THERE’S NO HANGING UP NOW.
Kayel Cleary is a phone sex operator. All she wants to do is get through law school, and if that means late-night phone calls with men who think she’s something she’s not, then so be it.
That is, until one of her long-time clients is murdered – and she hears it all.
Lathan only wants one thing: a seat on the vampire council. He’s worked his entire unnatural life for this moment, only to have it fall apart when his biggest supporter ends up dead. Now, Lathan has to find and work with the only witness. And she happens to be a phone sex operator.
Thrust into a world she never knew existed, Kayel must help Lathan find the murderer and stop the impending war, all while fighting her attraction for the undead man she loves to hate. If she can’t learn their ways and figure out who killed Marco, then she may lose more than just her life … She may spark a war that would spell disaster for vampires and humans alike.
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About the Book
Hotline To Hell
by Emily Cyr
June 14, 2018
The premise and the beginning stages of Hotline to Hell are amazing. The idea of a strong female character studying law and working as a phone sex operator to make ends meet being swept into a supernatural world is a fascinating one, though it’s hard not to wish kept the determination and strength she displayed in the beginning of the novel over the course of the book and her relationship.
There were several characters that seemed intriguing that could perhaps be more fully fleshed out in further books—Karis, Kayel’s mother, several council members and Francis. Unfortunately the two main/POV characters don’t make this list. Perhaps in an attempt to make them easier to sympathise with, Kayel and Lathan seemed awkward and unlikable—more hampered by their traits (prudishness/hatred of swearing and controlling tendencies/volatile temper) than enriched by them.
Kayel’s aversion to swearing is clearly supposed to be an endearing character trait, but it reads as childish and makes the sexual/romantic plot of the novel seem a bit creepy, especially considering the age and power disparity that already exists between her and Lathan. The dynamic between Lathan and Kayel in general reads as unhealthy, and rather than providing narrative tension it feels almost like a romanticization of an abusive relationship. The reader is clearly supposed to forgive Lathan his violent actions and immoral behaviour because he never rapes or murders Kayel (even though he could, as is not so subtly pointed out a few times). It was very reminiscent of Twilight in that a man wanting to violently murder his love interest and then not doing it is presented as some form of ultimate romantic sacrifice, a sentiment which may not appeal to all readers.
In fact, Lathan’s point of view in the novel never seems to enrich or enhance the novel, and is never used to explain more about the vampire world which Kayel is thrown into. Lathan’s knowledge of the negative ways his actions will affect Kayel and the members of his fellowship make him seem less sympathetic, if not downright abusive. Kayel’s point of view solely being used would have helped present the storyline in a cohesive way, perhaps improving the pacing and emotional effect of the novel.
Lathan’s character development is included in the novel in a somewhat disjointed manner, with his emotions being directly told to the reader, usually through dialogue tags or brief observations (eg. ‘He seemed sad’, ‘This was hard for him’). For this reason, Lathan’s motivations and back story seem somewhat two-dimensional. Monty’s storyline likewise seemed abrupt and rather shakily motivated, and it was difficult to really believe he’d act the way he did for the reasons presented. This theme carries over to the antagonist of the book, the identity and motivations of whom was intended as a big reveal. The heavy hints as to the antagonist’s identity unfortunately ruined this tension, and the motivations of this person seem almost arbitrary, lessening narrative tension and effect further.
The world building in this novel seemed shallow, with details thrown out in a manner that never quite succeeded in building a cohesive image. Vampire strengths and weaknesses were the usual fare found in paranormal romance or urban fantasy (Hotline to Hell lands firmly in the first category), though the weakening effect of lamb’s blood is an intriguing one, though the reasoning for this or the way it was discovered is perhaps being left for later books.
Hotline to Hell ended rather abruptly, and seemed almost as though the key development that occurs after the main showdown was meant to be left for a future novel, but was included to avoid a cliffhanger ending, something a lot of readers will definitely appreciate.
As mentioned previously however, Kayel’s mother and Karis are intriguing characters; often providing comedic relief to prevent the melodrama and angst of Kayel and Lathan’s relationship from entirely taking over the book.
Readers who enjoyed the romantic plots of Molly Harper’s Jane Jameson and Half Moon Hollow series, Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series or those who are fans of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight or EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey would do well to consider reading Hotline to Hell.
The review copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. All titles reviewed on this blog are a fair and honest assessment of the book. No monetary compensation was received in exchange for this review. For more information regarding our review process, please visit our Review Policy & Review Request Submission page.
“Ohhhh. Spank me, Daddy.” I crooned, my tone disgustingly childlike. Bleck! My mind wandered as it often did when I entertained these jerk holes. I began a mental grocery list. Coffee is a must. Oh and milk.
“Oh, bad girl, come to Daddy.” His oily voice jarred me to the present. I had a job to do. I needed the money no matter how distasteful it was. I used to stop myself from rolling my eyes at the phone, but this time I rolled them so hard I thought they would get stuck in my skull.
“You know I’ve been a bad girl. I need to be punished,” I whined in the most nasally voice I could muster. I have better things to do than listen to this putz jack off. Like my huge pile of depositions I have to go over. Almost as high as that stack of bills. I let out a small sigh of disgust and again rolled my eyes in the general direction of my headset as if the man on the other line could see. I almost wish I could see him. Wait, no, that would be way worse. I shivered in revulsion at the mere thought of it.
“Mmmmm. Baby Jade has been so bad. Bend over and spread your cheeks for Daddy and I’ll give you what you have coming to you.” His voice sounded slimy, if that was even possible. This stellar excuse for a man had a daddy/daughter fetish. He was becoming a regular client of mine. Just wonderful. I sure know how to pick ‘em. Money, Kayel, money, I reminded myself.
I had so much homework to do it wasn’t funny. First, I had to pay the bills. However, this wasn’t exactly the way I’d hoped to bring money in while I was in my second year of law school. But, I didn’t have a silver spoon shoved in my mouth like most of my yuppy classmates. I had to fight to be here. Not with grades, but with juggling tuition, bills, books, and, you know, food. At the thought of food, my stomach growled. Oh snot monster, I’d been so busy with client after client I had forgotten to eat.
My thoughts wandered back to my more fortunate classmates. They just sat on Mommy and Daddy’s cash flow and rode it to graduation, all while interning at prestigious law firms and solidifying their future jobs. There I sat on my couch talking dirty to what sounded like a fifty-year-old who still lived in his elderly mother’s basement. I shivered in abhorrence. This was my life. The life of a phone sex operator.
Smack! The sound of flesh hitting flesh jolted me out of my thoughts. Crap nugget!Where was I in this stupid act? Oh right!
I opened my mouth to let out a moan of pleasure, but was met with a blaring BEEP! The five-minute warning sounded before I had a chance to react.
“Hey, Daddy, that’s your five-minute warning. Either finish or enter your card number on the website with my phone number for ten more minutes. I hope you make the right choice, Daddy, and let’s play some more.” I purred the last part into the mouth piece of my headset. It was a total lie. I hoped he finished and I could get back to these stupid mock court cases. I had a mountain of paperwork to go through before class tomorrow.
“Jade, baby, you’re killing me,” he groused. Yeah, well, the feeling is mutual. I didn’t say it, but oh how I wanted to.
“Whatcha gunna do, Daddy? I’ve been so bad, I might need more than a spanking,” I teased. This dude was a freak, but by no means was he my worst client. If this job had taught me anything, it was there were always, and I mean ALWAYS, bigger freaks out there.
“Ohhhhh baby, I’m close. Just bend over and let me slide it right in your tight, wet, hungry pussy.”
I had picked just that moment to take a sip of my hot tea. The crass use of the P word caught me off-guard, much like it always did, and caused me to spit out the steaming liquid all over my laptop. Ouch, ouch! The burning tea seared my nostrils on the way out. What was I drinking? Hot lava? My hand flew up to my face to see if I’d burned my whole dang nose off. Nope, still there.
“Nut pooper!” I jumped up and ran into my kitchen, searching for something to hopefully save my expensive computer from a death by hot tea.
“What was that, baby Jade?” a voice asked in a confused tone.
I blinked for a moment, not remembering the ball sack was still on the line. Oops.
“Oh I mean, yes, Daddy, I’m so ready. I’ve been ready for you. Just go slow, you know it’s my first time,” I cooed. Ah!Paper towels! Score! I grabbed a handful and rushed back to my computer and began dabbing it clean. I had saved it from an untimely demise, thank goodness.
“Uhhhhhh … Ohhhh … MMMM.” I could hear his muffled moans of pleasure and tried to tune them out. But, I did have a job to do. I moaned back at him and yelled out in mock pleasure.
Not that I really knew what it was like. I think I was the only phone sex operator on the planet who was actually a virgin. Oh, the irony.
I called out again, this time louder. My poor neighbors had to think I had the best sex life on the planet. Or they thought I was an active masturbator, as I never had people over.
“Oh YESSSSSSS,” he hissed just as the call clicked off.
“Oh thank god.” I sighed, pulling off my headset. I needed a shower. Or ear bleach. If someone were to invent such a thing, they would make bank.
That dude was so skeevy every time he “got off,” I felt like I needed to rid myself of some kind of residue left behind from the phone call. Not that that was possible, but still, YUCK!
My eyes slid down to the time blinking on my cell phone. 10:58 p.m. Wonderful. Looked like I’d be pulling an all-nighter. I pulled the mile-high stack of files and papers in front of me. This advanced legal writing course is going to kill me! Sighing, I brought out my handy, dandy highlighter and started assaulting the files.
Why did I do this? Why put myself through this? I graduated high school as valedictorian, a year early even. Then I ran through college as if it was a race and finished my poli-sci degree in three years. I even graduated in the top three percent of my class. I took a year to study for my LSATs and did so well I got to pick the law school I wanted to attend. Yet here I was, struggling to get through, because I had to worry about everything else and school. I envied my silver spoon-gagged classmates. It would be worth it in the end. I would be a lawyer. But, for now, I was a phone sex operator. God, please don’t let me die before I get my law degree. I would hate my tombstone to read: Here lies Kayel Cleary, the phone sex operator. I’d die again from sheer embarrassment.
When I started law school, I had this idea of how easy it would be. I had this vision of how everything would go. I’d earned money being a phone sex operator in my undergraduate and thought I’d done enough to survive. Boy, was I wrong. I’d run out of money. I had no way to pay for anything, so I had to pick up the phone again. There was no way my mom could help; she was a space cadet in the strongest sense of the statement.Plus, I was raised believing that if I wanted something, I had to fight for it. Well, according to my hippy parents, “I had to protest and walk out if I didn’t like it.” I chose to read between the lines on that one. I shook my head. I had work to do and not a lot of time to do it in. Time to turn this mother to turbo!
Just as I settled into a groove the damn phone rang. I sighed and did the only thing I could. Answered it.
“Hey, baby, this is Jade. How can I pleasure you?”
The words on the papers were beginning to blur. I shoved my long brown locks out of my eyes and blinked at the screen of my computer. Since the call from “Daddy,” aka Jeff, I’d taken three more calls and gotten almost all of my work done. Good thing too, because the clock read 6:34 a.m. I had about an hour before I’d have to drive to school. Blessedly, it only took me another thirty minutes to finish. That even left me time to bathe. It was the little things in life.
I rushed my shower so I had time to tame my thick mane of light-brown hair. Clothes were easy as I had to dress in business casual every day. I shimmied in my button down and pencil skirt. I grabbed my last strawberry Pop-Tart, shoved it in my mouth, and snagged my keys as I bolted out the door. Pausing with half of the sweet treat hanging out of my mouth, I turned and threw the door open. Shoot! I forgot my homework. That would have sucked royally. I tossed it and my laptop in my over-sized case and headed for the car.
Okay, car might be a strong word for what Ole Blue was. He was an older-than-me blue Volvo. And I swear to god that sucker was one pothole away from blowing up. That would be unfortunate, as it was the only thing I had that I owned.
The drive to school shouldn’t have been long as I only lived ten miles away. But, everyone on the road apparently had it out for me. Also, it didn’t help that poor Blue couldn’t get over 45. I made it to class just in time. Yeah, just in time to see the note taped on the door.
Please put your homework thumb drive in my inbox outside my office. Class has been canceled. Enjoy your long weekend.
Oh for funnel cakes’ sake! I rushed here for nothing. She could have emailed or something! But no-
“Kayel.” It was a voice I knew all too well.
“Francis. Hey how are you?” I asked, trying to hide the exasperation in my voice.
“Please call me Jake,” he commented in an annoyed tone.
He’d told me this a number of times, but I really did it to irritate him. I had no idea why the thought of ticking him off gave me pleasure, but it did. It was likely because while we were dating he was sleeping with some eighteen-year-old. Really great guys I tend to pick. See, this is why I don’t date. I cannot be trusted.
Francis Jacob Wright III. Or, as I thought of him, The Turd.
“Yes, Turd.” The word fell from my lips without thought. My hands flew to my mouth as if I could catch it before he heard and shove it back in. Then I wanted to kick myself. Why care if I offended him? Well, because I cared what anyone thought of me. It was my fatal flaw, as it were.
“Wow, is that what you really think of me?” His brown eyes went wide in disbelief. I wanted to slap the belief right into him.
I wish he didn’t have so damn many professional connections, then I’d just tell him off. But I couldn’t jeopardize pissing him off and spreading nasty rumors about me, so I changed gears.
“What do you want?” I asked, cocking a hip out in indignation.
Yeah, I know I’d never look imposing, as I stood at a whopping five-foot-four and had the build that god gave a teenage boy. Well, mostly. I did have a surprising sized chest, but no hips or butt to speak of. Then there was my face. All of my features were delicate and everything was set off by my bright-blue eyes. Nothing remarkable. Much like me in general: not memorable.
Not waiting for his answer, I turned and began making my way to Professor James’s office. I could hear Jake’s firm footsteps padding behind me. I rolled my eyes. Why had I dated him? Oh right. He was handsome, came from money, and he’s the teacher’s aide. All stellar reasons, Kayel.
Jake was a typical pretty boy. He stood about six foot, give or take an inch. He had shaggy red hair and soft brown eyes. His jaw was strong and wide, yet his chin seemed too small. His lips were full and pouty. And resting firmly between those lips was a blinged-out platinum spoon.
I felt his hand snake around my upper arm. I stopped and turned. Shaking off his grip I asked him again, “What do you want …,” I paused before I added the last word, “Francis?” I had to stifle a small snort of pleasure at the look on his face.
Reluctantly, he let go. He ran a perfectly manicured hand through his hair. See, that should have been another warning sign. What guy goes weekly to get his nails done?
“Kayel, I’m sorry for what I did, but I’m begging for you to give me another shot. Please.” He didn’t beg. Not really. He more asked in such a way that he just knew I’d agree. It was a smooth tone, with each word blending into the next. I pictured myself slapping him. I didn’t actually. That would have been assault. But, I smiled at the thought of it. His eyes flicked down to my mouth and his lips twitched up into a half smile. This moron thought I’d do it.
I was a people pleaser. I had a hard time saying no. However, I wasn’t dumb. I knew just what would happen if I caved and said yes. Once a cheater, always a cheater.
“Francis, no,” I cooed in the same smooth, connected tone he’d used on me moments before.
He blinked his coffee-colored eyes in disbelief at me. He knew I wasn’t a big noperson.
“Wha – Why?” he sputtered. Clearly this was not the answer he’d been thinking I’d give. But, you know what? I was changing. I wouldn’t be his doormat. It was my Tuesday’s resolution. Or whatever today was.
“You porked an eighteen-year-old. That’s why!” Wow, I was surprised at my own tone, firm and unmoving. Yeah, go, Kayel!
“I didn’t mean to fu-“ he started, and then shut his mouth at the look I shot his way. One thing I would absolutely not tolerate was cussing. He knew that.
“I didn’t mean to pork her. It just happened and I said I was sorry.”
Oh, because that makes everything better.
“You didn’t mean to? Okay, let me guess what happened: You were playing strip poker and you got up to go to the bathroom and tripped. Then you landed on her, pecker first? Yeah, because that would hold up in a court of law.” I rolled my eyes at him. However, the mental image I’d created was slightly funny − only slightly though.
His face hardened from his once young, soft features to immovable stone.
“You know, Kayel, you’re a real bitch,” he hissed. His full cheeks deepened to a bright red as they tended to do when he got upset or angry.
Turning from him and dropping my USB drive in to the small box on the door, I sighed, “And there it is.” The reason I wasn’t dumb; the reason I wouldn’t get back together with him.
I had no idea what vitriol would come out of his mouth next because my cell rang.
I met his eyes and said the most honest thing I could, knowing it was a client on the other end of the call. Normally I’d ignore it as I would have been in class, but money is money.
“I have more important things to deal with than you.”
I pressed the small flashing green button on my phone and walked past him, not caring if he heard me take the call.
“It’s Jade, and I’ve been waiting for you all day.” My tone was smooth and husky.
Glancing back, I saw his jaw nearly hit the floor. Good. I smirked and sauntered off.
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