“I’m a monster. Or so my father would have me believe. I’m imprisoned in a world I hate and fear. As heir to my father’s title, I’m expected to marry, but my secret desires may keep me from fulfilling those expectations. One night a stranger kisses me. In his touch, I see the possibility of a life beyond my prison. My name? Just call me Angel and this is my evolution.”
Review by Erastes
(Newly republished by MLR Press)
I believe that this is the first book of Chase’s that I’ve read, and the author has nothing to prove to me, it’s obvious that they can write. It’s the story of Angel who has been so badly abused by his father that he has no confidence in himself, and considers himself to be unclean – hardly surprising when subjected to such abuse.
Nice cover. The Liquid Silver one was pretty decent, but MLR have done well on this one, and I’ve often criticised their covers.
I was pleased that Angel’s Evolution seemed to be quite meaty - less concentration on sex and more of characterisation. But sadly, and this is (obviously) totally subjective, it was the characterisation that I couldn’t like.It’s not often that I read a book and simply cannot identify or empathise with the protagonist, but I’m sorry to say that when it comes to Angel’s Evolution I just couldn’t. Perhaps it was that the book is written in first person present tense, a very brave tense to choose, and not one I think I could ever attempt. For me, present tense has to be light and immediate, action filled – not a deep, very angsty and at times dark and violent tale. It’s hard for me to explain, but I always feel that the present tense is like constantly being on the edge of a precipice, and even the protagonist doesn’t know what will happen next.
But what happens here is that Angel is having such a bad time throughout most of the book and he (obviously) doesn’t know what is going to happen, he’s caught constantly in the present, and whines almost the entire way through the book. I would have found it more effective if he had been looking back at his life with the benefit of hindsight, explaining his evolution and letting the reader share it, but he doesn’t. He just whines about all the crap stuff that is happening to him, whines (very much like Fanon Remus Lupin) about how he’s a monster, whines about how he’ll be infecting the man who seducing him into becoming another monster, and oh – how can you love a monster? and just… whines. I was half way through the book when I had decided that, when his father had finished with the horsewhip, I wanted to borrow it.
I didn’t understand quite why Angel’s father treated his son so very badly. If he considered his son to be a perversion you’d think that - rather than treating him like a prisoner – he’d be eager to foist him off on the first fortune hunter that came along. But no, the father locks him up in the country, doesn’t allow him to meet anyone outside the family, whips the boy’s back so badly he bleeds through his evening clothes and then moans when he doesn’t mingle in order to find a wife. He was his heir, and even if you thought your son was a pansy would you really keep him locked away from society, dress him in rags and whip him daily?
There is a nice balance of plot and sex, too. Not sex heavy and when it does appear it’s gradual and nicely erotic without being graphic, (Although Angel whines even here…) intense, tender and passionate in turns.
There were a few other things that jarred me; Angel’s father wouldn’t be a Lord – he’s the brother of an Earl, so he’d be an “Honorable”, improper use of the term “whipping boy” right at the start, misspelling of “whiskey” instead of whisky, the ubiquitous “gotten” which is always going to make me grind my teeth, and even the title is anachronistic, if you use the word as meaning a gradual change. There’s the inevitable OKHomo, Angel’s uncle is fine with it, Society doesn’t ostracize Duke Greyson for it despite it having hounded the fabulously wealthy William Beckford and Viscount Courtenay into exile. But the writing and the Romance of the story is not spoiled by this. It is well written, and if I have not made that clear, then I apologise. The description is lush, detailed – she writes a real sense of place – you can see the ballrooms, smell the streets, feel skin and velvet under your hand. The point of view and tense help with this, of course and it’s very involved.
If you, unlike me, empathise with Angel and end up liking him, then you’ll appreciate the job Chase does. It’s just not for me.