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Hell’s Belles by Jackie Kessler

This is the first book by Ms Kessler that I’ve read, and also the beginning of her Hell on Earth series. I am most definitely going to be reading the rest of these books, let me tell you. For labeling purposes, we’ll call Hell’s Belles a paranormal romance with a distinct urban fantasy bent. This book and the next one, The Road to Hell, as well as a related novella, “A Hell of a Time” in the Eternal Lover anthology, are available now as trade paperbacks; Hell’s Belles is being reissued as a mass market paperback in September.

But first, the obligatory disclaimer:

People who are offended by religious parody definitely should not read further—and definitely should avoid these books.

Ms Kessler creates a wonderfully amusing and intriguing world based on demonic lore twisted in a highly entertaining way. We have best friends, old lovers, new friends, new loves, regrets, guilt, hope… The writing is so engaging I didn’t even click on the fact that the story is told in the first person until several chapters into the book.

Back cover blurb:

She’s a hot demon on the run from Hell—which isn’t easy to do in heels.
Once upon a time, Jezebel was a powerful succubus, capable of seducing men and sucking out their souls. But that was before Hell put a bounty on her head. Now her only chance to escape a fate far worse than death is to live as a mortal, losing herself in a sea of unfamiliar humanity, in a place where sinners walk hand-in-hand with saints—a place like Belle’s strip club in New York City.

Working as an exotic dancer is a piece of cake for a former demon who once specialized in sex. Taking money from men? Please. It’s like leading lawyers to the Lake of Fire. Plus the lingerie is great. But she hadn’t counted on meeting sexy Paul Hamilton, a man haunted by his past. Good-bye, succubus; hello, lovestruck. Learning all about how complicated—and pleasurable—love can be, Jezebel thinks she’s turned her back on Hell.

But Hell hasn’t stopped looking for her. The secrets Jezebel holds are the most dangerous of all, the kind every demon in the Underworld would do their worst to protect. Demons are closing in, which is enough to make Jezebel shiver in her G-string. But it’s her love for Paul that’s going to have deadly consequences…

Amazingly, I only have one tiny teeeeensie little quibble with this blurb: once upon a time is actually something like three hours before the novel starts. Not that it matters much when the story covers a handful of days total, really, but by now most of you know just how anal I really am, so there.


The book is structured in a way that introduces the main characters by going back and forth in the time line, and flipping between past events in Hell and current shenanigans on Earth (New York City for most of the story). Jezebel’s internal dialogue is fast and funny, and it made me like her almost from the very first page—mostly because her personality radiates from it in a way that is both hilarious and endearing.

I mean, she’s a succubus, a demon of Lust. A creature of the Pit indeed—lying, cheating, seducing and enjoying the damned’s eternal punishments are both tools of her trade and her rewards for a *cough* good *cough* job. And yet, she feels. Beyond what is prescribed for those such as she, she feels—sympathy, empathy, caring. Call it what you will, she feels, and her feelings make her different from her brethren.

So when things change in Hell, making it impossible for her to stay, where can a demon run to, to escape the hordes of Hell? (more…)