Friday, September 23, 2011
To save her failing bakery, Lina trades souls with Persephone, the Goddess of Spring-and starts falling for hunky Hades.
And what a hunk he is! Trust me, this Hades is not the Hades from Disney's Hercules, believe me!
I really enjoyed this story that plays on the mythological story of Persephone and Hades. Never having read anything by this author before, I had heard good things about this book, which is part of her Goddess Series. This is book #2, which I had heard was the best of the series.
Catalina aka Lina is a modern day, middle aged forty something owner of a baker. She's an attractive divorced woman who has made a great success of her bakery in Oklahoma. But, thanks to her incompetent accountant, she owes a ton to the IRS and realizes she must branch out and start inventing something new in the bakery to bring in more business. She finds some old cookbooks and an old recipe for pizza. Part of the recipe calls for her to pray to the gods and do a little dance around a tree, etc. etc. She has some wine, does her little dance and hopes for the best. Little does she know...
At the same time, on Mt. Olympus, where the gods dwell, Demeter, goddess of the harvest and the seasons wants her beautiful daughter, the goddess Persephone to grow up and become a bit more serious about her role as Goddess of Spring. (Persephone is a bit flighty.) Demeter becomes aware of Lina from her little prayer dance. She listens to Lina's prayer and comes to Earth to make her a deal. It's quite a whopper!
She asks Lina to trade places with Persephone and go to "hell" (literally) and live there with Hades for six months. While there, she wants Lina (as Persephone) to help Hades and be a goddess to the dead souls living in the Underworld that are in need of the Goddess of Light and Spring. Lina is skeptical, naturally. But, she agrees to do it. While Lina is gone, Persephone will step into her place and make the bakery a success.
As outlandish as it all sounds, it wound up being a really good story! Lina is suddenly thrust into the beautiful body of Persephone and is soon face to face with the god, Hades. Demeter had given Lina the impression that Hades was a dour recluse with no interest in women. She was partly right, but she left out the part that he looks like a god (he is a god after all). Muscular, dark and handsome, he has a brooding virility about him that proves to be irresistible to Lina, yet he has a vulnerability too. (Lina thinks of him as Batman - the Val Kilmer version.) We follow Lina as she gets to know Hades better and learns what it's like to be a goddess at the same time. Not a bad life! The Underworld isn't nearly as bad as she thought it would be, it's actually quite nice! En route to the Underworld, she meets a young soul who has recently died, Eurydice, who becomes her hand maiden and takes care of her. (Eurydice has her own little side story as well, remember the myth of Morpheus and Eurydice?)
As Lina (as Persephone) and Hades inevitably fall in love, she is torn because she knows she must return to her real life in Oklahoma in six months. She's convinced Hades only loves her for her gorgeous persona as Persephone. Once he finds out she's a middle aged nobody he'll turn from her. Plus, he hates lying women! She sees no possible happy outcome, thus she leaves Hades of her own accord before he can dump her. Hades has a major chip on his shoulder because he is the god of the dead. The other gods on Mt. Olympus look down on him and mock him, so he's sensitive and has shunned the gods and goddesses. Yet, he is drawn to Lina. She's so different compared to the other goddesses he's known. She's a breath of fresh air. He loves her completely, but is worried she won't want to stay with him in the Underworld.
I felt sorry for Hades when he finds out the truth. Before Lina can leave, he finds out about her real persona from Demeter who callously tells him that she's really a mortal middle aged woman posing as Persephone. Hurt and confused, he bitterly casts Lina off, telling himself she had only been toying with him. He hardens himself against her because he can't stand the thought she'd been lying to him all along, and he's convinced she never really felt anything real for him. Both are so wrong about each other, yet afraid to seek out the truth for fear of betrayal. Lina is desolate when she returns to her bakery.
How can Hades and Lina return to one another and be happy forever? It seems impossible, yet the author comes up with a great solution which also fits in with the whole Persephone/Hades mythological story.
I found the whole premise of the story fun and different. I love mythology, so this book was right up my alley. I will definitely read more of this series! The side characters were good too! Lina has a few friends who work for her at the bakery, Hades' right hand man was good too, who forms an attachment to Eurydice. Eurydice was a bit too sweet and cloying - always wanting to please. Persephone's story working at the bakery is touched on, but not much, but we get a good idea of what's been happening on her end and she comes through for Lina to tie up all the loose strings and make a happy ending possible.
There's lots of other parts of the book that gave the story more depth as well. The characterizations make the people realistic and there's some humor involved (the obligatory gay co-worker that seems to be in every contemporary I read nowadays) and the fact Lina has a way with animals - they all love her, including Hades' terrifying horses that become pussycats around Lina.
I recommend this romance, especially if mythology is your thing. It's a contemporary romance with a fantasy element to it, plus I like the fact the heroine is a middle aged forty something woman! I can relate to that! She doesn't have a perfect body (except as Persephone) and in the end, we find out it's not her body Hades was in love with, it was her soul. Some hot moments between Lina and Hades, but most of all, it was a heartwarming story that I found had some realistic elements to it, despite it's fantastical premise.