This fall I had the great fortune to visit with the publishers at Fantastic Fiction Publishing. When I mentioned to the primary editor that I had just finished the book I had been reading and was looking for something new to read, she recommended Elizabeth Schechter’s Counsel of the Wicked . “I don’t like erotica” I said, thinking back on the sappy romance novels I had started occasionally and always left unfinished. “Trust me, you’ll like this one” she said. Knowing her to be a woman of integrity and good taste, I took her at her word and purchased a copy.
Turns out, it’s not that I don’t like erotica, it’s that I don’t like badly written drivel with thin plot lines padded by pages of awkward sex. Even the sex scenes in Laurel Hamilton’s Anita Blake vampire hunter series left me cold, and I quickly found myself skimming over the sex scenes that seemed initially steamy and quickly became repetitive (and used the word spill far too often) to get back to the much more interesting vampire hunting and shape shifting.
Far from needing to blur past self-conscious or redundant sex scenes, Schechter’s gem is so well written that the sex scenes are not only interesting to read, but integral to the plot. Mercifully devoid of the kind of florid Harlequin romance language that hobbles so many other erotic novels, Counsel of the Wicked has complex and well-developed characters who do all sorts of interesting things, one of which happens to be interesting sex as well. Each sex scene flows perfectly with the twists of the plot, always fitting in quite realistically with the characters’ other actions. One of the main characters appears to be asexual, a true novelty for romance novels.
Luckily for me and other readers of smart and sexy fiction, this is just book one in the Rebel Mage series. I look forward to reading the second book in the series, Haven’s Fall, to find out what happens to the band of intrepid travelers.