Sherra Callahan is a Breed, a genetically engineered human with the DNA of a snow leopard. She spent the early years of her life imprisoned in a Breed laboratory being raped and tortured in the name of science. During those years only one man, Kane Tyler, was able to bring pleasure to her battered body and mind, and in one night of passion, he became her mate and she became pregnant with his child. Kane promised to free her, but never came back, because he was led to believe she had died in the lab. Sherra was betrayed by her "brother" who caused her to loose the baby and told her that Kane never loved her. Now years later, Kane and Sherra have been reunited in an effort to protect the Breeds from outside forces who are bent on their destruction. Sherra is in the throes of an intense mating heat with her body calling out for the only man who can quench the fire, but she'll have to come to terms with her fear of loosing him again before they can truly become the mates they are destined to be.
Now that I've read four of Lora Leigh's books, I've come to the conclusion that in order to truly enjoy them, one has to leave their brain at the door and not think about the plots too much. Unfortunately, being the cerebral person that I am, that can be very difficult, and I end up finding annoying discrepancies and worse yet, huge plot holes. The author gave just enough backstory on Kane and Sherra in the two previous Feline Breeds books, Tempting the Beast and The Man Within, to really whet my appetite for more. I desperately wanted to know exactly how it was that Kane and Sherra met while she was in the lab, and why she was able to accept him as her lover (and mate) after the traumatic experience of numerous rapes. I also wanted to know how it was that Kane escaped and why he wasn't able to take Sherra with him when he did, but alas, my questions were not to be answered by reading Kiss of Heat. In fact, I didn't really learn anything new about Kane and Sherra that hadn't already been told in the previous novels. I even wondered if I was forgetting some details and went back to skim those two books to no avail, so I guess I was meant to simply accept their relationship for what it was and leave it at that, which as I've already mentioned, is easier said than done. For some reason, Lora Leigh decided to begin Kiss of Heat with a prologue that was basically a re-written and expanded version of a scene straight out of Tempting the Beast when I thought it would have been more effective to take readers back even further to Kane and Sherra's meeting in the lab.
Even though, I badly wanted more character development for Kane and Sherra, they were still fairly likable characters. I can't say that I had been drawn to Kane very much in the previous books, because he was portrayed as an extreme alpha who was every bit as dominant as some of the Breed men, and he started this book with that same intense personality. At first, he was still a bit too much for me to take, but as the story progressed, he slowly started to lighten up. When he showed some vulnerability over Sherra's inability to open her heart to him again, and then at the end, when he was literally brought to his knees by his love for her, I couldn't help but like him to some extent. I deeply sympathized with Sherra over the torture she experienced in the Breed laboratories years ago (although exactly how many years ago is highly in question as it was seven in Tempting the Beast and eleven in Kiss of Heat). I understood why she initially fought her desire for Kane even though she was in the throes of a painful mating heat. She was simply trying to protect her heart from being broken again and was also trying to protect Kane since no one knew how a man would react to the Breed mating hormone. Still, I felt that Ms. Leigh could have expressed the emotional impact on both of these characters a little more deeply. As written, I felt like she was telling more than showing, so I never fully connected with Kane and Sherra in the way I had hoped.
Although I realize it's a Lora Leigh trademark, the fact that Kane and Sherra spent a lot of time sniping at and arguing with each other didn't help matters for me, and it wasn't just the hero and heroine who were engaging in this type of behavior either. Nearly everyone in the book, even the women, seemed constantly angry, with someone grunting, growling, yelling, snarling or participating in general alpha posturing every couple of paragraphs. I could definitely see how someone could get completely smashed if they played a drinking game while reading this book, and quite frankly it might have been more enjoyable that way.;-) I also couldn't help but roll my eyes at the idea of the hero walking around aroused nearly 24/7. I know it was the mating hormone causing it, but I couldn't stop myself from thinking about how with him being a normal human male, this would constitute a major medical issue. Not to mention, he didn't seem all that concerned about hiding it either. The happy little event at the end was just a bit too easy and convenient for my taste too.
With Kiss of Heat being primarily about Sherra going through the mating heat and trying to come to terms with Kane being back in her life and her permanent mate, lots of steamy love scenes were definitely expected and in that respect, I wasn't disappointed. Lora Leigh certainly knows how to write blistering hot love scenes that are sure to leave the reader in need of a cold shower or ready to "attack" their own mate, and this book was no exception. These parts helped to make the story more enjoyable and were a little sweet treat for my mind. However, with the previous books in the series, the red hot lovin' turned my brain sufficiently mushy enough to almost forget some of the other story weaknesses, but in this case, I think there were a few too many deficiencies for mere steam to overcome. I just found myself thinking about all the missing pieces and questions I had that weren't being answered, rather than enjoying the heat.
Time line wise, Kiss of Heat takes place immediately following The Man Within, and simultaneously with the latter part of Elizabeth's Wolf. As such, the Breeds are still fighting against threats and attacks from outsiders at their compound and Cassie, the little Wolf Breed girl from Elizabeth's Wolf, is involved in the story. She is pretty much the same as before, but I have to say that I'm still slightly off-put by her occasionally manipulative nature. Callan and Merinus (Tempting the Beast) and Taber and Roni (The Man Within) also play significant roles, as do some of the characters who will get their own books in the future: Tanner (Tanner's Scheme), Mercury (Mercury's War), Cabal (Bengal's Heart), and Jonas (Lion's Heat). The latter two were introduced in this book, and Dawn and Seth (Dawn's Awakening) had their first scenes together. I'm intrigued by this pairing, but considering that Dawn experienced something similar to, if not worse than Sherra did in the labs, I felt like Seth's overtly sexual overtures toward Dawn were a little bit much. Still, I've heard that their book is one of the best in the series, so I'm looking forward to eventually reading it and hope that it has better character and plot development than Kiss of Heat did.
In spite of my frustrations with it, Kiss of Heat was a worthwhile read, but it left me with a half-full feeling, like the whole story simply wasn't told. Anyone who can shut their brain off long enough to overlook that will probably enjoy it much more than I did. Even though this was probably my least favorite book in the Breed series that I've read to date, I'm sure I'll continue on. The whole Breed concept is an intriguing, albeit rather underdeveloped one at this point, but if nothing else, I'll know that there'll be some "hot sex" to console me in the event of a disappointing plot.
Note: For the most part, the sexual content reads much like a super-steamy mainstream romance, but there is one brief moment of anal play with fingers. There is also a scene in which two characters (not the hero or heroine) are caught in the aftermath of a menage a trois.
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