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Friday, December 18, 2009

Hell's Belles Book 1: Devil’s Advocate by Wendi Darlin

Hell's Belles Book 1: Devil’s Advocate by Wendi Darlin
Publisher: Siren Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (172 pgs)
Other: M/F
Rating: 4.5 Cherries
Reviewed by Gillyflower

Haylie Monroe is a member of Hell's Belles, a sisterhood of sassy Southern women who have a penchant for devilish men. Blake Sheridan is the hottest devil south of Birmingham. Haylie and Blake's fiery past puts him at the top of her "not even if hell freezes over" list.

But Blake wants her, and what Blake wants, he gets.

Fighting off a devil's advances would be enough to keep any girl on her toes, but Haylie has a bigger problem. Her father, recently released from prison, is now free to seek revenge on her for putting him behind bars.

Around every corner evil lurks, and it's not Blake, with his irresistible hedonistic allure. The real danger is a man capable of murder...and worse.

Wow, this Devil can advocate for me any time!

Haylie Monroe and Blake Sheridan were engaged, though extremely briefly, in college. Haylie carries some completely understandable emotional baggage from growing up with her abusive father. Blake didn’t know anything about Haylie’s past and a joke—in poor taste—with his frat brother outraged and terrified Haylie. She walked out of Blake’s apartment and his life and never looked back.

Ten years later, Haylie – a tirelessly generous social worker who has started her own foundation to help kids no one else can or will help – runs into Blake, a successful defense lawyer. The sparks fly, but Haylie is not sure she can trust any man, well, except for the post-foster care teenager, Grady, who crashes at her place. And Blake is not the only man to re-enter her life. Haylie’s father is released from prison at around the same time, and he wants to make sure Haylie returns to the family fold. In more ways than one.

Ms. Darlin has written a completely engaging love story, with two very likeable main characters, while deftly tackling some of the toughest of societal woes and maintaining a heart-stopping sense of suspense. Haylie is incredibly strong. She has come through her terrifying past and channels her own pain into helping others survive and excel. She has started a foundation to help 18 to 21 year olds who have come out of the foster care system transition to school, work, housing and the like.

Blake is almost too-good-to be-true. He sticks with Haylie even when she repeatedly shuts him out and pushes him away, patiently trying to break through her highly-developed defenses. And when he gets her between the sheets, the steam fairly rises off the page! Blake is not only steadfast and loyal and patient, he is one hell of a lover!

In fact, my only real criticism of the book relates to the emphasis on Blake as a devil, including the cover, which suggested this was going to be a paranormal read. There are some minor pacing issues, and the editing is not as tight as it should have been, but none of this interfered with my sheer enjoyment of reading the book.

Haylie’s best friends, the other three Belles, are delightful secondary characters, and Ms. Darlin has plans to write their stories. I hope she writes them quickly because I can’t wait to read them. I highly recommend Devil’s Advocate, a suspense-filled tale full of passion. Well done Wendi Darlin!

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