We start with one of the more outlandish titles I've read. Lord Satan by Janet Louise Roberts (but whose copyright lists a name of "Louisa Bronte," which makes you wonder if she truly is related to those wacky sisters of old).
Most gothics deal with supernatural material, but like most episodes of "Scooby Doo," the truth is that people are either under the influence of something (drugs, poison, paint chips or massive guilt combined with a touch of crazy) or they are just plain up to no good. This novel, barely larger than a novella, actually offers up not just one devil but two. Well, technically, three, but that would be spoiling things if I explained.
You have your basic set up here. Beautiful, young, innocent girl, suddenly alone in the world, discovers she has a distant relative, in this case a cousin. She travels to his castle. He is handsome and brutal, and our chaste heroine doesn't understand why her underthings get damp when cousin Vincent whips and curses some poor servant. Before you can ignore the vague incest element (Oh, come on! We ARE talking about Victorian Europe here, for the love of God!!), our perky, sickeningly sweet character stumbles upon a Satanic mass with nude women and bloodletting. What has she gotten herself into?!? But she seems to forget the next day when her rugged cousin talks to her and wiggles his eyebrows at her.
Soon she is falling for this lout and trying to change his ways. Still fairly typical of this sort of thing. Oh, I forgot to mention Vincent's dearly departed mommy keeps popping up to chat with our heroine about how to run the house and how to remove ring around the collar. Toss in slaughtered girls on the moors, rumors about Vincent's status amongst the townspeople, Vincent's growing love for his dear cousin and the admission he is half-devil.
Hang on. Did you just say, Vincent is a half-devil? Yup. A real cinder of the old block because Daddy was a full-blooded devil. No, really, you aren't misreading this. Devils. Magic powers. Chats with Satan. Cavorting with denizens of the Underworld. Yes, a devil.
And now this dirty devil wants to marry our poor sweet God-fearing girl.
This could be a sitcom. The scenes in which the Devil Daddy comes to have dinner with his half-breed son and his blonde squeeze are loopy and funnier than they were meant to be. The catch phrase could be "Vincent! You got some damning to explain."
Okay, I'll let up. Is this any good? Well, at 159 pages, there isn't enough time to find a lot to bitch about. It moves fast enough. And it almost seems like the story is nearly beside the point because the author obviously liked the characters, and she almost lets them overpower the story. Our plucky heroine maintains her sense of purpose and shows her loyalty and devotion by the time you reach the end, so she doesn't leave a completely bad taste in your mouth.
Verdict: Not as fun as a TMX ELmo, but good for a quick read.