Thoroughly Kissed
by Kristine Grayson, paranormal (2001)
Zebra, $6.50, ISBN 0-8217-6786-0


Fantasy author Kristine Kathryn Rusch, whom I still haven't forgiven for her Sweet-Valley-High'ing the novelization of the excellent X-Men movie, is back. Her romance novelist alterego Kristine Grayson's follow-up to the adorable if too-fluffy Utterly Charming is the sequel, Thoroughly Kissed. The heroine is Emma Lost, the Sleeping Beauty lady in Utterly Charming.

Ten years have passed since Utterly Charming, and Emma has found time to adapt almost fully to the 21st century, and while adapting, she manages to become a top history professor in the University of Wisconsin as well. I'm impressed. Anyone who could juggle getting an accent, learning to use modern plumbing, getting to know road safety rules, and probably a zillion other things, and still get a degree in ten years - my admiration. Needless to say, realism-picky readers who can't even get into a Julie Garwood novel because "the author goes la-la land" (or something) should not read Thoroughly Kissed.

Emma is facing career rocks. Professor Michael Found (go ahead and groan, I did that already) has just taken over the History Department, and he believes her to be a fake and is looking to kick her out of the faculty. After all, anyone who dares contradict his research must be a fake. I love this guy. Anal retentive and dull. Yup, I love this guy.

But Emma has more problems: she has just come into her powers, and her magic is out of control. Disaster looms unless she crosses the country to find her mentor, the hero of Utterly Charming. She doesn't dare to take any public transport after transforming her cat into a lion and accidentally causing other mishaps. So she has to find a partner on her road trip. Who is... yup, you guess it. And with all those close quarters and shoulder jostling in cars, can anyone say amour?

Lost & Found is a disgustingly cute concept, I must say. But the story is cute and delightful in some places. I say some because the middle of this story is one gawdawful sag. It's the mother of all sagging middles - tedious and pointless, going around in circles, without our two lead hissing and mental lusting with no variation in the monotone. The beginning is delightful, the ending is delightful, but the middle is insomnia territory.

Maybe the author is still feeling her way around, but the romance in Thoroughly Kissed fumbles too. I don't see any chemistry between the two leads. I can't help thinking that Emma needs Michael because of her out of control magic. Without her magic, she probably would have no reason to even stay in the same room with him. This is a case of two persons thrown together incessantly by destiny/fate/whatever with little say on their part. They probably fall in love out of resignation.

And in fiction, all academics are either complete wackos (the Arts faculty) or stuffy androids (the Science and Computing faculties). Here is no different. Michael is a anal-retentive asshole who actually has little basis in trying to get Emma sacked. He does little to win me over as the story progresses because his "I finally believe" transformation is done in a predictable, even condescending manner. Then again, he deserves some condescension for the way he treats Emma, but I can't get involved in his character much. He's boring.

And Emma starts out spunky and fun, but as the story stretches into the Sagging Middle, she starts hovering at the brink of tears as she apologizes to Michael for everything but her birth into this world. By making Emma's magic out of control and her totally dependent on Michael, who behaves like Colonel Von Trapp times three the condescension at times, the author effectively turns Emma into a codependent, whiny, and weak heroine.

Thoroughly Kissed has great potential - it has Fun stamped all over it. It's just that this story couldn't sustain its initial momentum, and the sagging middle brings out the worst in both Lost and Found. The ending chapters flop to life somewhat, but by then the damage is irreparable.

Rating: 76


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