Incubus by Carol Goodman (Ebury Press, 2011) from the library!
‘This is where all stories start, on the edge of a dark wood…’
Dr. Callie McFay travels to the small college town of Fairwick in New York State for a job interview. Despite it being her second choice she finds herself talked into accepting a job offer from the Folklore Department to teach a class on demons and vampires. She also finds herself drawn to an old house in the woods where Gothic novelist Dahlia LaMotte used to live and buys it on a whim, despite the seeming reluctance of the estate agent to sell it to her.
But on the night of her job interview, she had a very vivid erotic dream about a man made out of shadows and moonlight, and this dream becomes a regular occurrence when she moves into her new home. Callie starts to feel like a heroine in one of the gothic novels she teaches as slowly it dawns on her that things at the college – and in her home – are not what they seem. She learns that her house is supposed to be haunted by LaMotte’s former lover and her new – and rather strange – colleagues tell her an unfamiliar fairy tale about an incubus-demon with a human past who was enchanted by a fairy queen…
So, I think this book was first published under the author’s name.. and then later published under a pseudonym ‘Juliet Dark’, and it made me wonder why- Maybe they want to make more of an obvious divide between what she writes in this genre and her other published works? Maybe the author wanted to pretend it didn’t exist?
Yes. That was a little harsh. But I wasn’t wowed by this book. And it aggravated me- not because the author can’t write, because she can! There are some really wonderful turns of phrase and scenes. But I just felt like it could have been better. So much better.
What Didn’t Work For Me?
Callie – Yep, it’s pretty dire when the main character doesn’t do anything for you. My main issue was that she always seemed to be looking down her nose at everyone. I think she even describes one of her defence mechanisms as ‘snooty’, but this appears to be a default setting for Callie. I really liked Fairwick, and its set up, I also loved characters like Phoenix.. but Callie was always disdainful of what they said and did. Small town sentimentalities weren’t good enough for her.. but then the big city dwellers seemed to irk her too. Was their anyone she liked? Other than a life sucking demon?
Perspective – The problem with the first person perspective is that if there isn’t a constant flow of action, or if the pace lulls.. then the reader falls asleep. Sometimes the narrative was lacking punch and I found myself drifting. From a third person perspective I think you can get away with more of a lull because there are other people/things to concentrate on.
Academic name dropping – If you’ve studied the Romantic and the Gothic then this would have clanged big style. I felt like there was a constant academic kind of posturing going on, like there was something to prove. For people who haven’t studied the Gothic genre closely, then most of the references will go over their heads, but those of us that have.. it’s old hat. The Madwoman in the Attic? I think every classic women’s literature buff or Gothic enthusiast has this book.
Descriptive Filler – There were moments were I was itching for my red pen. Some paragraphs were doing nothing for the story or to develop character. It was almost painful to read how Callie unpacked her things and placed them on/around the desk. A letter opener from Scotland, a mug from Oxford, some stones, a shell, a cuddly toy! A microwave oven! A jet ski! …it started to feel like a conveyor belt on a game show. If you can remember it, you win it!
‘Lake Country’ – Yeah… I think it’s actually the ‘Lake District’
Quick to the punch – there was no sizzle for me because the erotic element is full-on from the get go. There was no tension or suspense. We knew what this demon was gonna do to her night after night. And I just felt nothing. The relationship with Liam was more like it.. but the ‘twist’ fell flat for me because there were no real hints, and it didn’t really make any sense for it to happen.
I finished this book and was annoyed. I love the concept of it and I can see how it could be shaken up a bit to make it something spectacular. There’s mention of both Charlaine Harris and Stephanie Meyer in this book (and on the cover too!) and part of me felt like maybe this was trying to be like them.. and ultimately failing because the set-up is entirely different.
I feel like I’ve been bashing this book too hard. I mean, I liked it. And I can’t say I was bored. The author sure can write! Some of the descriptions are utterly gorgeous and there is some truly unique characterisation going on. I was just disappointed because I can see it.. I can see how it could be something so much better.
I gave it a steady 2 out of 5 stars.
I will continue with this series, but I’m not sure when. 🙂