August Suggested Theme: Impulse Read
Does this fit the theme? I guess so, if we count evil impulses. A year ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about an old category romance I’d read ages ago. But I also couldn’t remember the title, author, or which line it had belonged to. Helpful! Luckily the internet (in the form of SBTB) provided the answers, whereupon I basically did what I always do: bought it, put it on the virtual TBR shelf, and happily forgot it.
Title: Kiss of the Beast
Author: Mallory Rush
Published: October 1995 (Harlequin Temptation #558)
Oh boy. Where do I start? One of the things I thought I remembered about this was that the hero, Urich, was an alien cat-shifter with glittery…man-juice.
I was completely wrong! He’s an alien time-travelling WOLF shifter, complete with penile knotting, and she finds the glitter after he incorporeally goes down her. So he has glittery SALIVA.
Our heroine, Eva Campbell, is a scientist working on a virtual reality chamber. Initially when Urich shows up he materializes in the chamber, and lets her think he’s a hologram.
More than her share spent already, Eva blew a kiss to the program for luck. Her fantasy man was in it–a computerized persona with an unlimited vocabulary to select from, he was designed to respond to her in a distinctly male way. (loc 102)
Urich has been sent to Earth to bring her back to his planet for breeding purposes; his species’ females are all dead or infertile,and the males are infertile (they lost a war), except for his father. Urich does a lot of internal angsting about wanting to claim Eva for himself even though duty and honour require that he bring her back to his father.
Golden her cage would be, yet she’d be no less a prisoner. (loc 301)
He also does a lot of internal angsting about feeling anything for her, because his race, the hilariously-named Deducians, are emotionless and logical. Hey, I’m just relieved to know I wasn’t the only one with a humungous crush on Spock.
The cold-and-logical thing clashes a bit with the passionate-beast thing, though. It’s like he’s equal parts Spock and Vincent, with time-travel and mind-reading thrown in just to confuse me.
Also when he claims Eva he transforms, bites her on the neck, and then knotting happens. So he’s a coldly logical, passionate, time-travelling mind-reading shape-shifter werewolf vampire-alien.
Who looks (at least before he shifts) like a whole lot of racially-suggestive things:
His eyes were almond shaped, tilted up. Brilliant green irises that shone like glass seemed to reflect some inner light. The ebony mane of his hair was brushed severely back, accentuating the exotic contour of his face. All angles and shadows, he radiated the mystery of the Orient, the ancient secrets of Egypt, the savagery of a stalking wild beast. (loc 148)
Wow. I mean, I know he’s LITERALLY a beast, and I guess an alien IS pretty exotic, but that is an incredibly uncomfortable paragraph to read.
Things that bugged me:
1. Urich is sterile, so naturally the book ends with them adopting twins. Look, I love children, but it bothers me when they’re shoved in at the end to gloss over something serious like infertility.
2. Eva sounds less and less like a scientist and more and more like a pronounced loon as the book goes on, and it didn’t help any when “mind over matter” became the only explanation for how she was able to travel through space to confront Urich’s father.
3. The prose was a little convoluted and outrageously purple.
His voice. Never had she heard anything like it, an undulating sound like gravel sifted through raw silk. (loc 141)
I have read that a dozen times now and am no closer to working out what he sounds like.
4. Her younger male co-worker, who is nursing an obvious (to the reader; Eva is stupidly oblivious) thing for her, hits on her. Urich shows up, picks him up in the air and threatens to toss him, but then they abruptly make up and male-bond in the space of a couple of minutes, and the whole scene ends with Urich agreeing to get together to give him workout tips.
Things I liked:
1. Eva is riddled with self-doubt because her ex-husband cheated on her. A flashback also shows her being humiliated at a piano recital, and her parents’ lack of support. So at least there’s a coherent reason why she needs to be “awakened” sexually.
2. Apparently I am not even a little bit over my childhood thing for Spock.
3. Eva confronts Urich’s father and negotiates his permission for her and Urich to stay together. I could wish the negotiations didn’t include her putting his hand on her breast (to teach him how overpowering passion can be), but at least she DOES SOMETHING. And she has to overcome a memory wipe to do it, too.
Final thoughts: Is this the first category romance to include knotting? Because I was impressed and horrified to find such a fanfic-trope sitting right here in print. I temporarily felt like an Archeologist of Kink.
Then smooth and seemingly endless was his glide until she was sure he had tresspassed her womb. Her inner walls clenched and she felt him expanding against them with a magnitude that left no room for even the slightest friction. His breath hot and searingly near, he sighed out, “we’re locked. This is how we stay until your release releases me.”
Ow and also yuck, but I was kind of impressed that the author went there.
But when it’s over, it’s REALLY over:
What was in her retracted, slipped out easy as a snake shedding its skin. (loc 2193)