Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Early Review of Shannon Curtis’ Viper’s Kiss

In college, I worked at the library in the circulation department as part of my financial aid, and as a result I’ve always enjoyed reading about librarians. So when I saw that the heroine of Shannon Curtis’ Viper’s Kiss was a librarian, I had to read it, and when I realized that said librarian was accused of being a spy, I was hooked. After all, what librarian doesn’t dream of being a spy?  Viper’s Kiss will be released on July 25 and is available at the Carina Press webpage and on Amazon. The novel’s a short romantic suspense, only about 53,000 words, so it’s a quick read and a fast-paced adventure. And the hottie on the cover isn’t hard on the eyes, either! This was a fun read, and I’m looking forward to seeing more in the future from Ms. Curtis.
Maggie Kincaid is a librarian at the University of Washington, and her life has suddenly grown much more exciting than she would like. Miss April HotRod, aka Kandy Karamel, is a dead ringer for Maggie, and suddenly the demure librarian is being hounded by people mistaking her for the pin-up girl. Shortly after dodging a herd of horny male students outside the library, two men in black arrive and arrest her for espionage. She’s been working with the Department of Defense and tech company Tek-Intel on a top secret invention, and they’re accusing her of stealing the prototype. To make matters worse, as soon as she and the detectives pull out into traffic, they’re rammed by a van, the detectives are murdered, and Maggie’s dragged off by some truly frightening villains. Just like the detectives, they’re convinced that she’s a female spy working under the codename Viper. Maggie is barely pulling together an escape attempt, when Luke Kincaid arrives and whisks her away to safety on his motorcycle.
Luke is a security expert with McCormack Security Agency, and he’s tasked with recovering the Visi-suit prototype that Viper’s stolen. He can’t quite believe that Maggie Kincaid is guilty, but all the evidence points in that direction. Too bad that the first job he’s in charge of involves a female spy he finds really appealing. Maggie finds Luke attractive as well, but every time he starts to believe in her innocence, evidence surfaces that convinces him that she’s not trustworthy. In the end, she’s the only one who can uncover the truth and recover the visi-suit, clearing her name in the process.
Viper’s Kiss is non-stop action, with poor Maggie escaping from one dangerous situation only to find herself in another. The plot progresses quickly, and just when you think that she can calm down and relax, the action picks up again. It’s a fun ride, and Ms. Curtis introduces two supporting male characters, Derek and Noah, whose presence makes me believe that she has sequels planned for the two of them, which would definitely be good news for us readers!
Maggie is a likeable character, and despite the danger and trouble she finds herself in, she manages to escape each time, thanks to her own actions. That makes her really appealing, since she’s had a tough time of it for the last few years, but instead of being overwhelmed and complaining, she acts to resolve the situation herself. She’s also always one step ahead of the so-called security experts, figuring out a way to escape them and solve the mystery surrounding the true Viper while recovering the Visi-suit prototype.
While there are definitely sparks between Luke and Maggie, their romance feels a bit rushed. They’re clearly attracted to one another, but from the beginning of the novel Maggie has been cautious about men, insisting on a 90 day probationary period before sex with all dates, which has resulted in her still being a virgin in her mid-twenties. This caution is blamed on a bad relationship her mother had with a boyfriend when Maggie was 16 (more about that later), so it seems somewhat inconsistent with her character that she would choose to act on her attraction as quickly as she does with Luke. I prefer romances that develop over time, but the novel is so short that it’s difficult to see how Ms. Curtis could have maintained the fast pace of the action and included the romance in any other way. I would love to see a longer work from her, which would give her more room to develop the relationship between the characters.
Because I thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel, I hate to criticize but I do have two complaints, although the first is somewhat minor. Given how the action unfolds, I have to think that McCormack Security Agency must hire the most inept employees in the world, because every time Maggie needs to escape, she asks to use the bathroom and wiggles out of a window, with the so-called experts none the wiser. First, how many bathrooms have windows, and second, how could this trick work on them more than once? Seriously, she’s portrayed as an innocent and naïve librarian, yet she’s easily able to escape the security experts and goons who try to force her to reveal the location of the Visi-suit.
The second complaint I have is about a plot point that bothered me so much it actually lessened my enjoyment of the novel. ***Warning: Spoilers Ahead***  We learn that when Maggie was 16, her mother had a boyfriend named Andy who tried to sexually assault Maggie. When her mother learned of the attempted assault, she kicked Andy out, and he retaliated by robbing their house and wiping out her checking account. This forced Maggie to have to work to help support them, plus required her to work to pay for her college education. Later, her mother falls seriously ill, and Maggie has to find a way to pay her mother’s overwhelming medical bills. So when Luke looks into Maggie’s finances as a way to prove that she is the spy they’re looking for, he’s stunned to see that she’s barely eking out a living and lives in a one-bedroom apartment with her mother. What drives me crazy about this is that I don’t understand why her mother didn’t go to the police when their house is robbed and the bank account is wiped out! She just sits back and does nothing, allowing her daughter to work like crazy to pay for her education. This seems inconsistent with Maggie’s behavior at the very least, since throughout the novel Maggie acts to clear her name rather than remaining a passive character. It seems so odd that there was absolutely nothing her mother could have done, and it felt completely contrived.
Despite this, the rest of the novel was a fun, quick read with a likeable hero and heroine and lots of action. I definitely enjoyed it and can’t wait to see future books by this author, because her writing drew me in quickly and I loved her choice of heroine.
This book was provided for review by the publisher through NetGalley.

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