Pros: Great concept; fun plot twists; enjoyable characters
Cons: Super-strong dialogue patterns; protracted initial distrust; celebrity ghosts; felt like a sequel
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
I enjoyed Dakota Cassidy’s Kiss & Hell, but it had a few aspects that made it less bowl-me-over amazing for me than her wonderful The Accidental Human. However, this is one of those cases where I think many of the things I wasn’t as fond of are going to be reader-dependent, very much a matter of individual preference. Thus I’ll do my best to explain what I did and didn’t like, so you can decide for yourself whether you’re likely to enjoy Kiss & Hell.
Delaney is a medium—an honest-to-god, ghost-seeing medium. She makes a few bucks holding seances, but it’s hard to make friends when ghosts are constantly interrupting you. Then, wouldn’t you know it, a particularly stubborn ghost pops up during someone else’s seance, ruins the whole gig, and refuses to go away. It’s bad enough that he cost her rent money—it’s a lot worse when he materializes on her bed wearing her pink bathrobe. Now that’s just not supposed to be possible!
Clyde, as it turns out, is really a fledgling demon whose job is to mess with Delaney and cause her to end up in Hell. Yeah, right, like Delaney’s going to let some demon mess with her, even if he is cute, and her dogs like him. Then there’s her “good” demon friend Marcella, who’s all too happy to duct-tape Clyde to a radiator to help Delaney out. But despite everything, it doesn’t take long for Delaney to realize that maybe instead of getting rid of Clyde, she should be helping him…
I’ll get a couple of small things out of the way first. I’m not a huge fan of artificially-prolonged conflicts between characters. It’s a hard line to judge, because different people will feel that a conflict has been pushed too far at different points. For me, the arguing and distrust between Delaney and Clyde went on too long, but it was borderline enough that I think it’ll be fine for some readers.
I also kept paging back to the beginning to see if this was a sequel to something, which it doesn’t appear to be (at least, there’s no mention of it if it is). There just seems to be enough history to the characters and events that I kept feeling like this should be at least book two in a series. It did stand well alone, certainly, but the way in which certain pre-book events didn’t get revealed until late in the game kept making me feel like I was missing something.
Delaney, Clyde, and Marcella are all fun & interesting characters with plenty of personality to them. Marcella’s a temperamental Spanish woman/demon; Clyde’s a physically attractive, yet somewhat anti-social geek; and Delaney’s a health-conscious spitfire with plenty of attitude and heart. I loved their clash of personalities. Lucifer’s also a rather fun, psychotic character. The way in which Hell is organized, with file rooms and assignments and levels, is just hysterical.
The plotting is quite fun and interesting as well. Things take several turns for the surprising later on in the book, although I don’t want to give anything away. I found one late-appearing character to be a little… sudden, I guess (sorry, still trying not to give plot developments away), but I really did enjoy all the twists and turns to the story.
The two main things that I think will be very reader-dependent are these: For one, Delaney tends to see a lot of celebrity ghosts, most of whom like to communicate via the names of their favorite movies they starred in or the like. (Apparently dead celebrities like to hog the limelight as much as live ones.) To me it felt a bit gimmicky and distracting, and I could have done without them. That said, I’m sure for many readers it will be fun and entertaining instead, and they did end up affecting the plot in their own way, which was rather neat.
For the other, some of the characters have highly affected speech patterns. My personal preference in books is “less is more” when it comes to speech patterns—I’d rather have a few bits of trippy dialogue to get the idea across rather than constantly stumbling across exclamations of “Hell to the yeah” all the time. But again, that’s a personal preference thing, and I have to admit that Dakota is very good at giving her characters consistently wacky speech patterns with a lot of personality to them. So you might actually find that to be a plus rather than a minus depending on your personal preferences.
On the whole, the characters and story are wonderful, and most of the minuses for me are reader preference-dependent.
[Standard warning: adult material; hot sex!]