Reviewed by Ulysses Dietz
Member of The Paranormal Romance Guild Review Team
Oy. Beauty and the beast, but both more complex and simpler. More complex in that the demon—sole survivor of a violent, cruel race of creatures—is “just” a demon. No handsome prince transformed by witchcraft. Known only as the Dark Rider, he has lived alone in the world for 1000 years, and for 700 of those years, building a vast estate, which he maintains with skill and thoughtful care for all of the people living under his protection. Thousands of people depend on him, and while some fear him, most realize that he has brought them nothing but good.
The Dark Rider’s only quirk is his consistent habit of picking up attractive young men, whisking them off to his manor house, and plowing them (as lovingly as he plows his fields) for a few weeks, before sending them on their way. No foul, no harm.
One day, a young man named Rees approaches the Dark Rider’s hunters and offers himself. He is nineteen, an orphan, and has a relentless, dead-end job loading the ships at the Town’s docks. He is also dying of a blood disorder, and figures he deserves a bit of pleasure in his short lifetime.
This is where it becomes simpler than the old fairytale. The demon likes what he sees, and so begins another in a centuries-old pattern of love ‘em and leave ‘em. What the author takes great pleasure in (presumably passing on that pleasure to his readers) is the minute detail he lavishes on the “love ‘em” part of the story. There is a genuine emotional uplift in reading about the demon’s care for Rees, this fragile human who has sought him out so that he might die happy. The Dark Rider sees Rees as a challenge—a test of the limits of his demonic magic, and of the power of his lust.
There is a logical progression in the demon’s plan for the blond-haired dockworker. Where this tale differs dramatically from the classic is that the demon has no expectation that there will be any love involved in his transaction with Rees. Therein lies both the surprise and the moral of the tale.
Love is powerful; but with love there must be sacrifice.
I confess that this book has sorely tested the limits of my interest in detailed sexual description. Roe Horvat is unquestionably better at such description than any other writer I’ve experienced. Trouble is, I’m just never going to be a committed fan of this kind of story. Horvat gives us plenty of emotional meat and potatoes with his erotic fairytale; but, for me, there’s just too much gravy.