You wouldn’t know it from the generic title, but Michele Hauf’s Kiss Me Deadly is an erotic paranormal romance. Hauf creates and explores a relatively complex parallel society of witches, vampires, and werewolves. Some of the aspects are expected and traditional, such as the vampires’ aversion to light, but others are more playful. The devil himself is a character, but a figure more of mischief than evil, and he has the best lines.
In this world, witches and vampires are sworn enemies, but our couple come together despite that, thanks to a magic spell. If that seems too convenient, a later development provides a satisfactory explanation. The spell puts this romance into the category of people forced into a relationship who come to love each other, and regular readers of this blog will know that’s not my preference. It skips all of the tension around the growth of a relationship, and replaces it with a simple question: “How much do I love this person who I am with all the time and bedding frequently?” Love potion? As soon as it takes effect, these two are at it all day, day after day. Lust potion would be a more accurate description, but the sex scenes lack a certain sizzle.
Our hero, Nikolaus, is larger than life, and not just because he’s a vampire. As the story opens, he’s become a super vampire, and the, uh, physical aspects of the relationship make him (but not her) even more powerful. What was he before he became a vampire? A doctor, and not just any doctor, but a brain surgeon. As for Ravin, she seems like a strong independent women, and she’s definitely a survivor, but it still takes a man to get her life on track and rescue her in multiple ways. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. A good relationship can help get your life on track, but the best relationships bring benefits to both partners and in this story I’m not sure what Nikolaus gains.
There’s a curious and somewhat erotic homosocial undertone. In this world, it seems the vampires are all male. The symbolism of an incident between Nikolaus and a friend is erotically charged, and despite his wealth and power, Nikolaus has a young male room mate. An action plot parallels the romance plot, and its resolution is confrontation between three male figures. Meanwhile, Ravin appears to be completely isolated except for her literal saviour.
The action plot is very well integrated with the romance plot, and that kept me reading to the end. The characters have their own feelings to overcome, as usual in a forced relationship plot, but unlike many other romances there are blocking characters more dangerous than a jealous ex or a rakish brother. The conclusion of a romance plot is never in doubt in a romance, and with our couple having fantastic sex within a few hours of meeting, there’s never much doubt or tension there. The action plot, on the other hand, could go in various directions and poses a serious threat to both of the lovers.
The resolutions are a little disappointing. They seemed to be more about setting up for a sequel than resolving matters. On the other hand, I want to find out what happens next in the series, and I respect the author’s ability to generate that interest.