Succubus in the City
by Nina Harper 
(Ballantine/DelRey, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-034549506-8
****
Lily’s a succubus, one of Satan’s Chosen.  Traditionally, a succubus works for Satan by tempting men into infidelity. And yes, Lily does that, but that’s the only “traditional” factor in this story. For example, Satan is a female who changes her appearance and mundane identity each generation. In this incarnation, she is known as Martha (Stewart?), which I found quite droll, and uses a Treo to keep her schedule and communicate with her otherworldly minions. 

I’ll begin by saying that although I truly enjoyed Succubus in the City, especially the author’s sly humor, the whole thing may have been a spoof of Sex and the City.  I can’t be sure (I may be the only human on earth who’s never seen the program), but something about the tone of the “rules for dating” discussions between Lily and her three demon BFFs (eg. don’t accept a date for Saturday if he asks you on Wednesday) seemed like they might have been influenced by the program. And Lily lives in Manhattan with her perpetually 20-something demon girlfriends and spends her off-duty time on extravagant lunches, designer shopping, quarts of Chunky Monkey ice cream (to combat depression) and enjoying girlfriend get-togethers. That said, you can be the judge as to whether having watched the TV show enhances the story or not. 

Lily’s not just any succubus – she’s a 3000 year old Babylonian priestess succubus who’s burnt out on making her “deliveries” to Satan each month. She’s lonely and wants a boyfriend, since all she usually has is one night stands that end with her “date” in ashes.  But Satan is not completely cold-hearted; Lily’s contract has an out clause: if a mortal loves her, knowing she’s a succubus, and does not have sex with her for a month, and Lily can prove to Satan that the man loves Lily for herself and not just for the sex, she can be freed. Unfortunately, Lily hasn’t yet met anyone even the slightest bit interesting. 

Enter Nathan Coleman, part-time private investigator and part-time doctoral candidate in Ancient Near Eastern languages, including Akkadian, the language of Lily’s youth. He contacts Lily because her name was found in the address book of a man reported missing by his wife, a client of the PI firm where he’s working.  No, no, the man was not one of Lily’s deliveries – she’s never seen the guy before.  

Lily becomes concerned that someone she doesn’t know has her contact info. After all, as a sex demon that turns her prey to ashes it pays to keep a low profile. In all her years in Manhattan she’s never had a visit from the police, and now at least two strangers have been able to track her down. She calls a pow-wow with Martha and the girls. 

It turns out that a secret society called the Knight Defenders is hunting Lily and her friends and has plans to exorcize them. Lily begins to wonder if Nathan showing up when he did is a coincidence; could he be a Knight Defender trying to get close? If so, she can’t allow herself to fall for him, even though he is thoughtful, clever, sensitive and cultured – plus he speaks Akkadian!  After 3000 years, her perfect mate.

I just have to revisit my earlier comment about the sly humor in this book. I found myself thinking “that’s clever” several times while I was reading.  Some brief examples: Satan uses the Windows operating system in Hell and in all her businesses because “it was one of Our premier acquisitions:; Her minions are responsible for the way airports operate these days – “we’ve been so successful we’re thinking of making it another level of Hell, the first new one in 100 years.. That of course made we wonder what happened 100 years ago.   

I was also amused because the otherworld has its own version of the Internet called the “Magic Mirror”, which seemed to function pretty close to ours except that your IM list might include Beelzebub, Mephistopheles and the Furies. At one point Lily is talking about how technology has made it so much easier to be a demon and that if she can use the Magic Mirror, any of her peers should be able to use it: “I have little patience with these Renaissance and Age of Reason types who are constantly confounded by technology while an oldster like me can figure out how to download the shareware to manage my schedule from my laptop.”   There are lots of historical references strewn throughout to keep things interesting.

Fashion references also abound in Succubus in the City, so anyone who knows Manhattan and can identify with the thrill of a Kate Spade bag, La Perla undies or Christian Louboutin boots will gain extra pleasure from the story. 

Despite a rather abrupt ending, fans of lighter paranormal romances will find a lot to like in Succubus in the City.

--Jean Ward


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