by Ciar Cullen, paranormal (2006)
Loose Id, $4.99, ISBN 978-1-59632-243-1
Like the title suggests, Ciar Cullen's The Biggest Kahuna takes place in Hawaii. Nikita "Nikkie" Mickelson comes to Maui because Chicago holds too many unwanted memories of Nikkie's marriage with that two-timing jerk Kenny that ended a year and a half ago. Nikkie ends up being the newest waitress of The Big Kahuna, the nightspot owned by her brother Sam and his wife Val. This sees her dressed up like she's going for a photoshoot for the cover of Maxim. Val tells her to watch out for the surfer dude named Shark who hangs around the place often. Nikkie's all, "What kind of name is that? What a dork!" One look at Shark, however, and she's a goner.
Shark's real name is Kalahiki Kamohoali'i, which is an appropriate mouthful as befits his status as the shark god. Kal hasn't been worshipped for a long time now and he spends his time lazing around and being a hot surfer guy when he's not reluctantly rescuing drowning kiddies who shriek in terror when they see him in his white shark form. He knows Val's husband, Sam Mickelson, because he leases the land that The Big Kahuna is built on to those guys and he also knows that The Big Kahuna isn't doing well. He has a soft spot for his tenants because they adopted an autistic kid and Kal thinks that they are good people. Unfortunately, Sam is too proud to let Kal help them financially. Kal however approves of the new waitress. He isn't keen on approaching her for some hot romp in the hay or whatever they have in Hawaii that is the equivalent because he believes that all divorcees are man-haters or insanely desperate. And he wonders why people stop worshiping him? However, as you can probably guess, Nikkie has a mark - or in this case, scent - of something special that marks her as Kal's destined mate.
Poor Kal though. Any woman who loves him must not just be able to accept his real form - a white shark - but also walk through molten lava to complete some kind of old ritual to turn her into his immortal wife. Think about it - will you walk through burning hot lava just to kiss the shark you see in that movie Jaws? A two-thousand year old shark? Shagging an orca whale seems so mundane in comparison, doesn't it? And that's not counting his ultra-bitchy and petty sister Pele who happens to be goddess of volcanoes. Needless to say, Kal may have zillions of women in his big black book but he doesn't have as many women screaming to be his wife so the poor man is blue.
So, the fact that I find the story too adorable the words either makes me a reader with really far-out taste or Ms Cullen is some kind of genius at work. This book is not perfect - Kal pushes and pulls Nikkie back in this story is a way that often doesn't make much sense - but I find the story very difficult to put down because Ms Cullen manages to make me feel that I need to find out what happens next as I turn the pages. Kal's playboy background doesn't ring true since his personality in this story is more of a lovelorn stud looking for a wife, but his lovelorn nature and a hint of obsessive aspect of his personality make him come off like an adorable saber-tooth tiger purring in delight as it plays with a rubber mouse - too cute in the strangest ways.
Compared to Kal, poor Nikki isn't that interesting a character but I like how her reactions to Kal and his revelations are that of a normal woman confronted with such things. She's no "Kal! I don't care that you turn out to be a baboon from Planet Primoria because we've made love so I love you forever!" dingbat loving the hero blindly without hesitation.
The secondary characters are fine. Pele can be really bitchy but on the whole she's not that bad and she also gets some really good lines in at other people's expense. That austistic girl could have been a sentimental plot device designed to give me diabetes in another book but here she's sweet without oozing too much cavity-inducing sentimental sappiness. The events that occur in this book often come off like something from a feel-good Disney movie mixed with pornographic scenes of people bumping uglies but they all come together beautifully in a way that makes perfect sense and tells a campy but most enjoyable tale.
The Biggest Kahuna is really too adorable. It's one of those books with such a far-out premise that it becomes even more awesome when the author gets it to work so well. This book has some annoying contrived push-pull moments but overall the result is an eccentric romance with a premise that by right will be very hard to pull off. I mean, the hero is a shark, for heaven's sake, and I have seen Jaws at least five times over the years. That's up there with armadillos and jellyfish as Things I Refuse To Kiss No Matter How Much You Pay Me. Ms Cullen does it with apparent ease so I don't know what else to say other than I am in awe.
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