Kiss Of Steel
by Bec McMaster, historical/fantasy (2012)
Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-7027-7


Someone once asked me what the differences between urban fantasy and urban fantasy romance are.

My cynical answer is this: in urban fantasy romance, it's all about the hero. He's always this ridiculously arrogant person who needs to penetrate a woman every ten minutes with his fifty-inch permanently erect penis. He's also the most powerful supreme being in the universe - usually an immortal who still acts like a hormonal fifteen-year old boy - and he will be accompanied by at least eight equally virile and perhaps slightly less powerful buddies who will star in the next books in the series.

As for the heroine, who cares? She's just a blank slate for the reader to pretend that she is that woman being penetrated amorously every ten minutes by that overgrown boy, so the heroine will be in position of weakness. If she claims to be a slayer or some supposedly capable action heroine, watch as she turns out to be utterly useless so as to never overshadow the hero's jutting penis. Once she's accepted the mighty penis as her lord savior and protector, her problems are solved by the hero and his eight mighty virile buddies. Worship the pee-pee and the blessed light you will see!

Bec McMaster's Kiss Of Steel is lovingly marinated and seasoned to be as close to what I have described above. It seems like some authors really enjoy proving me right, I tell you. As much as I adore that feeling, though, I'd prefer having a book I really enjoy reading for my money.

This is some kind of steampunk romance, although it also throws in the author's own version of vampire/zombie hybrid because it isn't good unless the kitchen sink simply overflows with woo-woo. Still, the steampunk elements are barely developed here, as more love and attention are paid to crafting a familiar Worship the Almighty Penis tale patterned after the formula that has made authors such as JR Ward and Kresley Cole very happy women. You know, authors of stories where everyone remembers the name of the heroes she wants to sleep with the most but gives you a blank stare when you ask for the names of at least three heroines.

So in this world where it's dark, foggy, and occasional machinery creak in the background to remind me that this is supposed to be a steampunk tale of sorts, we have Honoria Todd. Her father was murdered, and her brother was infected by the virus that is in the process of turning him into the bloodsucking emo hero of a future book. (Virus is the new black where steampunk romance tropes are concerned.) Oh, and her sister is making sad faces while Honoria has to pretend to be still a genteel lady so that she can stay employed at the finishing school where she teaches. Poor as dirt, hunted by the people who killed her father, she is that heroine.

When the story opens, she is summoned to meet our hero Blade. He's a rogue blue blood (being a powerful social pariah is compulsory if you want to be a romance hero), which makes him a vampire of sorts, which also makes him awesome, strong, quick, and "almost immortal". Yes, that hero, and he comes with sequel bait brotherhood of lieutenants too. Anyway, Honoria mouths off at him and waves a gun that she has no intention of firing even if she is terrified - yes, that heroine. Not that the gun thing matters, because she loses it soon enough when she gets molested up and down and left and right by the hero. It's okay, her nipples harden when he looks at her, so what's a little molestation between people with erect nipples, right?

The fact that the hero is so awesome effectively kills all suspense in this story, since it's hard to imagine, even with all the alcohol available in the market, that he or the various sequel baits here will somehow falter even a little and ruin the whole "so alpha, you have to collect them all!" image they have here. But I'm not supposed to care, right? After all, I'm supposed to worship all the awesome turgid penises on parade in this series.

Blade's plan is to ask Honoria to give him lessons in deportment, and really, demanding that woman to come see him, acting like a beast, uttering vague threats, and molesting the woman up and down make a far more sensible way to get her to cooperate instead of offering her lots of money to teach him. After all, if he just offers her money, how will he get to demonstrate how "alpha" he is, right? And actually, his real plan is to get close to her to ascertain why her enemies are pursuing her. Her enemies are his enemies, conveniently, as we need an excuse for him to stay close in, er, to her (in her is fine too, if you look at things that way). As for romance, it's a case of instant lust at first sight. Those erect nipples are a dead giveaway.

There is a story here that I find mildly interesting, but it's nothing remarkable, at least, nothing to make me go, "Wow! This is another series that I just have to invest time and money in!" The fact that this story is wrapped up in contrived "worship the penis, buy the books of the next ten penises in line" clichés only add to the whole tired overplayed feel of this book. This is just another formulaic book in a formulaic paranormal market, and I can't muster the enthusiasm needed to get into yet another book that seems to have come out from a mass production line.

Rating: 68


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