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?)