Book Review

Kiss and Kin by Kinsey Holley

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Title: Kiss and Kin
Author: Kinsey Holley
Publication Info: Samhain June 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60504-612
Genre: Paranormal

image I am having a much easier time easing back into the flooded pool that is paranormal romance by reading novellas, it seems, and when I was asked to review this one, I agreed because it blends one of my favorite tropes – the forbidden romance – with my preferred paranormal type, the shape shifter.

Lark Manning is a human, and a pretty happy one at that. She has a job and a life and a mixed family of humans and shifters, and she’s, of course, hot and likes to go to clubs and party with her friends. Secretly, Lark has harbored for years now a big ol’ lusty crush on her cousin, Taran, a shifter and detective in the “Houston Police Department’s Shifters Investigations Unit (SHIU).” [Note: I totally said to myself, ‘SHEEEEEYEEEUUUU, them Texas shifters sure are hot ones!’ when I saw that abbreviation.]

Taran has been investigating a series of disappearances and when staking out a club where the victims seem to be connected to one another, he sees Lark out with a friend – and tells himself one more time to reveal absolutely none of the equally hot and extra steamy lustytail he has for Lark.

While the initial forbidden attraction elements are delicious, the entirety of the novella did not live up to the promise of the beginning. Taran is out of his mind for Lark, and refuses to do anything about it because he believes she sees him as family.

I was intrigued by the shifter world Holley created, particularly in the little details that were revealed slowly and not dumped upon me. Some parts of her worldbuilding confused me. For example, I did wonder how Taran could be an alpha yet exist under another alpha in his pack – wouldn’t they spend most of their time growling and peeing on trees? Other elements added a clever dimension to the story, such as the idea that only a human who is a werewolf’s mate can meet and hold his gaze. Otherwise, no human can maintain eye contact with an alpha shifter.

Plus, shifter wolves do have a life mate, but that finding that mate is incredibly rare, and can cause some very realistic problems. One ancillary character had her heart broken when her boyfriend, a shifter, found his mate – and it wasn’t her. Ouch. A conflict based upon emotion for one person and compulsion for another? Double Ouch.

That conflict finds its way into this story as well. Lark isn’t going to fall in line or in bed for any dude who says he wants to boink her just because his wolfy senses tell him She is Teh One. Frankly, that’s probably one of my major beefs (no pun intended) with paranormal romance of late: much of the tension is slackassedly based on the lukewarm I’m a Paranormal Hero and You’re My Mate, That’s Why. Holley takes a different road with her ancillary characters, and I appreciate it.

My problems with the novella deal with that tension, though, and with the larger plot threads operating behind the course of this story. It’s clearly part of a series, and this visit into the larger narrative leaves SO much unsolved, it is too short by far. It ended and I thought, “Wait, that’s it?!” It was like turning into a plot-intense television series in the middle of the season without having read so much as a Wikipedia synopsis. Plus, all the concerns they had about revealing how they felt never materialized. So much happened off screen to resolve those concerns that by the end the two of them looked daft to have worried about it at all.

And because it’s a novella, there’s not a lot of time for the hero and heroine to resolve their issues and dissolve one another’s clothing with the red hot lusty action. The scene in which they have to admit the truth to one another and then submit to one another rapidly shifts (hur) from internal struggle to ZOMG SEX NOW and I didn’t quite get pulled along for the transition. It seemed to me that the emotional tension dissipated too quickly in the haze of lust and omgfinally, and I missed the blend of both that makes romances of this trope so delicious.

Holley’s novella is a clever take on a lot of the tired shapeshifter world tropes, and after reading this one I am going to do my bitchy darndest to remember her name and her world because I’d be happy to revisit to see if longer stories, particularly those of Lark’s best friend TJ, develop the emotional and sexual tension concurrently and sustain both through their resolution.


Kiss and Kin is available from SamHain except that that link will be broken when the book comes out, so try this one at Books on Board or maybe this Samhain link if you’re looking to buy. (Psst. Samhain: autoforwarding is a great thing, ya know?)

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Roxy says:

    Sounds like a good read.  I need to find it.

  2. 2
    MichelleR says:

    At first I thought, “how nice to know for shizzle that someone is your soulmate.” Then, I thought, “yeah, but that means you would also know for sure if you’d just settled.” Not to mention, how angry could you be if your spouse left you for his undeniable “density?” …  Or, if you met someone and know, unequivocally, that this was your soulmate and had to either give him the heave-ho or wreck your family.

    I’ve decided I think too much,

  3. 3
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Other elements added a clever dimension to the story, such as the idea that only a human who is a werewolf’s mate can meet and hold his gaze. Otherwise, no human can maintain eye contact with an alpha shifter.

    Plus, shifter wolves do have a life mate, but that finding that mate is incredibly rare, and can cause some very realistic problems. One ancillary character had her heart broken when her boyfriend, a shifter, found his mate – and it wasn’t her. Ouch. A conflict based upon emotion for one person and compulsion for another? Double Ouch.

    I just can’t *do* the “fated mate” thing. Having no choice sucks the “romance” out of the book for me.

  4. 4
    Sarah W says:

    Having no choice sucks the “romance” out of the book for me.

    I don’t know—-what if ‘destined mate’ is no more than a hardwired biological imperative from the ‘beast’ self? 

    Hard to overcome, maybe, but how hot (and how complicated plot-wise) would it be if your lover loved you enough to disregard the compulsion to have babies with another person?

    And how difficult would it be to believe that your lover is staying with you out of love and not pity or honor or sheer stubbornness?  What about his ‘destined mate’s’ feelings and needs?

    Sounds like a decent romance plot to me . . .

  5. 5
    JoanneL says:

    I love a shifter in uniform, lol!

    I like all things shifter; destined mates, furry coats and yellow eyes—- and for me an occasional alpha growl doesn’t hurt the story either!

    Ms. Holleys’ website shows two other covers with other stories from this series and says that the three stories will also be released together in print.

  6. 6
    Lisa J says:

    I picked this one up yesterday from Samhain.  After reading the review I had to read it today. 

    This one is a good story for me.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  The fated mate thing in a book doesn’t bother me.  The insecurity and anger it brought to the character was a new twist and I could see myself having those feelings if it were me. 

    I definitely will continue reading the series.

  7. 7
    Madd says:

    Got an email from MBaM about this title, ‘cause it’s on sale, and decided to buy it because the synopsis looked good and I liked the excerpt. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, so when I saw the C- minus grade I thought “Aw, man, don’t tell me I bought a crappy book!”, but middling grade aside, the review doesn’t sound all that bad. I’ll probably like it.

  8. 8
    Kalen Hughes says:

    how hot (and how complicated plot-wise) would it be if your lover loved you enough to disregard the compulsion to have babies with another person?

    And how difficult would it be to believe that your lover is staying with you out of love and not pity or honor or sheer stubbornness?  What about his ‘destined mate’s’ feelings and needs?

    Sounds like a decent romance plot to me . . .

    But that’s an anti-fated mate plot . . . and yeah, that might work for me.

  9. 9
    kinseyholley says:

    Excuse me…I’m unsure of the protocol for commenting in a post where one’s book is reviewed, but I wanted to clear something up, because I think I may have accidentally caused confusion.

    The two other books you see at my website aren’t by me, and they’re not part of my series.  They, and KnK, will be published together in print, next spring, as a shapeshifting anthology.  I’m gonna make that more explicit over at my place.

    Vivi Andrews’ book is about a lioness with confidence issues, and Robie Madison’s is about a horse which might not be a horse at all.  (It features Welsh mythology which, IMO, doesn’t show up nearly enough in paranormal romance.)

    My antho-mates and I thank you for your attention. 

    I’m gonna go lie down now – I’m still hyperventilating a lil bit.

  10. 10
    MaryK says:

    Since you’re getting back into paranormal romance, have you read Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega short story?  I’m not sure it’s technically a romance (they’re only tentatively a couple at the end), but it’s one of the most romantic paranormals I’ve ever read.  It’s a problems-within-the-pack story rather than a human v. werewolf conflict.  One of the interesting aspects of the werewolf mythology is that a couple can fall in love and marry and yet it take years for their “wolf” to accept the other as its mate.

  11. 11
    Roxy says:

    MaryK there is a follow up full length novel, the first in the Alpha and Omega separate series, already out titled Cry Wolf.  Goes into the full story of those two becoming a bonded pair.  And I think P. Briggs is firmly in the “urban fantasy” camp.  Keeping on top of these new sub genres is HARD.  What do you call all the new demon books out?  Just read Mark of the Demon and Carolyn Jewel’s second demon novel and I’m sold!

  12. 12
    MaryK says:

    Yes, Patricia Briggs is definitely UF.  The first novella in the A&O series is romantic as all get out, though, so I think it would work well for paranormal romance fans.  Janine at DA loves it to bits, too.  ;)

  13. 13
    henofthewoods says:

    Cathy Adams and C.T. Clamp writing together about were-animals, the Sazi, use a fated mate system that does not always match up. Joe’s mate may be Jane, but Jane’s mate is Raoul. Also if the character is high ranking in their pack, they may have more than one character who mate to them. It is rare to be “double-mated” and not destined for heartbreak.

    I’m sure there was more to it, but this is what I remember now.

    This was the set of books with moon in the title, Moon’s Web for example. The first in the series, Hunter’s Moon is really unusual and well worth a read if you want a paranormal that is not just like all the others. The first chapter is on their website (yes I’ve started googling for accuracy.) But NONE ARE AVAILABLE AS EBOOKS.

    So frustrating.
    Anyway, they also write vampire stories that include mean nasty vampires that will kill you if they get the chance.

  14. 14
    yomama says:

    I gotta get my eyes checked…or stop reading web pages at 1:45 AM.  I could of swore that wolf on the cover was a plump sheep, and though Man, what kinda freaky-assed shit are they getting into now?  I suppose it’s a change from the usual were-wolf…”  Then I rubbed my eyes and looked closer.

    Hey, were-sheep need lovin’ too!

  15. 15
    Gemmifer says:

    I guess it’s a little late to be commenting on this but the idea that no human can hold an alpha shifter’s gaze annoys me. That seems to imply that in that universe, humans are in some profound way always inferior to shifters.

    This idea that being human is just not good enough which is unfortunately popular in fantasy annoys the hell out of me. I’m human and I bet the author is too. I like being human.

    Heh. I could hold any shifters gaze.

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