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Monday, October 11, 2010

Poisoned Kisses by Stephanie Draven

Poisoned Kisses by Stephanie Draven
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (229 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Daughter of the war god Ares, Kyra had been born into darkness—a darkness she'd vowed to annihilate. Just as she'd destroy the notorious Greek arms dealer Marco Kaisiris for feeding the bloodlust she despised. She'd use her nymph's carnal powers to seduce him, then slay him. But Kyra wasn't prepared for Marco's secret weapon.

For millennia Kyra had avoided mortal men, but she couldn't resist Marco's magnetism, his raw sexuality. Time and again his sculpted body took her to heights to which only the gods soared. That he was a shape-shifting hydra she could forgive, but not his one fatal flaw—his poisoned blood could kill her. Kyra had fallen for the only being who could destroy her…. Yet how could she spend eternity without him?

War creates more than chaos in this unique and gripping tale of passion and monsters, betrayal and redemption. A reader is going to find the Greek myths twisted and invigorated with a delicious twist sure to please in Poisoned Kisses.

Kyra comes from an ancient dysfunctional family. Her dad is Ares, the war god, and he’s one determined man who intends to find the ultimate weapon of war. The only thing standing in his way is his daughter, a young woman, by his standards, who is capable of great things. If only she’d just quit trying to go soft on him and stop making his carefully laid plains go awry. That’s one of the things I liked about Kyra. She’s not afraid of her dad and she should be. She bucks the status quo of the millennium by not wanting to blow people up but to guide them and actually do good things. She’s sort of stuck being dual natured and there is a lot of well developed internal angst because of it. She’s soft on one side of her personality but the other she’s clearly daddy’s girl, especially when she gets mad. Another thing her background colors is her way of dealing with issues. She has this destiny which was foretold. She interprets the completion of it in one way, by using violence and it gets her a lot more than she bargained for. Her one action sets her on the road to self-discovery and emotional growth. She fights it because she can’t trust it. And that itself is another issue – trust. To give and to earn it - it’s a compelling element throughout the story.

To call Marco a tortured hero is an understatement. He gets betrayed by his government, his friend and a lover. They use him and they try to kill him. How’s a guy supposed to have hope after all of that? And obviously, that trust issue is a huge chip on his shoulder. When I first met him, I only had Kyra’s opinion to go by. As the tale unfolds, I learned along with Kyra just what makes Marco who and what he is and he is as far from being a monster as the war gods are close to being the Easter Bunny. When faced with the truth, with the reality of what he’s been doing all these years, I believe that that had to have been one of the most eye-awakening moments for Marco and I liked where the author took him then – the dialogue, action and decisions he made, all of it actually brought Marco to full life for me. It was a delight watching him slowly but surely fall in love with the emotionally flawed Kyra. Inasmuch as she helped him, he in turn gave her the courage to be who she really wanted to be and do what needed to be done.

The author did a wonderful job of using descriptions. I enjoyed Kyra’s first reaction to Marco and his to her. Their emotions were believable and powerful. When they got together in the physical sense,

Ms. Draven provided an absolute treat to this reader because their distinctive encounters are a credit to the talent that Marco has. They were fresh, imaginative and fascinating. Kyra’s talent in being able to discern the differences were what made it work so well. When I thought about it, the concept is actually pretty hot stuff.

Poisoned Kisses isn’t a light and fluffy read. It’s hard edged, gritty, and serious. It even delves into the possibility of why war is so prevalent and dare I say, popular. Ms. Draven has provided this reader with a clever and intelligent story with an out of the ordinary romance that hooked me as soon as Kyra drew her knife. There is just something special about a tough woman who needs saving and a man who stays true to the course of honor and justice even when dark forces want to seduce him to their side. This is a book that made me think. I enjoyed how the author took a page out of real life and injected Greek mythology in a most entertaining way. Poisoned Kisses is a must read for anyone with a yen for a supernatural romantic suspense that is not only unusual but has a romance that survives extraordinary odds culminating in a terrific happily ever after. I am simply in awe of Ms. Draven’s talent and can’t wait to read more written by her soon.

Speaking of which, at the end of Poisoned Kisses, there is a delightful short story called Midnight Medusa that showcases one of Krya’s brothers. I found it funny after I read it because it showed me that she doesn’t know all her brothers that well and this little book shared with me that Kyra doesn’t have the market cornered on rebellion. This tale is between Phobos, son of Ares, and the greatly traumatized Renata, a young sculptress. Once again, trust, dreams and hopes are tested, and evil machinations plague the couple, making their road to happiness extremely bumpy. Even for such a small book, the characterizations of both Phobos and Renata are well done and poignant. The author gave just enough background, and I’ll warn you, it might bring a tear to your eye, to make me care for both of them. The conflict is both external and internal and I really felt for Renata. I was delighted by another mythological creature come to life and the reasons were no less emotional for their brevity. The author did not sacrifice quality for speedy storytelling and the result was another happily ever after this reader got to enjoy. Two well told tales in one book; I couldn’t be happier. Thank you, Ms. Draven for a riveting reading experience.