4 stars and a half

Historical Romance Review: The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys

the silver devil
The Silver Devil, Teresa Denys, Ballantine, 1978, H. Tom Hall cover art

He sat on his horse unmoving, a somber black figure in startling contrast to the vivid colors about him, the sun dazzling on his white gold hair… There was no laughter in his face, and his eyes were not searching the housefronts for diversion–instead, he was staring intently straight up at my window.

THE SILVER DEVIL

SPOILER ALERT ⚠

4 1/2 Stars

Reviewed by Introvert Reader

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A Legendary Romance

I’ve put off posting an analysis of Teresa Denys‘ first book, The Silver Devil, for a long time because I didn’t quite know how to critique it. If you’re a hard-core lover of old-school romance or bodice rippers, you might be familiar with this legendary novel.

Teresa Denys was a magnificent author whose writing pulled the reader in from the first word and never lets go. Sadly, she died young in the mid-1980s’ after only publishing two books. The Silver Devil was followed by The Flesh and the Devil. Both are superlative works of fiction.

The Silver Devil is out-of-print, a hard paperback to find. And, if you do, it will cost you quite the penny! On e-bay, the only one I currently see available costs $159. That’s relatively cheap compared to the other listings that are upwards of a thousand dollars. I purchased my edition eleven years ago for $12. At the time, I thought that was too much!

There’s good reason this book is highly prized.

The Silver Devil captivated me with its stunning characterization and intense, passionate tone. The enclosed world of 380 pages (my Futura Publications Ltd/Troubador version) made me truly believe that in the imaginary Dukedom of Cabria, there lived a proud Duke so handsome and omnipotent that with a snap of his fingers he was swiftly provided with whatever he desired.

Including one lovely peasant girl named Felicia.

The Silver Devil, Troubador Books

The Set Up

It is a hot summer in the year 1604 in Fidena, a fictional town in the fictional province of Cabria, set just north of Naples. Felicia Guardi is the sister of an innkeeper who’s just gotten married. Her sister-in-law, Celia, is a greedy and harsh taskmistress. Felicia’s half-brother, Antonio, is not much better, as he bears no love for the girl with whom he only shares a mother.

For Felicia was not the child of their mother’s husband. Her actual father spent one brief night at the inn, sharing a fleeting moment of passion with her mamma.

Adding to the gothic allure of this novel is the narration. The story is told from Felicia’s first-person perspective, appropriate for such a dark, macabre tale of lust and love. She describes the heat and decay of Fidena as a plague runs through town.

Like a princess out of a fairy tale, Felicia is forced to slave away her days until a handsome prince falls in love with her and takes her to his castle home.

One day Felicia stands by the window and is seen by Duke Domenico, a white-blond-haired, black-eyed sensualist of a tyrant. His desire for her is powerful and instantaneous. The Duke demands to have her, and just like that! She is his.

Felicia does not want to go with Domenico willingly. Yet what is she, an illegitimate peasant, to do? She resists. Felicia’s brother and sister-in-law drug her, attempting to make her pliable to the diabolical ruler’s demands.

And though Felicia is attracted to this magnetic demi-god, she displays a strong will, refusing his seduction despite how futile.

Domenico treats her as a jealously-guarded treasure. Felicia’s innate strength demands no less than a queen’s respect.

The Story

Domenico’s ardor for Felicia becomes a raging obsession. He is monstrous in his possessiveness. In one unforgettable scene, Felicia smiles at a handsome youth. Enraged, Domenico has the boy brutally tortured to death.

As they travel through the hot dusty lands, a retinue of servants and sycophants accompany Domenico and Felicia. The Silver Devil was written in 1978 and for its time took a daring risk with the lead male character. The hero is/was bisexual. Domenico had a past affair with Pierro, a childhood friend who now is one of his courtiers. He only has disdain for Pierro who pathetically apes Domenico’s looks and style.

Former mistresses also accompany Domenico, vying fruitlessly for his attention. He humiliates them when they seek his favors. Once Domenico’s affection dies out, contempt is what remains.

Domenico’s eyes and heart belong to his beloved Felicia alone.

I won’t spoil what evil deeds he has in store for his hangers-on. Suffice to say, he does his admirers wrong. He is brutal in his viciousness.

So it’s no surprise when the people turn against Domenico.

The beautiful Prince falls from grace. Felicia alone stands by his side, aiding him in his quest to regain power. Felicia proves that she is more than just a beautiful female to desire. She has grit and fortitude where others fail. Domenico is humbled several times over.

The novel culminates with Domenico declaring his love in a surprisingly vulnerable demonstration of emotion.

I knew that love would not turn the silver devil into an angel. He would remain what he was–subtle yet childish, unfeeling yet passionate, lost irretrievably to everything but his own desire. But he loved me–and I loved him, now and forever.

THE SILVER DEVIL

Final Analysis of The Silver Devil & SPOILER ⚠

The writing in The Silver Devil is quite gripping. However, it’s not a sweet tale that leaves a pleasant taste in my mouth.

Reading this like a simple love story doesn’t work. It’s too dark, too gothic, too gruesome for me to call it one.

It is a fascinating character study of an unhinged, narcissistic megalomaniac and his female object of jealous obsession.

I cannot give this book five stars because it fails on one singular level. The Silver Devil is fabulous historical fiction. It’s a monumental piece of psychological analysis. But is it a romance? Only if I engage in a suspension of all disbelief.

Although Domenico is the absolute ruler of a wealthy Dukedom, he is not a typical “Alpha male.” Alphas are devoted to their mates, but they are also leaders who command respect. Domenico struggles spectacularly at this. His Dukedom is overtaken, and he must maneuver his way back into power. This is done not by coalescing allies who will eagerly follow his lead. He must attain this through deception, posing as a lowly peasant.

He is feared by others, not loved. Contrary to Machiavelli’s perspective, fear alone is not enough to keep Domenico secure.

In the last pages of The Silver Devil, Felicia gives birth to a son, the heir to Cabria. The novel concludes on a positive note.

Even so, I had doubts about the happy finale. Domenico is a mad despot. I could see the inhabitants of Cabria taking him out, Mussolini-style. Lord knows what would happen to Felicia and their son! My imagination goes wild, and it’s never a good end.

For that, it’s best to close the book and leave this story in its final moment of ultimate bliss.

Post Script: Read The Silver Devil For Free Online

I don’t usually post links for free books on the internet unless it’s to borrow from Open Library. However, the author has been deceased for more than thirty years, with no heirs. In light of that, I have linked to two sources where you can read the PDF version of The Silver Devil at no cost.

BOOK VOOKS: THE SILVER DEVIL ON PDF

PDF COFFEE: THE SILVER DEVIL

the silver devil

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