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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
In Last Temptation, Sloane Virago challenges us with character evaluation. Each character is a troubling mixture of good and bad. With one exception they are twenty-somethings making their separate ways through finding careers and love. Each inspires and disappoints. Jacob, at first the seeming protagonist, a shy nice guy who must cheat to graduate from college, is seduced into the drug and prostitution trades where he meets Sarah, his first girlfriend. Peter, Jacob’s childhood friend, seems to be on his way in law enforcement before he becomes embroiled in its ambiguities. He’s in love with his childhood friend, the red-haired and beautiful Esperanza who thinks she is in love with him also. And it’s all being choreographed by the amber-eyed, demonic/angelic Daemon, who pops up at all the critical moments. Then, there’s the one featured adult, Miriam, Esperanza’s grandma, a devout Catholic who falls into moral dilemmas of her own. All along the way, there are biblical references, even in the names.
As I finished the last page, my mind was swirling with Last Temptation’s message (not that there needs to be one) until it hit me that the theme is that the world is a swirl of good and bad, right and wrong, and we navigate through our lives trying to figure it all out and finding our place somewhere near the middle of the milieu. In that sense, Sloane Virago’s debut performance is profound. Her prose is smooth and clear, no lack of clarity there, but as these well-drawn characters wend their ways, the gist of it all eluded me until I closed the book and gave it some thought. Personally, I love a book that makes me think, that forces me to tweak my view of things. For instance, Daemon says to Miriam, “… sometimes you have to do the wrong thing to help someone.” So, would such an act, I pondered, actually be wrong? All the moral haziness, however, is occasionally relieved with some quite clear and graphic sex. Everything together -- plot, characterization, prose style, message, and lovemaking -- cooks up one heck of fascinating stew. Bravo, Ms. Virago! Welcome to the literary world.