DEMONS OF THE PAST
Abraham Stirling, Lord Rothwell, was a fighter once, a soldier in the Colonies. But Bram returned to London with more nightmares than tales of glory. Now he drowns his senses in the arms of countless women, while his friends, the Hellraisers, ensure he needn’t sin alone.
Until, that is, the Devil himself grants them each a wish, undoing their camaraderie as they explore their wicked powers. Bram finds himself magically bound to Valeria Livia Corva, the sensuous priestess who raised the Devil the first time—and died to send the demon back.
She may be a ghost, but Livia is no angel. The raw passion she witnesses in Bram’s memories isn’t much different from her behavior when she had a body to enjoy. But it doesn’t make it any easier to convince Bram to become a warrior again, lest all London burn. And the fierce desires reawakening within her might just start the blaze…
This blurb came from the author’s website.
Once, there were five friends who enjoyed everything London had to offer, the more outrageous the better, hence earning the nickname of The Hellraisers. Then one day those five friends spurred on by ambition, frustrated desires, a sense of invulnerability, and a dangerous amount of knowledge decided to make a deal with the Devil. Each received a specific power that was tied to their greatest obsession. Of course the Devil’s bargain is never exactly as it appears on the surface. The more the five friends used their particular powers, they more they fell into the Devil’s power and the more their friendship became superficial.
I have read and enjoyed the previous two books in Archer’s Hellraisers series. You can see my thoughts on Devil’s Kiss, book 1, and Demon’s Bride, book 2, by clicking on the titles. With each installment, Archer kept the stakes and tension not just between The Hellraisers, but for London and then world. Because Sinner’s Heart is the concluding book in this trilogy I will not be able to review it without spoilers for the previous installments. If you have not read them and do not want to be spoiled, you need to leave this review now.
Out of the five friends, by the end of Demon’s Bride, two regained control of their souls from the devil, one was killed in the last major fight between The Hellraisers, and two were still upholding their deal with the Devil. Also during that confrontation as an attempt to both keep control and to remove those who resisted his influence, the Devil sent additional power towards John and Bram. John accepted his but something got in the way of Bram’s.
Livia has been a constant thread throughout the series but we have not learned a lot about her. She is a ghost of sorts with magical power who helped the heroes and heroines of two previous books win free of the Devil’s influence. She knew a surprising amount about the Devil, his plans, and what the result would be if he succeeded. While she assisted the former Hellraisers, she also kept the amount of information she provided to the minimum necessary, which I will admit caused me to wonder about her motivations. All of her secrecy changed in Sinner’s Heart. Livia became a very complex character who despite all of her knowledge and experience still had to fight against temptation in during the struggle to defeat the Devil. I enjoyed the glimpses into her past and her motivation as she gradually opened up to Bram as she tried to sway him away from John and the Devil’s bargain. I also thought it was fascinating to have a non-corporeal being still affected by corporeal desires.
Bram was another complex character. He started full of energy, motivation, and innocence with trust and faith in his fellow man but returned from war bitter, disillusioned, and suffering from PTSD. All of which made him an easy target for the Devil and a very hard person to manipulate. He forced Livia to open up to him and be honest about her reasons and why she knew what would happen instead of trying to appeal to his “higher” senses. Once Bram made up his mind, he was a force to be reckoned with and throughout the entire book a lot of fun to watch.
Bram and Livia just worked with each other. Each was used to manipulating other people. Each thought they could play with fire and not get burned. Each was searching for something to fill their inner void, a reason for living and fighting. They also had enough darkness and depravity to actually understand and relate to each other. Both Livia and Bram had to grow, mature, and admit their weaknesses before they became an effective unified force capable of fighting. Each had to make a decision and then reaffirm that decision with increasingly higher stakes and more focused temptations.
As fascinated as I was with their story I also liked how Archer kept things moving with the Devil’s plans to take over the world. She shifted London’s entire atmosphere but did it gradually so until it was pointed out to a character you really did not notice the changes. She also made the struggle truly epic by requiring the help from the former Hellraisers and other entities. For a while, I was wondering where the previous couples where and how their reunion with Bram was going to go but Archer handled that nicely. Both the leftover emotions between the men and the reason for their absence fit perfectly.
When I finished reading Sinner’s Heart I was able to give a very contented sigh because Archer wrote a very satisfying conclusion. She had an epic battle, an ongoing struggle to reclaim Bram’s soul that was in doubt on numerous occasions, and a creative solution. She tied everything up yet made her characters work for the ending so I did not feel cheated with the final climatic scene.
I give Sinner’s Heart an A