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Monday, April 16, 2012

Kiss of Pride by Sandra Hill

Kiss of Pride by Sandra Hill
Publisher: Avon (HarperCollins Publishing)
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (353 pgs)
Heat Level: spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Some men are too bad to be true . . .

Is he really a Viking with a vampire's bite? An angel with the body of a thunder god? A lone wolf with love on his mind? Alexandra Kelly, his prey, thinks Vikar Sigurdsson is either flat-out crazy or he's trying to maneuver her into his bed—which is hardly where a professional reporter should conduct an interview, tempting as that prospect might be.

And some men are too good to be true . . .

Until Vikar does something a teensy bit unexpected, and Alex begins to wonder whether her mystery man could really be everything he says he is: a Viking Vampire Angel on a thousand-year-long mission with his pack of sinful brothers—and a man who's finally found the woman of his dreams. By then, Vikar is already wrapping his chiseled arms around Alex's body . . . and sinking his wicked fangs right into her neck. If this is sin, why does it feel so good?

Ms. Hill has turned her favorite theme of irreverent and sexy Vikings and sent them on a journey no Viking was ever meant to go. The result is an amazing array of characters who battle the ultimate evil all the while entertaining readers with that unique sense of comedic timing Ms. Hill has honed to perfection. It’s not as light and fluffy as I’m used to but there is an awfully good reason for that. Ever hear of Viking vampire angels in training? No? Then get settled in a comfy chair because this adventure is going to astound fans of paranormal romance with its freshness and interesting interpretation of a few Christian beliefs all wrapped up with a hero with attitude and a heroine who isn’t afraid of his teeth.

First off, I want to give credit to Ms. Hill for making St. Michael the Archangel funny. Ironic that I’ve been aware of his role in religious history, but that’s where he remained – sort of forgotten and I never gave him much thought. He did his job, played his role and that was the end of it. Not according to Ms. Hill. And I adore her for it. It’s like she brought him to life; teasing readers with the possibility that there is a vital role he could be currently playing somewhere on this Earth even in this day and age. He’s personable, snarky but loving, extremely alpha and commanding when he has to be and he never loses focus. He’s a good one to have at your back and on your side, provided you stay on his good side. And that's where the heroes of the story come in because in the beginning, they are totally not on his good side. In fact they're so bad it’s insulting and yet, there's St. Michael’s belief that they are redeemable. It’s the whole question of how to get stubborn macho full of themselves Vikings redeemed that makes not only this story line work but is enough to base an entire series on.

Early on, the author made it very clear to readers and in fact draws the line in the sand as to who and what, was evil. She did that by taking readers to a scene of torture. What I found most fascinating was the intent and level of the sexual violence. It’s not a long and drawn out scene; it’s akin to having a tooth yanked out. There are a lot of romance books out there that have BDSM elements and it’s considered erotic and a bunch of other stuff. What Ms. Hill did was take that and debase it; had the bad character twist it as only a minion of true evil could do. It made me uncomfortable because I have read a few stories with BDSM and enjoyed them but seeing it in this different light made me feel twitchy. The author got her point across. The bad guys are really bad.

Finally, I can get to the hunky hero, Vikar. I thought he was yummy, exasperating, but delicious. His emotions are all over the place for the heroine, Alex, but he can’t figure out why. He has to save her but she fights him all the time. The things he has to do and say to convince her had me laughing many times. He certainly is very manly, dedicated and very tempted. Wait until readers get a glimpse of ‘near-sex’. I alternated between fanning myself over the very sensual and satisfying relationship scenes and laughing out loud at his gullibility. He can’t seem to resist her not matter what he tries and there’s a very good reason for that. I enjoyed his internal conflict and the various facets of his personality. In no way is he perfect, but he’s certainly the kind of man who is close to being it.

Alex is a woman who has a lot of learning to do. Not just about the war between the good and evil vampires but about herself as well. Her journey is full of emotional growth and facing the truth. She has to forgive, to go on and embrace what's really important and to do that, she has to let go. Of what, only readers will know. It’s a pretty heavy burden. It starts off innocent enough but it quickly spirals into a war of trust and love against temptation and hate. It doesn’t help her case that the heroine is more stubborn than a mule and as sneaky as a fox. She makes it very hard for Vik to earn his wings because she’s pure temptation and she likes him, a lot. I enjoyed her dialogue but one of the funniest aspects was her journal entries. Actually they were pretty hysterical because in each chapter she gathers more information that skews what she thought she knew and she has to rewrite the intro to her story every time. What makes them worth reading is a reader can see her understanding and perception advance the more she learns. In the beginning she's cynical and dark but there's a complete 180 degree turnaround by the time of the final entry. It’s its own happy ever after.

Secondary characters are seductive. I’m not referring to sex although there were a few that it certainly could apply to. What I mean is Ms. Hill introduced each man who will either play an integral part in helping the protagonists reach their happily ever after in Kiss of Pride or will eventually have their own story. The author teased me with bits of information that made these men worthy of interest and curiosity. How is the author going to cure a Viking vampire angel of sloth or rage? All the men have their crosses to bear and some are lengthier than others because, being Vikings, sometimes they just can’t help sinning, just a little. Of what I saw of the men who helped fight the battles, save their friends or ate tons of food with gusto, I imagine their stories are going to be as exciting and thrilling as this one was.

Jasper is the mega-villain. He has his favorite evil minions and when he is displeased with any of them, he does bad, deviant and horrific things to them. The author left me with no doubts - not only is he evil, but killing him is the best idea, ever. In addition, what he does with his ‘collected souls’ is quite inventive, in a sick, psycho sort of way. Again, visualizing it might give a reader the heebie-jeebies, so be warned. Thank goodness the author had those incidents occur few and far between – they were so dark they could have easily overshadowed the tone of the story. I’m glad Ms. Hill kept it on the brighter side of things…like the pre-dawn hours.

Truly, this book has so much going for it that it’s hard to know where to stop talking. I really enjoyed the struggle between Vik and Alex to build a relationship, I was fascinated by the whole concept of Lucies versus Vangels, I was impressed by the descriptions of the foul demons, and I got a kick out of how regular life, like shopping and eating, were smoothly worked in. You know, it’s life, "mushroom and cheese omelets, it’s no big deal, ‘Oh, look, there’s a great deal on sheets …”see you later,gotta go kill a demon" -- normal Viking stuff.

If readers enjoy a little dramatic action and bite with their laughter then Kiss of Pride will have you clamoring for more. Ms. Hill has created a truly special and enthralling world that makes Vikings sexier than ever. Be still my heart. The fact that these vampires are the good guys makes enjoying their toothy attentions so much easier. They are all hunky action heroes who have to earn their wings. They brawl, argue, fight and have honor with a capital “H”. They are worth redeeming and each and every one I was introduced to in this book proved it. The question is, how? I can’t wait to find out. Kiss of Pride was an awesome read.