The Twisted Kiss – Anya Bast

Well, as Samwise Gamgee once said, I’m back. Thanks for your patience; it took a while for all the nuts and bolts to settle again, and anyone who points out that that means I had/have a screw loose isn’t entirely wrong. Now, NaNoWriMo notwithstanding, I aim to start catching up on my reviews. So naturally enough I’ll start with a non-obligation, a book I read for myself – and which wasn’t what I hoped …

I tried a sample of this book from Samhain Publishing, liked the writing, and gave it a shot. It is the tale of a small community a generation after Doomsyear, when government experimental viruses got loose. They can do pretty much one of four things to you: turn you into a vampire, turn you into a werewolf, kill you outright – or leave you entirely alone, immune. (It can also render you a psychic, but that’s very rare. There’s another possibility which is rarer still which isn’t discussed until it’s necessary.) Most people die, including family members of our main characters.

Kylie’s immune, plain vanilla human, and runs a vampire bar called The Twisted Kiss – a kiss being the name for a group of vampires (rather nicer than the Mercy Thompson world’s seethe) – not that the bar has a huge amount to do with the plot, mind you. (Nor does Kylie’s running of it mean much; she seems to be able to stay away whenever she likes without any problem, and has none of the stresses usually involved with running a business. In other words, the main reason to even make the bar’s name the book’s name is because it’s a neat title. Not that the title has so much to do with the book, either …) It is, however, where we meet the three main characters, and find that Kylie has just been informed that the Powers That Be – the council, who are those psychics I mentioned – have chosen mates for her. This is common practice, post-Doomsyear, both the being chosen for and the plural; women are scarce, fertility is low, and the population is dangerously small, and in order to try to foster population growth the council uses its skills to set up ménages à trois that will be happy and fertile and lend themselves to some steamy paranormal romance writing. Kylie, human, didn’t expect the council to interfere with her, and digs in her heels about being dictated to; she also has a Deep Dark Reason not to want to be romantically involved, and that takes some getting past as well.

But of course there could be no two men more likely to get past, over, under, or through all of Kylie’s objections and reluctances than Christian, a werewolf, and Michael, a vampire. It’s unusual that a vamp and a were would be put in the same group, never mind with a human, but naturally this is special. They have both loved her and wanted her for a long time, of course, and now that it’s sanctioned they’re thrilled. Not about sharing – they make it abundantly clear that they’re not interested in each other, heaven forfend, but they quickly come to a détente of cooperation in the area of convincing Kylie.

It’s not a bad little book (it’s a novella, technically). There are sparks of life to the characters, and sparks of character in the writing, and a tidily introduced straightforward world with a laudable minimum of info-dumping. There is, however, a bit of seriesitis at a couple of places in the book, something romance series that deal with a family of siblings or something similar tend toward: a very pointed setting-up nod toward the subjects of the next book in the series. (If I’m wrong about who the next book will be about, I’ll be stunned.) The conflict that arises as that of Kylie’s resistance goes away is surprising and interesting, but it is as quickly dealt with as Kylie’s issues; the pace is brisk. Maybe a little too brisk: Kylie goes from “Absolutely. Friggin’. NOT.” to “Hmm” to “Take me, I’m yours – and yours, too” in a remarkably short span of time. But when all’s said and done the whole thing is basically a framework and an excuse for getting the three of them in bed. For what it is, it’s fun; for anything more, it needs a great deal of work.


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