Incubus by Carol Goodman
Review by Penelope Glen
These days we are surrounded by supernatural romance.
Its popularity is understandable and undoubtedly irresistible due to the time honoured enjoyment of dark romance and gothic fiction that surfaces every now and again into a new generation. The enjoyment comes from our deep rooted fantasies and simply gaining pleasure from the combination of terror and lust. The feeling is manipulative and reveals the undisclosed desires that most of us didn’t know existed. Addictive is definitely the word for it…
The most well known gothic fantasy novels are stories like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre or more recently stories like the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles, The Southern Vampire Mysteries (or True Blood) by Charlaine Harris or The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. Most of these stories have something in common: a dark stranger seducing a young, beautiful and virginal girl and eventually turning her desires against her. In addition, these stories often have a horror element that serves as the allegorical consequence of succumbing to temptation.
The above works of fiction (especially the later ones) have evolved into the most popular films/television programmes around, proving that contemporary audiences still need a bit of mystery and dark seduction in their romance.
Carol Goodman knows this and uses this to her advantage – successfully bringing together a welcome injection of gothic mystery back into a supernatural romance story.
Incubus is the first instalment of Goodman’s Fairwick Chronicles and follows young and beautiful Professor Cailleach (Callie) McFay on her journey of self discovery in the small, mysterious town of Fairwick. She begins her new job teaching folklore at the college, makes new (strange) friends and a voice inside tempts her to buy a beautiful but very isolated cottage on the edge of a dark wood. Along with the magic of Fairwick, Callie unlocks a power inside her and in doing so it releases a creature from her dreams that continuously tempts her into vividly erotic fantasies. Sounds great, but the problem with this is that the titular incubus is slowly draining her life away.
Can Callie resist this Dark Stranger? Or will he ultimately pull her down into the darkness he now inhabits?
I very much enjoyed reading this book and without a doubt can say that Goodman’s Fairwick Chronicles have a lot of potential for future reading. The characters as well as Callie are intricately crafted by Goodman who shows evidence of not only knowing what she is doing in terms of writing gothic fiction, but gets a lot of enjoyment out of it too. Not knowing her work very well, I keep getting the feeling that this novel seems like a new foray into something Goodman hasn’t explored before. I know little of her previous work but judging by my enjoyment of this one, I’d like to do a bit of a catch-up read. If she has delved into the supernatural romance before, perhaps it’s the lack of familiarity of starting a series that gives me the above impression.
The only thing a little off with Incubus is the pacing of the story. When Callie isn’t dealing with her incubus or the supernatural elements she uncovers I feel as though the story is caught in a slow release of information. It could be a clever intention by the author or an oversight because you could say that the reader is being lulled into a romantic and seductive trance. This is not unlike what Callie experiences with her incubus in the first half of the book. Personally, I’m not sure that it works as effectively as Goodman intended it.
Callie obviously has no idea about the existence of the supernatural in the beginning of the book and believes that supernatural creatures only exist in literature. However, when she finds out that this is not the case she seems to accept it right away with little or no explanation as to why. I felt a little like an outsider looking in as opposed to letting the story become part of my imagination. The ending does satisfy though, tying up all loose ends and giving more surprises that I didn’t expect.
Callie herself is a strong and a well written personality who is easily lovable and can be connected with from the get go. Her character is the typical heroine for these sorts of stories e.g. estranged/dead family, boyfriend not quite cutting it in the sex department (due to competition from an incubus in this case) and a large amount of money saved from an inheritance so she can afford things like a new house to fit in with the community. This typical character template doesn’t hinder her character though as Goodman builds on Callie’s strengths and exploits her weaknesses, especially in her need for the incubus.
The erotica holds up, but I wonder how many ways that someone can describe an orgasm before it starts to get a little silly. I appreciate that sex with an incubus within a dream could be a little trippy, but I found myself connecting more to Dahlia Lamotte’s (previous occupant of her cottage and gothic author) way of describing fantastic, mind blowing sex than Callie’s. I can also say that I understand that Goodman perhaps may have needed more subtle sex scenes and not a vulgar blow by blow account. She observes that the atmospheric mystery and allure of sex is more enticing than the act itself, staying faithfully true to gothic conventions.
I also appreciate that Callie is a teacher of folklore and gothic literature and has to know/teach these stories to her students, but there are one too many references to Charlaine Harris or Stephanie Meyer. The older, classic novels (Jane Eyre, Dracula) provide an anchor to the themes in the story but it seems as though Goodman is a little nervous to stand on her own two feet in this genre with other authors who have their feet planted firmly within the paranormal ground. This story doesn’t really need all of those references as it is an enjoyable, solid, gothic fantasy offering worthy of its own merit. I know that I have mentioned the other authors for the benefit of this review, but she doesn’t need to.
The setting of Incubus has a seamless cohesion between our world and the paranormal, as well as fantastic descriptive language that transports the reader into a very life-like environment.
To be honest, the language methods that Goodman chooses to weave her story with are much more to my liking than a Sookie Stackhouse novel. Although I love the show and admire Harris for her creativity, the novels are a little too simplistic for me to get fully into. Goodman solves this by adding a bit of descriptive complexity into everything Callie may interact with or see as part of her day to day life. It’s quite mesmerizing really. It may have also added to the problem of pacing so I guess that an author can only work with one or the other.
I am definitely looking forward to the next story in the series and I’m hoping that after Goodman has dipped her toes into this genre, she’ll feel comfortable enough to take a dive into her next adventure with the confidence that she deserves.
Thomas Jack from St Davids
I found this book very interesting. It's the perfect thing for me to read when I am having a little bit of Thomas Time. I want my very own incubus now. Can I have one for Christmas? I have been a good little boy. I can't wait for the next book!!
Sophie from London
Highly recommended if you like this genre, can't wait for book 2.
Sue from Sheffield
Kelly from Sheffield, England
Brilliant, I loved every second and I want book 2 now! lol
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