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I read this book in 2005. The female lead character is a strong magician/sorceress/mage. Power wise she is the strongest of all the magic wielders in her country. Her country has a bias against female magic users. A rich woman hires the lead character to protect her because she has an admirer who became infatuated and began stalking her.

Magic wielders can summon demons and bind them to do their bidding. One particular demon becomes fascinated by the lead character and assumes human form in order to seduce her. His aim is to bind her to him so that he may use her power as well as his own. Throughout the book, the lead character resists him and every night performs spells to put protections around the rich woman.

A sickness starts spreading across the area where the lead character lives and no one knows the cause. Later in the book it's revealed that the demon who took human form is causing the sickness. The lead character has to fight the demon in order to protect herself and her rich boss.

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This question appears to fit "Mage Heart", by Jane Routley, which was published in 1996.

This fantasy story has a Provencal feel to it. The lead character, Dion, is described as "the most powerful mage in the realm". But since she is a woman, and young, she is discounted. Several times she survives because others underestimated her power.

After her guardian dies she is hired by the Duke, to serve his favourite mistress, a courtesan, Kitten Avignon, known as 'Our Lady of Roses'.

Kitten is being stalked by a necromancer, Norval. Dion must perform a ritual every day to keep her safe. Necromancers can summon demons who will in the traditional way promise them power whilst looking for loopholes to exploit. Dion knows this; nevertheless she finds herself fascinated by a man who might be Norval's demon in human form.

The story has a subplot about a sickness.

For suddenly, in the early summer, Gallia found itself in the grip of a plague , the mysterious and terrible disease that was to become known as "Protitutes' Sickness" or more commonly as "Whore's Sleep".

Women fall into lassitude as if their life-force is being drained away. Later we find the necromancer (Norval) complaining:

Demons and their needs. Feeding is the be-all and end-all of their existence, ..., Look what happened when I had to loosen by control of him earlier this summer. Can you guess? The plague in Gallia. That's right, the Whore's Sleep.

Eventually the demon goads Dion into killing Norval, thus freeing the demon. But to the demon's surprise Dion and the demon are evenly matched, fighting to a stalemate. Kitten is able to stab it with a magic knife whilst Dion has it immobilized.

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  • You have made me unbelievably happy. Thank you so much for answering this question. I've been wondering for over 20 years.
    – user69645
    Nov 3, 2021 at 3:40

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