Fidelity by Lia Black

Rating: 6/10 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 
Title: Fidelity
Author: Lia Black
Genre: M/M Romance, Fantasy
URL: VineDark/BlackHouse Press
Price: US $4.99
Other Information/warnings: Explicit sexual content, explicit violence
Summary [from the publisher]:
How far can a man go in the name of faith?

Father Gareth De’Aubyn is a man tormented by his past and ready to sell his future to save the souls of his flock. He’s traded his Crusader’s armor for a cassock, and now ministers to the very people his army sent fleeing for their lives. When his church is attacked by unknown assassins, Gareth is mortally wounded, and with his dying breath, he calls out to the Creator for help.

But his god does not answer.

Instead, a demon heeds his call, cajoling him to promise his soul to the Sunderer, god of the underworld, for a chance to set everything right.

Fydelis was once an angel. Gareth’s Guardian Angel. But his love for Gareth caused him to fall from the heavens, and the Angel of Fidelity has become the demonic aspect of Regret. He is now the unwilling plaything of the Sunderer, the darkest of all dark gods. Seeing his Crusader again—a man he thought had abandoned him— is more cruelty than he can take. Fydelis, now a stranger to Gareth, is sent to the mortal world to make the dying priest an offer he can’t refuse, and in return, Gareth is tasked with the collection of some very stubborn souls.

Together, they begin a journey that will test everything they thought they knew about faith, love, and fidelity.

My review:
Father Gareth De’Aubyn, former Crusader, is wracked with guilt for his part in the destruction of innocent lives. Now a priest, he has an opportunity to repair some of the damage he caused and atone for his sins. When Gareth is gravely wounded during an attack on his church, his pleas to his god are answered by the demon, Fydelis.

In return for Fydelis’ help in saving his life, protecting his followers, and seeking vengeance against his attackers, Gareth must sacrifice his soul to the Sunderer god, Malaketh, a nasty piece of work and Fydelis’ master. Fydelis isn’t just any ordinary demon, though. He was once Gareth’s guardian angel, and just because he now possesses cloven hooves and a forked tail doesn’t mean he stopped having feelings for Gareth.

I’m watching Supernatural now (yeah, I know I’m late to the party) and was keen to read a story about a regretful priest and the reluctant demon that turns his life upside down.

The story went down as smoothly as a mug of cheap lager, pleasant tasting and drinkable.

What I liked:

– The slow-burning romance between Gareth and Fydelis, two broken men who must overcome the difficult hurdles of loneliness, regret, and grief.
– The humorous banter between Gareth and Fydelis that offset the violence and despair.
– Gareth’s unshakable faith and kind heart.
– Gripping and well-paced story.

What didn’t work so well:

– One-dimensional villains. I would have liked some insight into the minds and motivations of Malaketh and General Karathis.
– Fydelis’ telepathic ability was interesting, but not fully explored or utilized. Similarly, his ability to enter Gareth and direct his actions.
– Interesting minor characters, like Yeol Havram and Paetrik, deserved far more page time.
– The graphic physical and sexual torture of Fydelis by Malaketh felt distracting more than disturbing. Because Malaketh lacked any depth and Fydelis did not appear to be permanently affected, these scenes failed to have any impact on me.
– Errors, plot holes, and incoherency in places made this a sometimes frustrating read.

For example:

Does Fydelis have a soul?

“He felt himself shatter; his heart, mind, soul, and spirit breaking into a million pieces. He collapsed on top of Gareth, kissing his throat as tears ran from his eyes and he sobbed like a child.”

Or doesn’t he?

“They ignored both Gareth and Fydelis, for neither of them had a soul for the taking, but something else seemed to draw their notice.”

By the time I finished reading, I was fast forgetting details in the story. It felt just like getting to the bottom of that mug of cheap lager and yearning for a richer, more full-bodied beer.