Friday, September 19, 2008

Dante's Inferno by Evie Byrne

TITLE: Dante's Inferno
AUTHOR: Evie Byrne
PUBLISHER: Samhain Publishing
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 39k)
GENRE: Historical erotic romance
COST: $4.50

Serena Alberenghi yearns for adventure. Widowed from a much older, gentle man, trapped in Venetian society, she escapes to the Carnival one night, just to be able to breathe. What she gets is the most exciting liaison of her life, with a mysterious masked man who steals the breath she wished to exhale. Neither are content with just that one night, however, and he returns in search of her, promising to fulfill only her needs this time if she’ll agree to spend time with him. Serena agrees, but on the condition they remain anonymous. Unfortunately, the truth always has a way of coming out…

The best word to describe this? A romp. It’s packed with invigorating detail, breathless sex scenes, and best of all, characters I like even when I want to throttle them. The story starts out with Serena throwing everything to the wind to experience the Carnival, and when her mysterious dance partner seduces her away to an alley, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the moment with her. There’s an intensity between them, as she experiences passion for the first time in her life and then after when he realizes he’s made a terrible mistake thinking she’s a whore. I loved it. Devoured it. Was actually thrilled when Dante, the hero, decided to seek her out again.

Their second meeting was as hot as the first. In fact, all of their interactions carried the same sparkling chemistry that tips them off from the first page as one of those couples that actually work. Where I got frustrated – but certainly not to the point of disliking either of them – was their tendency to overreact. Dante is a tad on the volatile side, while Serena’s lack of experience with the other sex has her taking offenses to greater heights than I think a lot of women would. When the truth of their identities comes out, they then act even more impulsively instead of talking it out. It never bothered me, though. There’s a sharp wit to the author’s voice, and even when these two were creating a scene, I found myself smiling and laughing, shaking my head and thinking, “Oh, these crazy kids…”

In fact, the story only gets held back for me in two small ways. First of all, the author has a tendency to switch POV’s without breaks. I wouldn’t call it headhopping, because honestly, the prose goes for huge long sections in each. I wondered, too, if it might have been a formatting error because in more than one spot, it felt like an entirely new scene. The effect was to create an occasional speed bump while I was reading, where I had to slow down and smooth over the transition in my head. The story’s second weakness rests in the dialogue. The period detail in the prose is exquisite; it’s rich without being heavy and paints a world that’s very easy to believe in. Yet, both Serena and Dante seem to talk in very modern language, using terminology in their speech that jars the sense of time. The story takes place in 1750, but some of the slang makes it feel much more contemporary.

In spite of the minor flaws, however, this was a delight to read, escapist and fun. Racing to the end to see a couple’s happy ending – a couple where I was equally invested in both the characters – hasn’t been this beguiling in a long time.


8/10 – An invigorating romp that only gets held back by my dislike for switching pov’s without breaks


8/10 – How can you not like a man who gets as swept away as this?


8/10 – Honest and bold, I only wished she’d maintained the same level of sensibility when they were both being boneheads

Entertainment value

9/10 – Hot and romantic

World building

8/10 – The expositional period detail is wonderful, but it gets let down by dialogue that sounds very out of place.




Evie Byrne said...

I wanted to thank you for your kind and well considered review.

But most of all I wanted to tell you how delighted I was that you opened with that quote from the Twelfth Night, because I was thinking precisely of goofy Shakespeare comedies and unlikely opera plots when I wrote Dante's Inferno.

All best,


Book Utopia Mom said...

It was an absolute delight, so the pleasure was mine. I'm really looking forward to seeing your new releases at Samhain. :)

Kate Willoughby said...

I, too, loved Dante's Inferno. Evie is a fantastic writer already, and I anticipate many more MORE wonderful books from her.