Punch and Juliette are living a care-free life, spending big, taking risks and engaging in criminal activity with little regard for the ramifications of their actions. Juliette continuously pits herself against fate, throwing her body at the mercy of predators in Key West - gambling with such a precious commodity with a breezy facade' that borders on a deeper need to succumbs to the perils of her vice. It's an interesting dynamic that feel organic, a devil without a care.
Yet, there is method to the madness, and it's entirely voluntary (hence the title). Punch and Juliette are impersonating life for the purpose of art. Seeking a creative outlet for his work in progress, Punch takes Juliette on a roller coaster ride through Key West, exposing her to new sensations (on either side of the law) and teasing out the limits of her comfort zone. Documenting the events as a work of fiction/liberated fact, Punch has his sights set on writing the great American novel, made macabre by a suicidal pack that will see him and Juliette call it quites once the final draft has been finished.
Vicki Hendricks knows how to write engaging characters who leap off the page and consume the 'real life'. Punch is an imposing figure yet his gentle side adds another dimension to him, particularly with his relationship with Juliette - it's interesting that he loves her so yet has talked her into the idea of killing herself once they've attained their goal.
As for Juliette, she's a summer breeze after a rainfall. A breath of fresh air that want to fornicate with the rancid yet doesn't. She's headstrong and independent yet hopelessly under Punch's spell - one which takes a witch and the law to test the spells limits.
VOLUNTARY MADNESS is not conventional and doesn't fit within a specific genre for me, yet it works on all the right levels; interesting and colorful characters, engaging plot, liberal doses of humour, and a serious side to balance things out. Like everything else I've read by Vicki Hendricks, VOLUNTARY MADNESS is a great entertaining read.