Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE ROAD TO HELL by Jackie Kessler

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The Road to Hell is newbie author Jackie Kessler’s second foray into the paranormal romance field that’s just burgeoning with vampires, werewolves, witches, and other supernatural things. Kessler has played a trump card that’s going to be hard to beat. Her heroine, known in the mortal world – translation, our world, as Jesse Harris was actually a demon named Jezebel. From Hell. Yep, Hell – with a capital H. For four thousand years.The story of how she became human – well, mostly – is told in the first novel, Hell’s Belles. This one just came out and people should know it’s out there. I’ve read both books. Couldn’t help myself. The devil – or, at least, Jesse – made me do it.

In the mortal world, Jesse’s main squeeze is vice detective Paul Hamilton, who has no clue about Jesse’s otherworldly origins. To him, she’s the most wonderful woman he’s ever known. Except for that little faux pas she has of being a stripper at a gentlemen’s club. And trust me, the gentlemen at that club don’t exactly act gentlemanly, as the opening pages of the novel reveal.

And Jesse hasn’t forgotten she was once a succubus of seduction. She enjoys sex in all forms. Stripping just kind of takes the edge off of no longer being a practicing demon. Or maybe it builds her appetite for when Paul comes home. After reading the books, I think it’s probably a mixture of both.

What I can tell you with all certainty is that Kessler has created a spunky, foul-mouthed, straight-shooting, character that still maintains an endearing innocence even after four thousand years of sin. Jesse/Jezebel is a hoot. I should be ashamed for enjoying her ribald adventures so thoroughly. Probably I am. But Jesse (and Kessler) is a supreme provocateur and seductress. I claim being bespelled as my defense.

Kessler’s prose and pacing are engrossing. Readers aren’t going to be able to pick her books up and read casually. They’re going to be hooked by the cleverness, whipped into a frenzy by the blatant eroticism and honesty, and left in a lather when the last page of a book is turned.

She reads like an old hand. She admits on her website to enjoying comic books and writing fan fiction. Still, you can sharpen your craft there, but Kessler writes like she’s been through the finishing school for fiction writers.

Perhaps some of the characters don’t come across on the page as strongly as they might, but there’s no need. With Kessler holding the reins and the novel bolting like a thoroughbred with its tail on fire, you’re simply not going to have time to give them that kind of consideration. They work. They have problems, goals, dreams, and desires (most of them sinful or sexual, of course).

And Jesse/Jezebel is a honest and appealing (in oh-so-many ways), that anyone who is even modestly intrigued by this kind of fiction is going to be swept away and dropkicked into a functionally realized world that makes its own macabre sense. The mythology, the way she redeemed demons – mostly, was intriguing. The background isn’t why someone probably picks paranormal romance up, but those writers that pay attention to it really stand out in the field. Kessler is fast becoming one of those.

Though she hasn’t given up all her demonic thoughts, Jesse strives to live life as a mortal woman because she loves Paul. The problem is that she escaped Hell (her job classification had been changed from Seductress to Betrayer and that didn’t suit her nature at all). And now Hell has come looking for her.

Jesse’s best friends try to bait her into returning to Hell. First through guilt (after all, her one-time best friend Meg – one of the Greek Erinyes, also called the Furies) has gone missing. And anything strong enough to make a Fury disappear has got to be considerable. These attempts are hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud several times. Don’t do this in public, because trying to explain the erotically-laden plot, quips, puns, and jokes isn’t meant for the public transport or water cooler crowd. Unless you’re in an especially permissive public transport or water cooler crowd.

Then Dauuan, her one-time casual lover for thousands of years who knew best what she really wanted and craved, tries to seduce her into losing her newly-won soul. That, at times, had me in tears as I laughed at both of them dancing around their changed relationship.

Jesse decides that things in Hell must have truly gone to Hell with all of these things going wrong. But she avoids guilt, sympathy, and clever traps with aplomb.

Then, when nothing else has worked, Meg’s sister Fury seduces Paul and strips his soul from him. She takes it to Hell. And Jesse now has no choice but to go there to rescue him.

The book, as long as it is, will be one of the quickest reads you’ve ever had. The events basically take place in one day, but it’s a day that progresses at breakneck speed and with twists and turns and loops that a prize-winning rollercoaster would envy.

Read one of Kessler’s books and she’ll seduce you into her private fandom.


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