After being wounded in action in Afghanistan and losing his leg, former FBI agent and reservist Kade Cole has been struggling to figure out what to do with his life. He has no desire to be chained to a desk for the rest of his career, but his injuries disqualify him from field work. At his lowest point and feeling suicidal, Kade is visited by a mysterious nurse who gives him hope for the future. Ever since then, he's been living with his friends, Randy and Oscar, on their ranch, and Randy in particular has been able to make Kade feel useful again. When Kade's best friend, Blake, asks him to head up security for his romance book convention, it's yet another opportunity to do something he enjoys. He just didn't expect to meet the love of his life there.
Molly Jacobs is a romance author, who's had her share of ups and downs in life. An abusive ex-boyfriend nearly killed her, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury that developed into epilepsy. Because of her condition, she's often reluctant to go out in public or to date, but she took a leap of faith and decided to attend Blake's convention. She loved it so much, she's back for her second year, teaching her own classes. She, too, has been visited by a mysterious nurse who always seems to be there when she has an epileptic episode. When she meets Kade, they share an instant connection, but Molly is still a little uncertain until she discovers that they share the same unusual sexual tastes as well as a certain supernatural visitor. But meanwhile things start to get complicated for Randy and Oscar, and when people who want to do Randy harm come calling at their door, it may put Kade and Molly in danger, too.
In her Book Convention Romance series, my author friend, JossiLynn, has created a broad palette of characters with whom I could see myself being friends. Being the misfit that I am, I can't help thinking I would fit in quite well with this unusual bunch, and that if they were real, they'd wholeheartedly welcome me into their "family of friends." All of the heroes and heroines have sympathetic backstories that never fail to tug at my heartstrings, and I've come to care about each one in turn. That said, however, the author doesn't usually dig quite deep enough to suit me when it comes to the characters' internal conflicts. Sometimes there isn't much internal conflict to speak of, even though their backstories are ripe for that type of exploration. Instead, it's more about the external conflicts. Four books into the series, I've come to the conclusion that JossiLynn is more of a plot-driven author, who focuses primarily on the things that happen to her characters, but despite being a reader who prefers more character-driven stories, I've still enjoyed reading her books thus far.
In K Is for Kismet, Kade and Molly are the "main" hero and heroine. Kade has been lurking in the background since the beginning of the series. He's an FBI agent, who was also a reservist in the special forces. He was called up for duty and went to Afghanistan, where he was gravely wounded in battle, losing a leg. Upon returning home and finding out that his future with both the military and the FBI were basically over, he became suicidal, but he was stopped from killing himself by a nurse named Karin, who he later found out was a ghost who had appeared to several other characters in the series, always portending a soul mate match. Since then he's been living and working on a ranch next-door to his long-time best friend, Blake (K Is for Kissed), and sharing a house with his new best friends, Randy and Oscar (K Is for Kindred). Blake hires Kade to provide security for his convention and there he meets Molly. Because of his knowledge of the near-legendary ghost of Karin Cross, he's also quite open to the idea that Molly is indeed his soul mate.
Molly is a New York Times best-selling author and regular attendee of the convention, who first appeared in the previous book, K Is for Kindred. She was previously in an abusive relationship and was nearly beaten to death by her ex. As a result, she suffers from epilepsy and has a service dog named Maggie who can predict when Molly is about to have an episode so that she can get to a safe place to ride it out. Because of a self-consciousness associated with her disability, Molly hasn't really dated in recent history, but during a couple of her episodes, she was also attended by the ghostly Karin. She only learns about the history of this apparition when she meets Kade, and at first, she isn't quite sure what to think. But it's not long before she becomes a believer too.
I liked both Molly and Kade, but I felt like things were a little too easy for them as a couple. It's pretty much insta-love and everything falls into place for them with little fanfare. Their relationship also moves at light-speed with them meeting, falling in love, getting married, and being prepared to start a family, all within a week's time. They perhaps took a little more time to get to know one another than some of the previous couples in the series did, but they were still falling into bed within a day or two of meeting. Nothing really happened that posed any kind of genuine threat to their relationship either. They even discover that they share the same "kink" of enjoying role-play. For the most part, their love scenes didn't seem quite as hot as some of the previous couples. I also have to admit that their first love scene was a little jarring for me too, because they're role-playing, but it's all playing out in Molly's mind. Even though they were using their real names, this made it seem like more of a story within a story, involving different characters. Another thing that annoyed me a bit about this scene is that even though Kade did the right thing by trying to put on a condom, Molly refuses to use protection even though she admits she isn't on birth control. Kade then offered to pull out, but coitus interruptus is a notoriously unreliable form of birth control, not to mention wild assumptions were made about them being STD-free. I simply have a pet peeve about couples in contemporary romance engaging in unprotected sex when they aren't in a committed relationship or haven't had an adult conversation about it. However, given where things go later in the story it might not have been such a big deal for me except that Molly's excuse was that condoms didn't exist in the forties and it was ruining her role-play scenario. I assume she meant the 1940's, and condoms most certainly did exist back then. In fact, the first rubber condoms were manufactured in the 1850's and even long before that, there were other types of condoms available. So her argument didn't hold water for me. OK, history lesson and mini-rant over.;-) Even though the stakes in Kade and Molly's relationship weren't high enough IMHO, I did like them as a couple, and I'm willing to accept that they're soul mates like all the other couples in the series have been.
As with the other books in the series (except the first one, of course), the hero and heroine (or in this case two heroes) of the previous book, play a huge role in the present book. They probably get close to fifty percent of the POV scenes, which as usual is a double-edged sword for me. I always enjoy visiting with them again, but sometimes I can't help feeling that they're taking away valuable page time from the "main" hero and heroine. In K Is for Kismet, to be quite honest, Randy and Oscar really stole the show. They're the ones who are having conflicts in their relationship, both internal and external. Internally, they're both struggling with their past sexual relationships and what that means for their future. Randy has a BDSM fetish and used to go to sex clubs for his fix but doesn't really engage in that sort of sex play with Oscar. For his part, Oscar is wondering if he can permanently give up having sex with women, since the only sex partners he had before Randy were female. While in Vegas, they both agree to feed each other's sexual needs. Oscar will accompany Randy to a sex club where he can play the dominant with another man, while Randy will engage in a menage with Oscar and a woman of his choosing. Of course, both men experience some feelings of jealousy in the process. I ended up having very mixed feelings about all of this. It was great to see the characters have some internal conflicts, but at the same time, I felt like this was something they should have worked out before making a commitment to each other and getting their supposed HEA in the previous book. For me, it all called into question their true feelings for one another. Admittedly, though, that all kind of paled in light of the climactic events near the end of the book involving both of their crazy estranged family members that leads to a lot of heartache and that made me sad for this couple, but at the same time, very much solidified their relationship once and for all.
In addition to Randy and Oscar, there are lots of other supporting characters. We get to see a little more of Samantha and James (K Is for Kink), and Blake and Lily (K Is for Kissed), who are both happy and settled in their marriages with kids who are growing like weeds. Samantha's dad, Dan, and Blake's mom, Luciana, are also happy together and playing the doting grandparents. Oscar's best friend, Pete, and his boyfriend, Mario, are still together as well. Oscar's sister, Janel, is as bitchy as ever, but she takes things a step too far in this book and finally gets what's coming to her. We're introduced to Kade's friend, Mike, who works security with him at the convention and also has FBI ties, as well as his young daughter, Heather. Mike, along with a mysterious woman who keeps turning up in Randy's and Oscar's lives but whose identity we don't know until the final lines of the book, become the hero and heroine of the fifth and final book of the series, K Is for Karin. Then there is the ghostly apparition of Karin Cross who continues to work her magic. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful animal characters, particularly Molly's dog, Maggie, who seems to have ties to Karin, and Lily's horse, Bonnie. Both of these animals become major heroes of the book, but the ending for one of them left me very sad.
Overall, K Is for Kismet was a good read that I enjoyed. I may have had issues with a few things, but in the end, I didn't feel like they warranted knocking off more than one star. Deeper character and relationship development for Kade and Molly would have been nice, but I guess, despite my mixed feelings on the matter, Randy and Oscar, pretty much made up for it. I hated the things that happened to them, but they did add a lot of excitement to the story. I'm sufficiently intrigued by Mike, Heather, and Mike's mysterious lady love that I'm looking forward to reading their book soon.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including role-play, anal sex, some BDSM, and a menage a quatre that includes M/M, F/F, M/F/F, and M/M/F/F interactions, which some readers may find offensive.
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