to convince Brian they should give their relationship another go was to present herself at his house with a case full of bondage gear.

For another, if you know the root of your relationship problems is lack of trust, a little rough sex isn't going to fix that and it doesn't prove anything except. Or at least it wouldn't to me. If Morgan genuinely believes she can slap a band-aid on their problems with some kinky bedroom shenanigans, she and Brian are definitely doomed. Am I wrong here? Sure, sex is important in a relationship, but if it's all you've got, which seems to be the case here, then it's not a relationship to begin with.

Maybe I'm being too harsh. I don't know. But this final chapter meant the book ended on an odd note for me. After watching Morgan struggle with her feelings for the whole book, feeling betrayed that Brian hadn't trusted her, admitting to herself that sometimes love just isn't enough, it felt ... sad to see her beg Brian to take her back. It won't put me off finishing the series (especially as I already own the last book), but I'm in the position here where I think Morgan would be better off alone, at least until the whole demon war thing is resolved.

4 / 24 words. 17% done!


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