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Kiss at Your Own Risk by Stephanie Rowe

Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Soulfire, Book 1
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Length: 389 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle

Definitely Unique

He is fire, and after a century and a half of the grimmest of tortures at the hands of a black witch with a serious jones-on for males in touch with their feminine side, his escape from her realm at the expense of one of his warrior brethren has Alexander Blaine Underhill III raging like an inferno for revenge. He is intent on returning to the thrice-damned Den of Womanly Pursuits to rescue his comrade, and he's determined to end the life of the witch-bitch who had tortured him since he was four years old. And he's really okay with whichever comes first, so long as they both definitely occur.

Problem is, Blaine can't kill Angelica. Not alone, anyway. She's too powerful, has too much magic. He needs the help of the most deadly creature on the planet. The one person he knows who can kill anything, anyone, no matter how unkillable. He needs a Black Widow.

Trinity Harpswell is so close to achieving her goal. Seven days left and, so long as she doesn't kill again, she'll be forever free of the black widow curse that threatens to turn her into a monster. Compelled to fall in love, then kill the object of her love, she has already succumbed four of the five times she's allotted before it's set in stone. She's determined to not let there be a fifth. How hard can it be to stay out of love with someone for seven short days? It's been almost five years. Seven more days to that important milestone should be a snap.

And then Trinity meets Blaine, who wants her to kill the witch who had made his last century and a half an unmitigated nightmare. Before the warrior left behind gets tortured to death. Which will be long before her time is up, for sure. Shoot. And she was doing so well, too.

He's had the ability to trust in love tortured out of him. She's the epitome of love's demise. It's a match made in hell and it's going to be a bumpy, bumpy ride.

~*~

I honestly don't know if this series debut by Rowe is bizarrely brilliant...or just bizarre. It's definitely action-packed; it's certainly unique. I'd bet it's not for everyone. I'm still not sure it's for me, actually.

The concept is out there, that's for sure. I'm still not sure that the lighter elements of the story or the humor in the narrative worked well for me against the painful truth that these characters have been tortured, experimented on, and devastated by psychological and physical wounds. Had this been more serious in theme, this would have been a freakin' dark book. As it stands, I thought there were some flashes of truly funny bits, but the other elements prevented me from being able to relax into them.

I liked the story, but felt the book was hampered by a huge lack of world-building and character development. I don't mind having a few lingering questions at the end of a series debut, but too much was left without explanation or without clear definition. I have no firm grasp on the paranormal factions in the "real" world, not the first clue the scope or location of the witch's demesne. I don't even know what sort of paranormal - if any - Blaine and Trinity are, exactly. Hell, it wasn't until just now that I realized why Blaine's buds call him Trio. If that was explained in the narrative, I missed it.

It's also possible I'm just more slow-witted than I thought.

For the sheer level of twisted, freaky stuff in storyline and characters, this book would be hard to beat. The cross-stitching Blaine and the love 'em and kill 'em Trinity were quite the pair. There's definitely a part of me that was highly amused at the thought of all those warrior types being force fed a feminine side until it stuck. There just wasn't quite enough of the characters themselves in the book, either in definition or presence. It's far more a plot-driven story than character-driven. Other than the most obvious, I never really felt I knew anything much about either main character. In fact, I learned more details of Angelica's history than I did Blaine's and Trinity's, and even that wasn't really extensive.

That actually caused a bit of a problem for me, because there were things in the book, developments and discoveries and the like, that seemed to contradict previous information given (how'd a guy who'd been locked away since he was four get so good with a motorcycle?). I'm loathe to jump to hasty conclusions about plot holes, but significantly more exposition would have been appreciated for greater clarification. And I'm still not sure how the end of the book goes the way it does given what we'd already knew about Trinity's curse in particular. I was able to sustain disbelief only so far before I started to get a little antsy about the few things that didn't make sense, the myriad of answers I still didn't have, and the larger questions being raised.

The good parts, the strengths of the book, were fabulously weird and wonderfully freaky. I just wish some of the almost four hundred pages had set up the world and characters more thoroughly. I think I'll try the next book, but I have to admit, I may decide that this series is a bit too bizarre for me, even if more of the world is explained.

Quotables:
"It would be a huge honor to have you kill me."
Felicia raised her brow. "You're immortal," she said dryly.
Reina waved her hand. "Semantics. I'll pretend to die."
Felicia's smile warmed. "I like your attitude. Maybe another time."


He let a single flame dance at the end of his index finger. Just a reminder of exactly what he was: a fire warrior (okay, yeah, he'd self-titled, but he figured it was better than cross-stitching girly man).


"You do realize you could put that bullet in my head and I'd be dancing the rumba within about a minute? Guns don't stop me."
She blinked. "You can rumba?"
He scowled. "I just said a bullet to the brain wouldn't hurt me, and you're impressed that I can dance?"


And then he remembered lesson #76.5 from Man Decorum 101: Never tell a smart, pissed-off female what to do. Ask her. Nicely. Preferably with roses in hand.

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Ratings Guide

Here is a rundown of what the star ratings mean to me! It's not a perfect system, so you may see me add in a .5 star here and there if my impression of the book falls somewhere between these:

5 Stars - Loved it
4 Stars - Liked it
3 Stars - It's okay
2 Stars - Didn't like it
1 Star - Hated it

2014 Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
Tracy has read 22 books toward her goal of 175 books.
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Tracy's bookshelf: read

Zero at the BoneHead Over HeelsLord of the WolfynIn Total SurrenderA Win-Win PropositionNorth of Need

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