The Devil’s Virgin (Lucifer Cove Book 3)
Virginia Coffman | Pinnacle Books | 1978 | 214 pages
On holiday break, eighteen-year-old student Diane Deeth travels to Lucifer Cove, the mysterious spa dedicated to the pursuit of hedonism on the secluded coast south of San Francisco, to check on the health and well being of her mother. Christine Deeth, leaving a broken marriage and her two children behind, previously checked in to the resort to calm her troubled nerves, but has since been unwilling, or seemingly unable, to leave.
Diane meets Bill Janocek, another outsider entering Lucifer Cove with his own agenda. Bill is the brother of Nadine Janos, High Priestess of the Devil Cult that performs satanic services at the Grecian-style temple on the hill high above the spa community. A freshly graduated cub reporter, Bill seeks to write an exposé on the criminal element drawn to the permissive lifestyle at Lucifer Cove. His main target is Warren Kittmer, a young Manson-like group leader who, although never been officially charged by the police, brags of his involvement in a thrill killing of a family in Los Angeles.
Diane finds her mother in generally good spirits, but notes that Christine seems unusually anxious for her daughter to leave Lucifer Cove. Diane suspects that her mother may be romantically involved with another of the Cove’s residents, and that the relationship may be at the root of Christine’s reluctance to return to her regular family life. Meanwhile, Diane spends much of her time weighing the potential of her own romantic possibilities. Although she develops a growing fondness toward Bill, helping him in his investigations, she cannot seem to resist the darkly magnetic charms of Marc Meridon, the elusive owner of a major share in the resort.
Since readers of the earlier Lucifer Cove novels already know of Christine’s relationship with Marc Meridon, the long drawn-out revelation comes as no surprise. The bigger mystery is why no one else at the resort would inform Diane of the identity of her mother’s love interest. Although Diane finds a dead body and experiences some supernatural manifestations, the main pull of the story revolves around implicating Warren Kittmer in the murders. However, the pimply-faced adolescent killer is such a minor character at Lucifer Cove that his eventual takedown bears little weight.
Nadine Janos also suffers from a lack of continuity from the previous books, disappointingly slipping back into a smaller, more caricatured role. She was treated to a full-blown, more nuanced character study in the earlier series entry, Priestess of the Damned. Even in her newly diminished capacity, Nadine still fails to be consistent in her behavior. She quickly turns from an aggressive disinterest toward Diane, to a full acceptance of Diane’s poorly conceived plan of attack on Kittmer and his group of followers—a plan that unthinkably calls upon Diane to lead Nadine’s cult service at the temple.
Even putting aside the supernatural elements and taking the book simply as a piece of romance fiction, The Devil’s Virgin has difficulty delivering any tension. Between Marc Meridon’s otherworldly hold over Christine Deeth, and Nadine Janos’ love-hate relationship with her Irish handyman assistant, Diane really only has one candidate to embrace—the “square” with the warm, muscular arms.