|Inspector Adrian Phillips works in Harborside, trying to keep the peace between demons and humans. Harborside is the slum of Avvar, a city rather like Victorian London. Adrian has been enhanced by implants that give him demon-like strength, and while they have also enhanced him, they have cost him his marriage and the respect of his fellow officers. He spends his free time looking for lost boys, likely to have been kidnapped by the Harborside demons, and wishing he could find someone to love and care about. Late one night, he is badly beaten and stabbed by demons, and his implants allow him to barely escape with his life. He climbs up to the top of one of the buildings just outside Harborside, and collapses in the rooftop garden.
Adrian is found by Roxanne McAllister, an artist and foster mother to two boys, who is just as alone as Adrian. She is the illegitimate daughter of a singer as famous for her liaisons as for her voice. She saves Adrianís life, and both are puzzled by the unusual attraction they feel for each other. However, Charles, the older of the two boys who live with her, doesnít trust him at all. Max, whoís only five, takes to him right away. But when Adrian has recovered enough to leave several days later, Charles follows him and discovers that heís a policeman.
This is a problem for Roxanne, who has no legal guardianship over the two scared and starving boys she found in the street, although she loves them very much, and calls them her family. All three of them have had lonely and difficult lives, and trusting comes very hard for them. Roxanne doesnít even know who her father is. Adrianís more conventional upbringing in a well-to-do and happy family with many brothers and sisters allowed him to both love and trust until his implants made his wife reject him as a demon, and he withdrew from his family, afraid of their opinions as well.
Roxanne and the boys reject Adrian, but he and Roxanne canít stay away from each other. When a rich and powerful demon comes to look at her paintings, they recognize each other as father and daughter, although demons and humans had never before been able to reproduce. The father begins to pursue her, even though Roxanne wants nothing to do with him. His superiors want her so they can experiment on her, and find out how she was conceived. Adrian is the only person to whom she can turn for safety. But Herrington, her father, is nothing if not persistent.
The plot and setting of this book take some getting used to, but the excerpts from ďThe True and Irreverent History of AvvarĒ that head each chapter do fill in the blanks rather quickly. With the exception of the demons, this story could take place in Victorian England, rather than on another planet where a race of technologically advanced beings who can draw energy from others around them, especially humans, and are called demons. The humans and demons have a shaky peace that Adrian and a few other enhanced policemen try to maintain. The demons give humans their technology and the humans (or at least some of them) share their energies with the demons. It is addictive for both parties, and destructive to the humans as well.
Thereís a large cast of characters here, but they are each so well-drawn that itís not hard to keep track of them. Even Max and Charles are fully-realized, both tough from their lives on the street. But while Max is a typical five-year-old, Charles is not typical at all ó he is a superb cook, and wants to become a chef. Herrington, even though he is a demon, is a sympathetic character, torn by his love for his daughter and his loyalty to his superiors and to his prince. The final twists of the plot reveal new sides to each of their characters, making for some unexpected developments. Both Adrian and Roxanne have secrets that they must share, and revelations that they must both accept. They are both part demon, unusually strong and sexually charged, and their matings are very physical, but they both have a number of issues outside the bedroom to resolve.
Holly has created another gripping story here, one with many characters and many layers, that gives the reader something to think about after the last page is turned. However, unlike her Strange Attractions, the sex is less wild and less at the forefront of the plot, which centers more on characters and action than on sexual adventures, which may make this title more accessible to a wider audience.
--Joni Richards Bodart