Sunday, August 1, 2010

Review- The Devil Inside by Ali Vali

The Devil Inside
by Ali Vali
Jan 1, 2006
Contemporary/ Suspense/Lesbian
304 pgs. – Bold Strokes Books

Buy it Amazon, Bold Strokes Books

Brains, guts, and ruthless ambition should be enough to come out on top in any fight. Except when the battle is over love, all bets are off. Derby Cain Casey was groomed from birth to take the reins of the Casey family enterprises, which just happens to be one of the major crime organizations in New Orleans.

Surviving by never turning away from a fight and knowing how to win at all costs, Cain is as careful with her heart as she is with her business - until she meets Emma Verde. The farm girl from Wisconsin puts a hit out on Cain’s heart and leads her down a dangerous road filled with great joy and devastating sorrow.

The Devil Inside is the
story of unexpected passion, a shattering betrayal, and the challenge of love put to the test.

The Devil inside is one of the best books I’ve read recently. It’s a well written suspense story with characters that totally pop. Cain Casey is one of the most provocative and unique characters I’ve read in a long while. The Devil Inside is also pretty heavy on parent/child relationship dynamics, which was different as well.

Cain and Emma come from completely different worlds. Emma is a farm girl from Wisconsin with a strict, closed minded, religiously conservative mother who condemns her for being a lesbian, although her father is a lot more open.

Cain is from a tight knit Irish crime family. She’s been brought up in an atmosphere in which loyalty and family are number one. When her father died, he left the family business to her and she’s become one of the most powerful crime bosses in New Orleans.

Cain and Emma fell in love, set up house together and had a child; the sperm donation from Cain’s brother. One day, something bad happens to Emma and Cain takes care of, um, punishing the person, which freaks Emma. Emma decides she can’t stand being part of whatever Cain does for the family business and leaves, never contacting them again.

The story starts to really kick in when Emma suddenly shows up after 4 years wanting to be back in their son Hayden’s life, but with an ulterior motive and a few secrets she’s hiding. At the same time, Cain is in a constant mouse and cat game with the FBI, while she seeks revenge on the person who killed and tortured her developmentally challenged sister.

The suspense part of this story is full of intrigue and realistically written. Cain is brilliant, but has vulnerabilities and is always one step ahead of the FBI, although the FBI head who’s been on Cain’s tail for years has become obsessed with bringing her down at any cost. Ali Vali constantly switched things up so I never really knew what was going on with Cain, Emma, the FBI and other intrigue and this kept the suspense and tension very high.

The relationships in this story are real and complexly developed as well. Cain herself is such a delicious character. One would think that what she does and who she is would be a turn off and cause the reader to chose Emma to root for, however, Ali Vali walked a really tight line with her. She’s not as cut and dry as one would think. Things that both Cain and Emma do ask the reader to question actions that aren’t usually considered kosher or agreeable to most.

Even though she does what she does, Cain has a strong code of ethics, honor and loyalty with all the people she loves and she will do whatever it takes to protect them. The way she deals with Hayden as a parent is so clean cut and mature, while she acknowledges that Emma is his mother and she deserves some respect for that even if she herself is angry and unforgiving of Emma for leaving. She's definitely a character that leaves you thinking a lot.

Emma in this story is not as developed as Cain. It’s clear that she’s got the best intentions but she’s done several things against Cain and her son that say “I’m not with you through thick and thin.” She also goes back home to her parents after leaving, which I just didn’t get. Her mother really is one of those nasty people who think their piousness makes them better than everyone else while they condemn everyone who don’t think like them. Particularly she treats Emma like crap. I just couldn’t get why Emma would go back to that or even listen to her mom, whom she still lets influence her.

The contrast between Cain and Emma though is what makes part of this story good. It’s clear that they do have strong feelings for each other, feelings that might still have to be dealt with. But trying to work it out is part of this story, so it’s not really a love story, but more a love story of two people who are trying to heal on some level with a bumpy road ahead. And for those who like family dynamics with kids and all, this story has a lot of that.

The only thing that bugged me in how this book was written was the use of flashbacks. I found that they were awkward at times and I felt they were inserted too often to let us know some of the back story. Sometimes flashbacks work really well on the level of keeping a story on a current pace while giving more background, but in this case sometimes it was too much information or went overboard. But this was Ali Vali's first book, so one might expect a few funky things. Mostly though, I really enjoyed Ali Vali’s style of writing and it came across as very polished and well done.

One thing I did really like about the fact that this story is about two lesbians basically, is that it was written as if being a lesbian was normal and accepted in society. Not one person questions it for either women outside of Emma’s mother. Not anyone in the FBI, nor the crime families, nor anyone else in the story. It was treated as if being a lesbian were a common, everyday thing in society. I loved this because wouldn’t it be so cool if that were the case?

One thing I do have to warn people about, I didn’t realize this was the first book of a series and I was very disappointed in the end. It was left off rather abruptly and with no resolution to Cain, Emma and Hayden’s working things out, or Cain’s war with a rival crime boss. But knowing there are 3 more books that continue on with the story made me feel better.

All in all The Devil Inside is an excellent read and a definite recommend to anyone who likes suspense.

Heat level: 3 There are some sex scenes but they aren’t too graphic and are only a small part of the story.

Grade: A-


Jill Sorenson said...

I'd have a hard time identifying with a mother who leaves her child to be raised by an ex. I watched a movie with this theme that I really enjoyed --she was a truck driver, can't remember the name, Nathan Fillian was in it--anyway, not what I want in a romance heroine.

Just to be totally judgmental and stuff!

LVLM said...

Yeah, there are extenuating circumstances about her leaving her son and wife. I didn't want to give everything away so I didn't put it in the review.

I can tell you privately if you want to know. Still probably won't change your mind though. I know that that is a deal breaker for some people.

There is character growth and she tries to make amends.

I kind of liked it because sometimes I just like characters who don't act in stereotypical ways. And a mother leaving her child behind even if for a good reason, is hard to swallow for many.

And, it's not really a romance even though it's touted as one. It's more like a couple with problems trying to work it out.

Still, I love this book and will get the next few to see where it goes.