Sympathy for the Devil

Christine Pope

[The Devil You Know 1]

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Heaven is a step away…until it all goes to Hell in a handbasket.

Ruling Hell isn’t all that much fun anymore. With humans so adept at corrupting themselves, frankly, the Devil is bored and ready to do anything for a change of scenery.

Predictably, God’s got a catch: Lucifer must fall in love, and the woman in question must surrender her heart. A woman has even been pre-selected for him, ripe and ready for picking, so how hard can it be? A little charm, a little magic, and Heaven will be his.

Luke Nicolini is everything Christa Simms — any woman, really — dreams about. Deep blue eyes, knee-melting smile, divine Cosmo-making skills. Then there’s that instant teleportation thing, and his refreshing honesty about who he is.

The mystery? Why the Devil, who could have anything, anyone he wants, would look twice at her — ordinary, unremarkable Christa Simms. But it’s her birthday, she’s alone, and if the Devil wants to show her a good time, she’s in.

But even the best of intentions can turn the road to love into a slippery slope. And when Luke goes one step too far, love — and Heaven — could slip forever beyond his reach.

⭐⭐⭐

Here there be spoilers.

I am a sucker for romances derived from theological bad guys (or at least theological concepts that humankind doesn’t necessarily want to experience first-hand): devils, demons, horsemen, you name it, I’m all over it. When I stumbled across this, I snapped it up and shuffled it to the top of my to-read pile.

It didn’t take me long after starting it, however, to realize that this was not going to be a favorite.

The general concept was interesting enough: the Devil is tired of Hell and God offers him a bargain to leave his post, which revolves around finding love with a woman of God’s choosing who knows him for who (or, rather, what) he is. How could the Devil refuse an offer like that?

Unfortunately, the woman turned out to be Christa.

I quickly found myself disliking Christa. A lot. To the point that I had to put the book down and walk away multiple times in an attempt to avoid abandoning it. She’s entitled and spoiled and self-centered and just flat. Her relationships with her friends and family struck me as shallow, an endless procession of grudging meetings and fake smiles. She was marginally more interesting with Luke, but even then she was forgettable.

Given that 90% of the story was from her point of view, that’s kind of a bad sign.

Speaking of point of view, it would’ve been a lot more interesting to head hop into Luke’s every now and again if we’re going to head hop at all. (I’m not asking for a full dual-POV book, but some insight would’ve been nice. I’m not counting the prologue, focused on God and the Devil but entirely third-person.) We got some gratuitous scenes from Beelzebub and Asmodeus’s perspectives, but they smacked more of set-up for sequels than anything that really added to this book.

The various conflicts were… meh. I expected the storyline with Christa’s current boyfriend to play out far differently; it petered out with a whimper. The same goes for the encounter with her ex and, honestly, the big culmination of her romance with Luke. I had to reread the “I love you.” bit a few times because Luke became mortal in the space of two paragraphs–very underwhelming. I like fluff, but even I want some tension!

Overall, it felt kind of like a mess, too many ideas crammed into a glorified diary. The drama with Christa’s family, the drama with her friends, the drama with her job… it was too much of everything and not enough of anything. It could’ve been tightened up a lot, instead of turning into something that plodded turgidly on in parts.

tl;dr Come for the Devil, go for the unlikeable human.