Sunday, May 24, 2009

Review - Night's Kiss by Amanda Ashley

I know I've spent a fair amount of time talking about books and shows I love. So much that I've decided it's high time for a review of a more critical nature. I may love vampires, but I'm no fangirl and the mere sight of fangs and a black cape isn't enough to win me over. I need substance, storyline, intriguing characters or, at the very very least, something with enough camp appeal to catapult the story into guilty pleasure status. When a story lacks all of the above? Well, the sexiest vampire in all the world can't save a story that's just plain bad. Case in point, Night's Kiss by Amanda Ashley.

***Spoiler Alert***
Do not read any further if you do not want to know major plot points, including the resolution.

I'm going to copy and paste the back cover blurb directly from Amazon.
"He has found his soul's desire...The Dark Gift has brought Roshan DeLongpre a lifetime of bitter loneliness - until, by chance, he comes across a picture of Brenna Flanagan. There is something hauntingly familiar in Brenna's fiery red hair and sensual body, something that compels him to travel into the past, save the beautiful witch from the stake, and bring her safely to his own time. Now, in the modern world, Brenna's seductive innocence and sense of wonder are utterly bewitching the once-weary vampire, blinding him to a growing danger. For there is one whose dark magick is who knows who they both are and won't stop till their powers are his...and they are nothing more than shadows through time..."

Sounds intriguing, right? If the blurb is to be believed, Night's Kiss is the dark tale of a time traveling vampire who falls in love with a witch and the pair of them must overcome powerful forces that strive to keep them apart. Not a bad premise by any means. Interesting, actually. Well, it sounded good enough for me to pick up, too. I sat down with this book, expecting nothing but good things, and within 5 hours I had finished all 352 pages. Was it just that good? Hardly. I made myself finish it out of morbid curiosity. How could something so utterly pointless and predictable, filled with plotholes and weak characters, actually get published? I was astonished. I've read unpublished manuscripts from friends that literally blow this published work out of the water. What is it that makes Night's Kiss so completely terrible? I'm glad you asked.

Let's start with the hero, Roshan DeLongpre. Roshan isn't just lonely and bitter as the blurb says, he's suicidal. But, I mean, really. The first few chapters of the book are devoted solely to him devising a plan to kill himself. Oh yes, our hero is a whiny bitch who plans to walk into the morning sunlight and end it all. What stops him? Well, he has to say his possessions. That's right. He's collected so many trinkets throughout his "preternaturally"* long life that he needs to walk around and pet them before offing himself. Again, I only wish I was kidding. He begins stroking books at random and pulls one down. He magically flips open to a page with a picture of a beautiful young witch being burned at the stake...and falls madly in love. Stalkerishly madly in love. The kind of "love" that gets you slapped with a restraining order and thrown into a holding cell with a large man named Tiny. But it's ok, because this witch who died hundreds of years ago, (coincidentally) on the night he was born a human, is his soul mate. So, instead of killing himself, he wills himself back through time and happens to appear in the witch's back yard, just in time to catch her dancing naked under the moonlight. In case you haven't yet figured it out, coincidence is going to figure very highly in the plot. Far more highly than, oh, an actual plot.

Back to the story. The witch is Brenna Flanagan. She at first resists the handsome stranger and his tales of imminent death, but the whole tied-to-a-stake-and-lit-on-fire thing makes her rethink the safety of small town living. Roshan rescues her from certain death, grabs her faithful cat, and the three of them magically reappear in the 21st century. Again, I'm not kidding. You just can't make a frantic escape from the past without bringing your faithful house cat along for the ride.

It's all so convenient. But, even more convenient, is how quickly Brenna adapts to everything from indoor plumbing to television. She just gets it, as though she was really a modern woman all along. She even has 21st century feminist ideas; she wants a baby, but not a husband. She's very firm on this point, no husband for her!... until she and Roshan have sex once and it is so fantastic it changes her entire worldview without explanation. In the span of a few pages Miss Independwitch is jonesing for a wedding like a crack addict for a hit. No explanation provided, just the magic of love, I guess.

Now enter the villain, who is about as intimidating as a pez dispenser, and about as equally well fleshed out. I honestly don't even remember the villain's name at this point. He pretends to be a decent guy long enough to get close to Brenna. He has some plan to gain immortality by drinking a vampire blood concoction of his own making, which means he's on the lookout for vamps to drain.

Roshan and Brenna decide to get married. Brenna asks her one friend to stand as witness, even though she barely knows the woman, and the woman hands both Brenna and Roshan over to the villain. Random supposedly scary events occur, none of them memorable enough for me to recall with any real clarity. I believe the villain is tricked into believing he's created a vamp blood compound that will gain him life and power, only to be poisoned by it. He dies, the hero saves the heroine, and they ride off into a contrived happily ever after.

Except the story doesn't end there. Oh no, this train wreck can't be stopped until no survivors are left standing. Every rule of good storytelling must be broken. And that's why, instead of ending this story on an already overly contrived HEA, Ashley goes for the gusto.

If you remember, Brenna really, really, really, wants a baby to raise up to be a witch like herself. Not any baby, a little girl. Well, vampires can't have children. It's an unfortunate side effect of the whole "being dead" thing. Does this mean our valiant hero and his newly-turned vampiress wife won’t have the child for which she so desperately yearns? Of course not.

While out on a walk, Roshan and Brenna come across a teenage girl in a back alley. Can you see where this is going? The teenage girl is, of course, giving birth. The two vampires kindly assist the troubled young woman and, as soon as the baby is born, the girl jumps to her feet, pulls up her pants, and walks off. I mean damn, people. Does this girl have a lead-paneled uterus? Apparently, because it goes with her lead-lined heart. You see, shock of all shocks, she doesn’t want her baby girl. Not at all. Tells Brenna she can have it. Moreover, if Brenna and Roshan don't take the child, she'll drop it in a dumpster somewhere. What choice does Brenna have but to graciously except the one thing she wants most in life and frolic off in the moonlight to live out her "preternatural" life in perfect bliss? None, so that's exactly what she does.

This story swings back and forth from predictable to absurd. Unfortunately, it never quite manages to hit believable, likeable, or interesting. I do not understand how this was published. Who considers this kind of storytelling original? The characters are one dimensional, going against even their own belief systems once they fall in love. Yes, I understand that people will make changes and sacrifices for love, but the romantic elements of the story weren’t convincing either. Just because two people are in one place and happen to have sex does not mean they are in love. It certainly doesn’t mean they are destined to spend their lives together. The romance in this story is based completely off a desperate, suicidal man’s obsession and a naïve woman’s total lack of other options. It is, at best, a tale of codependency.

I lost 5 hours of my life to this drivel. I can only pray this review keeps you from making the same mistake.

*Ashley uses the word "preternaturally" like it's going out of style.

Rating: 1/5



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