Cold, Hard Kash
by Darragha Foster, paranormal (2006)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.50, ISBN 1-59578-215-X


I like Darragha Foster's brand of imagination. Thinking of that shapeshifting orca whale hero never fails to make me giggle like a silly kid. And now, Ms Foster has come up with an erotic romance featuring a Cowboy incubus hero and a Dominatrix from Hell (literally) heroine. Cold, Hard Kash has a very interesting premise but at the end of the day I can't help but to wonder whether this premise is too big to be contained within the formula of the romance genre.

Our hero Kash Maguey Masterson was drunk back in the 1800s when he may or may not have sex with a nun by mistake. With a name like his, I suppose I can understand why he prefers to seek solace in a bottle. Still, an angry priest curses Kash for committing such a terrible sin on a nun. The curse has something to do with getting God to sleep only with women that Kash cannot love until some woman is stupid, er, valiant enough to sacrifice herself for him. Sleeping with women who will never ask for commitment... is that really some kind of painful punishment? Honestly, now. Anyway, because of that curse, Kash is now an immortal incubus. When you summon him, he'll appear to do all sorts of wonderful things to your body and you don't even have to pay a single cent in the process.

I approve of such system of punishment. I will have to consult the nearest priest at the earliest opportunity to look into the possibility of condemning Hugh Jackman and a couple of really hot French and South American actors whose names I can't spell without consulting IMDB first to such a terrible fate. Maybe we can all hide behind mailboxes or street posts until we see dear Hugh Jackman toss a crumpled sheet of paper surreptitiously away and scream at that man in righteous indignation, "Aha! Caught you at last, you horrible litterbug! God will condemn you to an eternity of being an incubus! Repent, you bastard! Oh, and I have first dibs on the summoning rites tonight!"

Our heroine, the incongruously named Patience Marlow, has ties to Kash but these ties aren't the only reason she's summoning Kash. She's not really human - she's an immortal Dominatrix who feeds on pain and she's also an enterprising lady who summons and captures incubus in order for her to rent them out to people a la Heidi Fleiss. She has to cater to some Harpies' evening of entertainment, so she summons Kash and ropes in his services to make the party livelier. Of course, the fact that she is attracted to Kash will complicate matters somewhat.

I love the premise of this story. Unfortunately, the author really ruins my mood by attempting to subvert the last few chapters of this story into a typical romance story where Patience ends up coming off like some wimp who really wants to be loved, sob sob sob. I have nothing against wanting love but I don't like the fact that the characters have to turn into typical and ordinary romance novel characters in order to have a happily ever after. What's wrong with being an incubus and an otherworldly dominatrix madame? If I want to read about Gentlemen Joes and Sweet Little Annies falling in love, I won't be picking up a story with a premise like Cold, Hard Kash. It's like reading a story about cheerful and unrepentant vampires that suddenly announce that they are turning into humans so now they are happy - I feel cheated, as if I've been misled by some pro-chastity pamphlet into believing that I'm reading a naughty sex manual.

I find myself thinking that I'd love it if Kash and Patience end up finding their happily-ever-after as a couple of oversexed swingers who love each other even as they spread the love around, so to speak. Cold, Hard Kash seems to be a story that is too big to be constrained forcefully by conventional concepts of love, happily ever after, and romance. In short, it should've been an erotica rather than trying so hard to pretend to be some oh-so-typical Sherrilyn Kenyon instant-noodle paranormal offering. If Ms Foster has amped up the level of sexual kink, put the French loaf to good use (along with candles, pearls, vibrators... and is that a fireplace poker I see against the wall?), and have a cast of many blissfully orgiastic paranormal beasties with enviable stamina in a bisexual bacchanalian happily ever after.

We should all embrace the perversion, love the sin, and spread the word because the premise of this story and the characters are too much larger-than-life, interesting, and quirky to deserve an ending where everyone is happy when they are normal, free, redeemed, boring, and mundane. If I want a story that celebrates normalcy and mundanity over kinky shags and unrepentant wickedness, I will be reading a historical romance instead of this schizophrenic story, right?

Rating: 65


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