Parallel Heat

Red Kiss
by Deidre Knight
(Signet Eclipse, $7.99, PG13) ISBN 978-0-451-22661-7
Red Kiss is the second book in Deidre Knight's Gods of Midnight series. The Gods of Midnight are seven immortal Spartan warriors, who struck a bargain with Ares the God of War upon their valiant defeat at the battle of Thermopylae. They could have chosen to move onto Elysium and the afterlife, but instead they all chose to serve Ares, to protect humankind against all sorts of evil in immortality.

This is the story of River Kassandros, who was born in Sparta as a slave. Though he has taken the vow with the rest of his brothers to protect humanity, he's never felt equal to the others, as they are true Spartans. River was also given a special gift from Ares: he can transform into any weapon during a battle. Unfortunately, this gift comes with a serious drawback that River's been trying to deal with for ages: he comes out of his weapon state as a berserker. He can't control the bloodlust, rage and intense sexuality he exudes once he becomes a man again.

Emma Lowery is a frustrated lady, having just been ditched by her so-called friend Evan on their boating trip to the island of Little Tybee. While she rows alone through the stormy water, trying desperately to reach land before a storm breaks, a weird thing happens. Emma's long suppressed power to hear spirits comes to her in a rush, and she hears a man beg her to help him.

River has been caught in dagger form for four months, after being thrown deep into the water by a demon during a raging battle. He can't get back to human form in the water, and he's slowly losing his mind after being stuck alone and immobile for so long. Just as Emma saves River, she finds out that the approaching storm is a demon attack looking for him. While River battles his intense urge to throw himself on Emma, he must fight the demons off.

River barely manages to protect them, and then is overcome by his dagger form. Emma is in bad shape, exhausted and alone when Ari, another Spartan immortal and River's best friend, picks her up to bring her home. He's ecstatic to have his buddy back, and worried about him still being in a weapon state. He tries to block Emma's memory of the whole incident. Ari doesn't realize that Emma and River have been left deeply linked by their meeting.

River starts to realize that he's in bad shape with his berserker loose, unable to control his physical form, and he feels betrayed by his brothers for being left as he was. Now Ares has declared war on the Spartans, and has demanded that River be offered up to him to keep the peace between them. Will the Spartans risk the wrath of the God of War over a mere slave? Will Emma be able to feel anything for River once she sees the awful effects of his transformations? Will River ever fnd any peace?

Red Kiss is like a summer blockbuster-fun, exciting and sexy. Don't expect a whole lot of drama or emotional depth from this tale, but take it as it is and have fun reading.

River is a two-sided hero. He has an out of control, cruel, incredibly sexual side that's enticing while it can't be trusted. He's also a gentle, tenderhearted man with deep feelings of unworthiness. River has tried everything to help ease his burdens, both the slavery and the weapon-shifting, and he communicates his sorrow and his feelings very well to the reader.

Emma is a regular type of girl, no stranger to grief herself, who has been swept into a very different world once she meets River. While supernatural talents run in her family, Emma's always tried to suppress hers. Emma's internal dialogue reflects wittily on the craziness of her current situation and her wildly veering feelings.

Emma and River have chemistry, immediate and hot. Itís easy to understand the attraction on both sides.†Cautious Emma is helplessly attracted to River's shocking innate sensuality and River craves the comfort of Emma's presence.

With a terrific cast of background characters, and plenty of smaller, interesting side tales to keep an eye on, Red Kiss is a wonderfully varied patchwork of love stories. Pick up Red Kiss for a well-spent summer afternoon exploring the world of the Gods of Midnight.†

--Amy Wroblewsky

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